The motivation for Meaghan has always been to help others reach their goals. This began at an early age, when her mother developed cancer and her father, a police officer, was hit by a drunk driver while on duty. As a result, Meaghan stepped up to the plate, taking on responsibility atypical for a child by helping take care of her younger sister. This event helped instill a strong work ethic in Meaghan, which she channeled into her academics and extracurricular activities in high school.
“I was highly motivated to excel in high school so that I could become the first in my family to attend college,” she says.
To do that, however, she knew she would need to land some scholarships. She was thrilled to get a full scholarship to attend the University of South Carolina (USC). She was also recognized as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar. After graduating from USC in 2017, she went straight into a Ph.D. program at Indiana University in Bloomington. As a graduate student she held various leadership roles, but her favorite responsibility was assisting others with admissions.
“I loved being given the chance to recruit students to attend grad school at IU, especially those just as deserving of the opportunity but from a underserved or underprivileged background,” Rysdale says. The experience sparked her interest in pursuing a career that helps students on their path to finding academic success. She and her husband moved to Greenwood in 2020, and in January of 2022 she opened Hoosier Academic Coaching, a local educational consulting service designed to help students with college planning.
On the surface, the name may lead some to believe that it is solely a tutoring business, and while that is one dimension of her services, there is much more to the business.
“Our main focus is college planning,” Rysdale says. “We help high school students maximize their potential and help them figure out what schools would be a good fit for them.”
Their main specialty is in enhancing the student’s chances of obtaining scholarships and financial aid packages, both to improve the student’s well-being for the duration of their college program, and more importantly to help ensure a successful match with respect to the student’s goals and aspirations when it comes to college selection. In addition, they assist students with exam preparation, essay writing, internships and externships, letters of recommendation, and resumes and CVs.
Rysdale suggests that students start the college planning process as early as middle school, for two reasons. One, according to Rysdale – colleges examine students’ entire academic portfolios, from late middle school through junior year. Two – there’s so much planning to do that it’s wise to get a jump start on it early to ensure a competitive application. Therefore, Rysdale requests access to student transcripts and also makes sure students are enrolled in the courses they might need to pursue their desired career path and come up with a personalized plan of action.
“More often than not, students tell me they feel pressured by their school and their peers to enroll in a college program, but they do not know that they could easily go open up an HVAC company, for example, and do very well financially,”says Rysdale, who also guides students who want to pursue a career in the trades industry.
Rysdale tours various universities and trade school programs across the country on behalf of students. She even sits down with admissions counselors to determine their ideal student profile, because each university is different in what they look for.
“10 or 15 years ago when you applied to schools, everything was pretty basic,” Rysdale says. “But now it’s more of a struggle to get ahead of what is being required from prospective students to give them a fighting chance.”
For instance, with the onset of COVID-19, colleges have taken a more holistic approach in the way they evaluate students’ acceptance into a program. In the past it was weighted heavily on GPA, class rank, and SAT/ACT scores, whereas now they may look more carefully at students’ personal essays and statements as a method of differentiation between applicants. In fact, many schools have even transitioned to “testing optional,” meaning that students can choose whether to take and submit their SAT or ACT scores.
When students and their parents first meet with Rysdale, she has them answer questionnaires to determine where a student would likely be most successful. The questionnaires help her come up with an ideal list of schools they should visit and programs they should apply for that would maximize their scholarship, financial aid opportunities and career prospects. That initial meeting is crucial because it is not a one-size-fits-all process.
“It would be different if every student who came to us was the same, but they are not,” Rysdale says.
Following this free consultation, clients can choose one of two packages – either a basic package that includes 15-hours of consultation time, or the deluxe, 30-hour package. Built into these packages are general information sessions (usually two per month held at her office) that clients are welcome to attend. Subjects they may cover include how to fill out FAFSA and maximize financial aid or the benefits of a study abroad program.
“Say you sign up for our basic package,” Rysdale says. “At that initial meeting we would figure out how we’re going to best utilize those 15 hours to meet your personal goals.”
Considering how those 15 or 30 hours are spent, they end up paying off in the long run.
“With some investment in our services, just think of the potential long-term payoff for your kids’ academic and professional future”.
Hoosier Academic Coaching is located at 3209 W. Smith Valley Rd., Suite 239 in Greenwood, IN. For more information, call 317-995-9294 or visit them online at hoosieracademiccoaching.com.