UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Alum taps technology for start-up aimed at easing the college admissions process


Even when not pursuing his passion for global travel, Marc Zawel (MBA ‘10) doesn’t stay still for long. Three months after earning his business degree, he launched EqualApp, an online college admissions counseling program. Zawel’s on-the-move approach is helping high school students achieve their college dreams.

Zawel is co-founder and CEO of EqualApp, plans for which began in 2009 in UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Launching the Venture business incubator program. This year, EqualApp received the Coaches’ Choice Award as the startup instructors selected most likely to succeed.

“Our core mission is to increase the availability of these types of support services. The admissions process has gotten to the point where students and parents that don’t have the resources at their school or don’t have the means to engage a private consultant have few support options,” Zawel says. “Our online programs provide the insider knowledge and support of a private consultant but at a fraction of the cost.”

EqualApp offers free and subscription-based services to students and parents. Free services include animated lessons on admissions topics and community message boards moderated by former college admissions officers.

Subscriptions provide applicants access to all video tutorials, interactive application tools and such personalized support as essay review. Interactive webcasts feature experts who answer questions by e-mail and Twitter.

“We hope EqualApp decreases the stress and makes the process of applying to college easier and more fun. By using interactive components and integrating it with social networks, we think EqualApp can change the way students and parents approach the process,” Zawel says.

Zawel himself has approached the college admissions process from different perspectives. As an undergraduate at Cornell University, he wrote “Untangling the Ivy League,” a college admissions guidebook that began as an independent study. He also worked in Cornell’s admissions office, where he met EqualApp co-founder Stephen Friedfeld, then a dean at the university.

While at UNC Kenan-Flagler, Zawel was chairman of the admissions advisory board and was the Young Entrepreneur in Residence with NC IDEA at Research Triangle Park. Before business school, Zawel worked in business development and content strategy roles at Revolution Health, a Washington, D.C.-based digital media startup.

With EqualApp, Zawel, based in Boston, focuses on sales and marketing. “One key lesson I’ve learned is you have to evolve your business strategy very quickly based on the feedback you’re receiving in the market,” he says.

EqualApp is exploring sales channels, including partnerships with high schools, nonprofits, consultants and test-preparation providers.

Zawel, 28, believes risks can have advantages, and he advises people who want to advance to be open to the potential benefits.

“It’s a matter of balancing risk and reward. You need to take some risks and embrace that as part of the process of growing professionally,” he says.

Leadership also brings professional growth. An important part of leading for Zawel is having a strong team. “With a startup, you can’t do everything yourself,” he says. “What I’ve been focused on with leadership is building the team that can support EqualApp and help foster our company’s growth.”