Empowerly secures $15M for its college counseling services


Image Credits: tomertu (opens in a new window) / Shutterstock (opens in a new window) (Image has been modified)

Empowerly, an edtech startup that specializes in college counseling and career guidance services, raised $15 million in a recent funding round led by Conductive Ventures, the company announced today. The new capital will go toward growing its services, building out its AI-powered products and developing its first mobile app, which is set to launch in the U.S. by the end of 2024. Empowerly has raised $30 million to date.

“The past year has been challenging for the entire startup ecosystem, and some are saying this has been one of the worst funding environments in the past decade,” co-founder Changxiao Xie says. “This round is a testament to the platform and services we’ve created, from our recruitment of former Ivy League admissions officers to the ways we’ve leveraged data and machine learning to evaluate and improve students’ outcomes from high school to college and beyond. We’re working with more students and families than ever before and seeing fantastic outcomes year over year, and are excited to keep up the momentum.”

The company’s funding comes at a time when admissions season is becoming more competitive than ever, and high school counselors aren’t always equipped to provide expert advice on college-related issues. According to Common App’s Research Brief, there has been a substantial surge in college applications, with 3,353,516 applications sent to the thousands of schools on the Common App for the 2023–24 academic year, up 65% from 2019–20 (2,028,507).

Image Credits: Empowerly

“Last year was one of the most competitive college admissions seasons of all time,” co-founder Hanmei Wu tells TechCrunch. “Some Ivy Leagues, like Yale, reported the lowest acceptance rates they’ve seen in decades. Yet, students still aren’t getting the right support. The counselor-to-student ratio is over 400-to-1, and students are feeling left behind just like I did years ago.”

Founded in 2018, Empowerly aims to take the pressure off students, who may spend anywhere from 60 to 200 hours applying to colleges. After a 30-minute free consultation with a student, Empowerly designs a customized plan that includes services like college counseling, essay editing, financial planning, admissions reviews, internship prep and matching, research mentorship and more. Students meet regularly with counselors and can speak with essay specialists, pre-professional specialist mentors and former admissions officers from top universities. Empowerly has a network of over 100 college counselors who focus on areas such as pre-med, engineering, STEM, business, law and humanities, among others.

Pricing for each service varies but the company shares that its “comprehensive counseling packages” are typically $5,000 and above. One Reddit user reported paying about $1,600 for 16 private essay sessions on Empowerly, while another user claims to have paid $9,000 for its service (yet didn’t say which specific services they paid for).

Image Credits: Empowerly

Empowerly touts its proprietary technology — The Empowerly Score — as the main differentiator between its competitors, which include CollegeWise, Solomon Admission Consulting and AcceptU. The Empowerly Score evaluates a student’s extracurricular activities (sports, community service, and clubs), achievements (awards and leadership roles), academics, and essays, then leverages predictive machine-learning models to generate a single score, highlighting the areas that students should improve to better compete against other applicants.

“It is the only predictive technology that can also quantify subjective material,” Xie notes. “Our tens of thousands of data points and proprietary internal datasets also help students and counselors receive the most up-to-date information on what schools and competitive summer programs care about seeing in applicants (including standardized tests, essay strategy, etc.), what new programs are available this year that may not have been available last year, what opportunities are best fit for particular student profiles, and what scholarships students may qualify for.”

The scoring system helps Empowerly counselors understand which areas students should focus the bulk of their time, whether that be practice taking more standardized tests or signing up for additional extracurriculars.

“Each of the top 200 U.S. universities (with more colleges being added) has a benchmark associated with its admissions difficulty level, and our platform and counselors compare the student’s Empowerly Score to these benchmarks to understand what areas the student is strong in or needs additional work,” Xie added.

The company also offers several experience-focused programs for students to enhance their college applications. For instance, Empowerly connects high school students with virtual internships at startups in the Bay Area. Students can also meet with PhD students who have studied in labs at prestigious schools like Columbia, Brown, and MIT.

Additionally, Empowerly joined the Sequoia marketplace in July 2023, providing its services as an employee benefit to working parents.

More TechCrunch

Ahead of the AI safety summit kicking off in Seoul, South Korea later this week, its co-host the United Kingdom is expanding its own efforts in the field. The AI…

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

9 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities