Welcome to the online press kit for Elizabeth Dankoski and The Dream School Project
Get into the Schools of Your Dreams
Forget about perfection, find out what you love and create a unique project so you get into the school — and LIFE — of your dreams
Elizabeth Dankoski, Educational Catalyst, is revolutionizing the way we prepare students for college — and life
Students face huge hurdles when it comes to getting into the college of their dreams. Top universities accept a small fraction of students who apply each year. As a result, many highly qualified students are turned away, and those who are accepted often face uncertain job prospects upon graduation, despite the astronomical costs of obtaining a college degree.
Elizabeth Dankoski created The Dream School Project to help young people stand out and overcome the high-stress stakes of college admissions so they can increase their chances of acceptance at their top choice schools — and to empower them to build the life of their dreams. Her program is based on her 15 years of experience as an “educational catalyst” helping hundreds of students get into their top choice schools.
“My program teaches students to create a project that showcases their unique interests and makes a difference in their communities,” Elizabeth says. “A project like this not only helps students stand out in the college admissions process, but it also helps them thrive in college and beyond.”
The Dream School Project was created as an antidote to the outdated educational system that continues to focus on grades and test scores instead of helping students discover what truly interests, inspires and excites them, and what they can bring to the world. Elizabeth takes a completely different approach. In her unique year-long mentoring program, she teaches young people to activate a high level of creativity and resourcefulness that they can rely upon throughout high school and beyond, in college and life.
The Dream School Project teaches students that each of them has something extraordinary to bring to the world – and that they have the power to open their own doors, rather than having to wait for Harvard or MIT to open doors for them.
"This program is not just about getting into college. It’s about preparing for life,” Elizabeth says. “I created The Dream School Project to shine a light on each student’s individual creative spark so they can become powerful agents for good in the world.”
This philosophy reflects Elizabeth’s own amazing personal story. She found fulfillment helping young people achieve their dreams after overcoming an early life growing up in a Christian cult and being sent to a convent at age 17. At the age of 22 she left the cult and her entire family to pursue her passion for creative expression in education. She put herself through college, earned a master’s degree, and built a unique and beautiful life for herself and her family.
Elizabeth started out as an SAT and writing tutor working to help students boost their test scores and grades, the traditional approach to impressing college admissions officials. She was troubled by the extreme stress she saw among students as they tried to push themselves to ever-higher scores and grades, only to be put on waiting lists by their top choice colleges when the admissions results came out.
“One of the students I was working with was applying to 18 schools,” Elizabeth recalls. “She was an extraordinary student but was just terrified she wouldn’t get in anywhere. She would disappear for weeks at a time; wouldn’t answer my texts and phone calls. And I would wake up every morning just sick, worried she had killed herself. It was just horrifying to me. I spent months in agony over that student. She ended up being OK, except that it wasn’t OK, the fact that I was even worrying about that.”
“It was such an eye opening experience. I thought, we have got to do things completely differently. We are telling these kids they have to work so hard, to nearly kill themselves following this perfection model we've handed them. But to do what? For the colleges just to basically say, 'Sorry, it’s not enough.' It just felt like such a pointless, cruel process.”
Coaching one group of extraordinary students, Elizabeth finally discovered the reason some were accepted to the school of their choice while others were put on waiting lists and ended up settling for institutions that were not their first choice.
“The kids who were getting waitlisted, it was basically the college’s way of saying, ‘You are too good to reject. You have perfect grades and test scores, but you are not interesting enough. You have nothing that distinguishes you from everybody else.’”
The students who did get into their school of choice, on the other hand, were those who had created unique projects, often reaching out to solve a problem or improve life in their communities. Elizabeth’s students include:
* A student working to go the Olympics as a referee for fencing
* A girl planning a 5K run to benefit epilepsy research in honor of her sister who is battling the disorder
* An eighth grader who loves hockey and conducting research, petitioning his town and raising money to build an ice-skating rink
* A boy whose family immigrated from India who is creating a website to raise awareness and funding for an orphanage there
* A student who wants to be a K-Pop star challenging herself to take her singing and dancing to the next level
One student Elizabeth worked with was thought to have only a 50 percent chance of graduating high school because of a severe learning disability. The girl discovered her passion in a training program for law officers. She created a nonprofit scholarship program to help low-income students, many from immigrant families, attend the training. This summer she has an appointment to meet with Sandra Day O’Connor to get support to take her program to a national level. Her father told Elizabeth, "I am now at peace with my daughter’s future because of your program.”
Elizabeth and her husband, writer Stanley Dankoski, live with their 3-year-old daughter in the Appalachian Mountains near Asheville, N.C. They love exploring nature, dancing Argentine Tango and inspiring creativity within their marriage and family – just as Elizabeth does with her students.
“When our kids show what they care about most, when they use their passion, when they follow the path that lights them up — colleges will come running,” she says. “That’s what leadership really is: lighting other people up and illuminating the world with your unique gifts.”
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For more information, visit www.DreamSchoolProject.com. To see Elizabeth talk about The Dream School Project in person, visit bitly.com/DSPprogram. For interview requests, contact Elizabeth Dankoski’s publicist, Michelle Tennant Nicholson at (828) 749-3200 or at Michelle@WasabiPublicity.com.