Founder Profile: Meet Mandee Heller Adler, W’94, CAS’94
College Counseling Global Entrepreneur
Mandee Heller Adler has been interested in the college admissions process since applying to colleges from her home in Miami Beach. She applied to Penn because she had (incorrectly) believed it was public, and therefore “less expensive.” She had not even heard of Wharton before clicking the box on the application (by hand, with a pencil).
At Penn, she graduated as a Benjamin Franklin Scholar, with honors and two degrees — from Wharton and from the College of Arts and Sciences. Then she earned a Harvard MBA and studied at ICADE, the premier business school located in Madrid, Spain. By the time Mandee was 30, she had worked for Goldman Sachs, started two businesses and sold one — HerDollar, Inc — to Siebert Financial Corp.
These experiences taught her to value education and to recognize the amazing opportunities that can result from a university experience. Mandee wanted to provide these same educational opportunities to teens around the globe.
She is the Founder and Managing Partner of International College Counselors, one of the world’s largest education counseling companies. With 14 offices around the world, they specialize in exceptionally personalized support for students and their families worldwide who seek acceptance to colleges, graduate schools, and boarding schools in the United States.
Mandee has written two fast-selling books, “From Public School to the Ivy League: How to get into a top school without top dollar resources” and “International Admissions: How to get accepted to U.S. Colleges.” Mandee resides in South Florida with her husband and two daughters.
Tell us a bit about your company
With 14 offices around the world, International College Counselors is a global company with a family feel. Their unparalleled results, expert counselors and team-based approach differentiates them in the college-admissions market, and has resulted in rapid growth almost exclusively from parent-to-parent word of mouth.
What inspired you to start your business — what opportunity in the market are you seeking to address?
My own experience applying to Wharton undergrad from Miami Beach inspired me to start International College Counselors. While a student at Wharton I wrote my first book, which focused on helping other public school students get into ivy league schools. Now, our company works with both private and public school students, all of whom value education and understand the amazing opportunities that can result from a university experience.
What is it about your personal background, experience, or perspective that fuels your passion for this venture?
I believe that college changes lives, and I am a true example of that. I attended public school and grew up in the heart of South Beach. I applied to Penn because I had (incorrectly) believed it was public, and therefore “less expensive.” I had not even heard of Wharton before clicking the box on the application (by hand, with a pencil). By the time I was 30, I had worked for Goldman Sachs, started two businesses and sold one. I attribute this success to my education, and I find great meaning in providing educational opportunities to teens around the globe.
What are one or two of the biggest wins or most encouraging experiences you’ve had so far?
One of our biggest wins was maintaining the highest-quality college admissions support to hundreds of students during the pandemic. Our online platform made it easy for families to receive seamless college counseling from anywhere around the world. Being asked to speak to families at Harvard Business School just before the pandemic was also a highlight.
What has been one or two of your biggest learnings so far?
While I knew years of experience would contribute to my technical knowledge, I did not realize how much it would also contribute to my emotional intelligence. Being able to truly connect with the goals and values of my families makes me a better counselor and human.
What is an obstacle that you are grappling with as you continue to build this venture?
Our biggest obstacle is, and will always be, finding amazing counselors and helping to train and lead them. We are a service business and only as good as our people.
What surprises have you encountered as an entrepreneur? Something out of left field?
I am always surprised by how hard I work, but also how much I love what I do. Is it work if you love it?
Check out International College Counselors here!