Northwest alumnus launches college prep website -- Gazette.Net







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This story was corrected on Sept. 19, 2011. An explanation follows the story.

A Northwest High School alumnus and Carnegie Melon University junior is on his way to becoming the Mark Zuckerberg of the college prep social network.

Neil Soni, of Germantown, is one of the minds behind The College People, a social network connects high school students with students at colleges they are interested in applying to.

Unlike some college prep websites that connect prospective students with professional admissions consultants, The College People connects users with college students, who can tell them everything from what admissions directors look for on application essays to where the best food on campus can be found. Student consultants can also review essays and applications.

“We've talked to admissions officers and they said each school is unique,” Soni said. “Every school has that quirk that sets it apart from others.”Another thing that separates The College People from other college prep websites is price. At $75, the site it is a bargain compared to sites like, which can charge upwards of $900 for the same services.

“We're trying to level the playing field a bit,” Soni said.

Family experience motivated Soni to create of The College People. In his own application process, he admitted he did not make enough use of current college students. When it came time for his younger brother, Jay, to apply, Soni could offer him little advice. He could tell Jay everything about Carnegie Mellon University and what it has to offer, but did not know a thing about other schools, he said. Jay now attends the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

A pilot program launched last year allowed ten Northwest High School students to use The College People for free. By surveying the students throughout the pilot, Soni learned that they enjoyed the service and benefited particularly from the essay help provided by consultants.

Sixty-five consultants from Duke, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Maryland and other schools are registered with The College People. The site has fewer than 10 subscribers, but Soni expects that number to increase dramatically when the founders start promoting the website within the next month or so. He and his associates have partnered with PTA groups and booster clubs froms schools in Maryland, Texas, and Pennsylvania to help get the word out.

To learn more about The College People, visit

Correction: Sixty-five consultants from Duke, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Maryland and other schools are registered with The College People, not the College Board.