Greenwood business Hoosier Academic Coaching helps students get into college

One local woman’s small business is helping students with a process she once had to navigate with almost no guidance: getting into college.

Meaghan Rysdale is a first-generation college student who earned bachelor’s degrees in business administration and marketing, and American and comparative politics from the University of South Carolina. She then went on to get a master’s degree in political science from Indiana University, staying in Bloomington to pursue a Ph.D in the same subject. But getting to the point of taking her first college class wasn’t easy, Rysdale said.

“My parents were blue-collar workers who didn’t have experience in the college admissions world. I had to do work to understand what that process would look like,” she said. “I decided in January of last year, when I didn’t know what to write for my dissertation, not to pursue a career in academia.”

During her Ph.D studies, Rysdale worked in graduate admissions for Indiana University.

“I enjoyed helping retain people at the university, mostly among minority students coming to IU, and I enjoyed helping them navigate through graduate school and the programs they were coming to the university for,” Rysdale said. “In addition, I helped students apply for those programs, giving them tricks and tips on what they could do because I knew what faculty members were looking for in an application.”

She’s now using that knowledge to help high school students with a business she calls Hoosier Academic Coaching, 3209 W. Smith Valley Rd., Suite 239, Greenwood. She started welcoming clients during the summer, and business picked up as the academic year progressed and high school seniors were hurriedly filling out their college and scholarship applications. She now mentors 10 students, supplementing in-person visits with clients in Johnson County with virtual ones to accommodate students living as far away as Boston, Miami and Denver, she said.

Rysdale offers free hour-long workshops for prospective clients each month, with her next one, discussing the college touring process, taking place 6 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Trafalgar branch of the Johnson County Public Library. She offers paid services starting at $2,250 for 15 hours of meeting time, which can be paid in monthly installments, Rysdale said.

One of the students she works with is Eliza LaFavers, a Center Grove High School senior who has gotten into 17 of the 20 colleges she’s applied to. Although LaFavers never anticipated applying to as many colleges as she has, Rysdale broadened her horizons by finding schools that would match her interest in veterinary services and vet nursing, regardless of location. LaFavers applied to schools in Indiana and Michigan, but also sent in applications to colleges in states as far away as North Dakota and Alabama, LaFavers said.

Originally, LaFavers planned to just apply to Purdue and Michigan State, but Rysdale taught her to apply to a handful of schools she could safely get accepted to, some that would be a reach to get into and some whose admissions standards where right where she was academically, she said.

“My parents are a lot older and didn’t know all about how the college admission and application process worked. (Rysdale) guided me through this process,” LaFavers said. “Unfortunately my number one choice, Purdue, is becoming a very competitive school. I got rejected and from there, Meaghan said we can appeal. I had no idea you could do that.”

Rysdale also helped LaFavers brainstorm what to include in her college application essay.

“I wasn’t sure which life situation I’d pick, and Meaghan helped me narrow it down to incorporate something that’s a huge part of my life: being adopted and being in the veterinary field and seeing adoptions occur, seeing animals being saved and being a voice for animals,” LaFavers said. “It’s probably the factor that got me into the programs I’ve gotten into.”

Rysdale has also helped students save money once they get accepted to college with weekly scholarship searches. The searches have paid off. Iowa State University, for example, offered Eliza LaFavers $65,000 in scholarships to attend its vet nursing program, said Lisa LaFavers, her mother.

While LaFavers knew she wanted to help animals for a living, other students, such as Center Grove High School senior Tristan Gardner, are unsure of what career they want to pursue. During his time with Hoosier Academic Coaching, Rysdale helped him figure out what type of major he wanted to pursue, Gardner said.

“I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. She helps you narrow down what you might be thinking and gives you options of schools to apply to for the major you’re intending to go for,” Gardner said. “For my essay, I focused a lot on applying for art. The idea of color, my life and the things I wear.”

Gardner applied to 21 schools, from as close as the University of Indianapolis to as far as colleges in Leeds and Portsmouth in England. While he’s still awaiting decisions from many of the schools he applied to, he’s already gotten accepted to UIndy, the University of Kansas, the University of Evansville and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Hoosier Academic Coaching is a valuable resource in terms of helping parents and their students navigate the intricacies of college applications, said Craig Gardner, Tristan’s father.

“It was mainly just narrowing down what his interests were because he was undecided on his path; that was probably the biggest help,” he said. “She’s got a lot of experience on what colleges are good at what and what they’re looking for as far as applications go.”

For more information about Hoosier Academic Coaching, visit