The marketplace wants to level the playing field by providing accessible professional and admissions coaching.

Leland is making it easier for students and young professionals to get ahead

The marketplace wants to level the playing field by providing accessible professional and admissions coaching.

Of the more than 61,000 students who applied to Harvard University for the fall semester in 2022, just 1,954 were accepted—that’s only 3 percent. Columbia University was a little more generous: 4 percent of its 62,000 fall 2022 applicants were admitted. 

It’s a competitive world for those hoping to study at America’s top programs, which is why many aspiring applicants turn to admissions coaches to boost their chances of acceptance. The challenge, however, is that coaches can be expensive, with admissions coaching packages costing up to $10,000. 

Leland wants to make admissions coaching more affordable and make it easier to find a coach that’s right for each student. John Koelliker, Leland co-founder and CEO, says the company’s mission is to unlock human potential by making the world’s expertise more accessible. “More tactically, we’re building a marketplace where people can find the coaching and help they need in order to reach their goals,” Koelliker says. 

For those looking for an undergrad coach, Leland’s search page offers convenient filters like hourly rates, coaching packages, targeted schools and services. A few taps can narrow the search to a select group of coaches that meet students’ needs. 

For example, let’s say we have an undergrad applicant on a tight budget who wants help with her application strategy, essay and interview. The search yields four coaches offering one-on-one help for $29 to $50 an hour.

On the other end of the spectrum, let’s say our undergrad applicant wants help with the same services but has money to burn. A list of nine coaches pops up, with hourly rates ranging from $200 to $650.

Once students find potential matches, they can arrange free consultations to determine the coach that’s the best fit. After making a selection, they work directly with the coach to establish a meeting schedule and preferred forms of communication (phone, Zoom, email, etc.), then the coaching work begins. 

Leland’s website reveals the current range of coaching options, which includes college test prep, MBA admissions and early career entry or mid-career transitions in fields like management consulting, investment banking and product management.

Leland currently has over 250 coaches working with thousands of students on its marketplace. The coaches all offer one-on-one coaching, and many teach more affordable group classes like interview prep and resume building. 

Koelliker explains that Leland’s coaches come from different backgrounds. Some of its education coaches are former officers at Ivy League schools, while others are recent graduates of schools like Brigham Young University (BYU) who want to help people apply to their alma mater. Leland’s professional coaches are often working professionals in tech, investment banking or consulting. 

While Leland occasionally recruits top-tier coaches, most of its coaches submit an application, after which Leland vets and interviews leading candidates. “We have a wait list of thousands of coaches,” Koelliker says. “We’re picky about who we let on.” 

As for the wide range in coaching fees, Koelliker explains that higher-budget coaches are often professional coaches who do this full-time or they have a decade-plus experience. Leland’s low- and mid-price coaches are often just starting out, or they don’t do this full-time and simply have the knowledge they want to share with the world. 

“It’s interesting; I would say even for coaches that are more affordable, that doesn’t mean they’re less experienced or not as high quality,” Koelliker says. “Many are doing this because they want to give back; they want to help people reach their goals.” 

Leland’s website reveals the current range of coaching options, which includes college test prep, MBA admissions and early career entry or mid-career transitions in fields like management consulting, investment banking and product management.

To reach those goals, Leland’s customers can work with a coach as long as they feel the need. Koelliker says some might work with a coach over several years, while others will engage their help for just a few weeks. Most customers, however, will spend about two to three months with a coach prepping for a job or school application. 

“If it’s a more in-depth application process or the customer needs to build more skills, it could be more like five to eight months,” Koelliker says. “Some people will spend as little as a few hundred dollars on the low end to get the coaching they need, while others will spend much more.”

The idea for Leland began when Koelliker, a BYU graduate, was pursuing his MBA at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “I wanted to figure out a better way to help people get into business school, one that wasn’t so expensive,” Koelliker says. “I originally built a consulting firm helping people apply to MBA programs while I was working at LinkedIn and Uber.” 

With a pre-seed round of funding of just over $1 million, Koelliker teamed up with co-founders, Erika Mahterian and Zando Ward (also BYU alums) to launch Leland in July of 2021. The following year, Leland received a $4 million round of seed funding, which helped the company debut its undergraduate and professional coaching categories. 

While Leland is currently based in Lehi, Utah, the company started when Koelliker was in the Bay Area. During the pandemic, many of Koelliker’s California friends and colleagues—people who were at the top of his list to recruit to Leland—relocated to Utah. He was intrigued by the emigration to Silicon Slopes. 

“I could see Utah had a big influx of talent, an incredibly supportive community, a tech ecosystem that was booming,” Koelliker says. “It felt like the right time to move to Utah. We still have some remote team members, but most everyone is here.”

Leland’s early success has garnered attention, with Koelliker and Mahterian recently being named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 – Education 2023 list. Koelliker thanks Leland’s founding team for making the recognition possible. 

Leland’s customers and coaches are likewise grateful to the Leland team. Scott Sorensen credits the company for recently helping him get into the Stanford GSB, which has an estimated acceptance rate of 10 percent

“My coaches on Leland helped me find my voice to articulate my story in a genuine but compelling way,” Sorensen says. “The application process is very introspective. My Leland coach helped me dive deep into my core motives and beliefs, which helped me gain clarity about why I wanted to attend business school. Without a doubt, I was better prepared for the application and interview process, but I’ve felt that I have a clearer vision of what I hope to accomplish at the GSB because of Leland’s coaching.” 

Sam Andersen, associate VP at Elevation Capital, is a coach on Leland’s platform. He discovered Leland after a close friend invited him to join the platform as a management consulting coach. 

“At first, I joined mostly to support the Leland team, but I found a lot of satisfaction using my experience to help students, particularly those that come from schools where the large firms don’t typically recruit,” Andersen says. “I most enjoy working with the students. That might sound obvious, but building relationships with individuals from outside my typical circle—hearing about their paths and how they’re preparing for careers—is inspiring and motivating. A little extra money on the side is never a bad perk, either.”

Leland hopes to continue leveling the coaching playing field. Next up, the company is planning to launch coaching for medical school, dental school and law school applicants, with plans for more categories to come. “Our goal is Leland will be a place anyone can come to reach any goal they need,” Koelliker says.