Homegrown Business: Adrienne Shnier, Founder & CEO of Apply Yourself

Apply Yourself: The Advancement Spot Inc. offers health-conscious coaching, strategy, and application development to students and young professionals. Through a series of programs that support applicants, they bring support to develop important writing, research, critical analysis, public speaking, and interview skills, as well as apply these skills in their applications. We spoke with Dr. Adrienne Shnier, Founder & CEO, Advancement Coach & Strategist, to learn more about what they do, what made her want to do this work, where we can find them and so much more!

Apply Yourself

What is your business called and what does it do?

Our business is called Apply Yourself: The Advancement Spot Inc., or “Apply Yourself” colloquially. Apply Yourself works with university- and mature- students, as well as young professionals to help them create, build, and achieve lives beyond their wildest dreams. This often begins with applying to graduate or professional schools. Dr. Shnier has been teaching at a Toronto university and, more recently, a Toronto law school, and over the past decade, has been an Admissions Committee Member where she has reviewed thousands of applications. Her experience on admissions committees bridged the gap of being an applicant and not knowing what admissions committees were looking for, to understanding the optimal framing, narrative-building, and formatting of application materials. Our clients often begin working with Dr. Shnier in our signature 12-week program developed by Dr. Shnier, called Mastering Academic Applications: From Scratch to Submission, and continue to work with her in our higher-level coaching programs to continue beyond their applications with Dr. Shnier. Dr. Shnier also hosts our weekly podcast, called The Advancement Spot Podcast, a free resource for students and young professionals looking to advance thoughtfully and strategically, with Dr. Shnier’s experience, informed by her decade+ of teaching university students, being an Admissions Committee Member, supervising undergraduate and graduate students, and as a practicing lawyer of a firm that she founded and is growing.

What made you want to do this work?

Apply Yourself evolved naturally, but purposefully. In 2015, Dr. Shnier was writing her Ph.D. dissertation in a local Starbucks, in addition to her law school applications. Students and parents alike would approach her to ask what she was working on and when they realized that she was pursuing higher-level education, they began to ask her to review their graduate and professional school applications. Students and parents began to know her routine and would come to Starbucks when she was there. Soon after, Dr. Shnier started serving the first few Apply Yourself clients making house calls and virtually for students who were at university away from Toronto.

In 2016, Dr. Shnier completed her Ph.D. and began law school in Toronto, while teaching as a university professor. Dr. Shnier had the unique experience of being a law student while being a professor simultaneously, while at the same time continuing her academic research in her area of pharmaceutical policy, regulation, promotion, and fraud. She was able to see the toxic and harmful effects of “competition,” leading to intense pressures on students with extremely limited, or non-existent, sustainable and meaningful support to help high-achieving students achieve their dreams without toxic and harmful habits and vices. It was at this time that Apply Yourself evolved dramatically from focusing only on skills related to application development to holistic coaching, strategy, and support for students and young professionals in a way that focused on meaningful, strategic, high-level coaching and mindset work, mentorship, and skill, without focusing on the competition. As Dr. Shnier always says, “We know that the competition exists, we know that the stats exist, but we focus on you. They don’t define you and your journey.” Dr. Shnier reframes “competition” from a scarcity-based perspective of perceived limited resources to an abundance perspective – the understanding that everyone has a place and their opportunities are waiting for just them. Others who are applying are not “competition,” but will one day be your peers and colleagues. Everyone has different, unique, and compelling experiences and journeys – it becomes all about how you frame your experiences in your materials, and beyond.

In 2020, after being called to the Ontario Bar as a lawyer, Dr. Shnier founded a law firm and opened an office space on Avenue Road in Toronto to serve both law firms and Apply Yourself clients. Dr. Shnier is revolutionizing the student experience and the Apply Yourself Community is growing, full of passionate, supportive, encouraging Members who also want support and encouragement, without the external pressures of “the competition” and “the admissions statistics.” Apply Yourself has a zero-tolerance policy for competition-based behaviour and Apply Yourself attracts a wonderful Community of Members who are looking for a constructive learning and growth environment, where they can meet like-minded peers and friends – and Apply Yourself supports its Members every step of the way.

What problem did you want to solve with the business?

Dr. Shnier has been revolutionizing the student and young professional experience in the world of advancement. She is bringing high-level tools and strategies to university- and mature- students and young professionals in a new way that focuses on the individual, allowing them to develop positive, productive, constructive, sustainable, health-focused skills for advancement in a world that is otherwise focused on competition, fear, and scarcity. As a bonus, we continually receive the feedback that our clients have significantly improved relationships with their parents, partners, and families because our clients are receiving experience-informed, high-level coaching, taking the pressure off of the people closest to them to search for answers to try to help.

Who are your clientele/demographics?

University- and mature- applicants, young professionals.

How does your business make money? How does it work?

We offer a series of programs that support applicants through their application journeys and beyond. Beginning with our signature program, Mastering Academic Applications: From Scratch to Submission, applicants typically begin their journey with Dr. Shnier in this 12-week program, which quite literally helps applicants with their applications “from scratch to submission.” When our clients begin this program, they may have already started their applications, or they may be starting from scratch. Regardless, the program supports our clients where they’re at and provides them with the coaching, tools, and skill that they need to successfully complete their applications in just 12 weeks. And they complete more than their applications – we work on mindset, CVs and Resumes, and any other component that they require. Mastering Academic Applications is a group-coaching program with an exclusive online Community, where the lessons are presented as weekly modules and every Wednesday at noon, Dr. Shnier meets with the cohort to answer any questions specific to their applications so that they can finish the week strong. We also offer a VIP Mastering Academic Applications program, which features all of the offerings of the regular program, plus 1:1 coaching throughout the program with Dr. Shnier, herself, for applicants who want her support and strategy more closely. For young professionals, we offer similar group and VIP programs for their advancement.

Graduates of Mastering Academic Applications and our other VIP clients, after having completed their first program with us, become eligible for invitation to The Success Society, our higher-level coaching program and exclusive online Community for our Members who want to continue beyond the 12 weeks of support on applications, to focus on continued advancement to build lives beyond their wildest dreams with Dr. Shnier and the support of this amazing Community.

Where in Toronto can we find your profession?

Our address is 1905 Avenue Road, 2nd Floor, Toronto (just south of Avenue Rd. and 401).

What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services? Give the answer as well.

Q: There are other companies that provide admissions consulting services. Why should I choose Apply Yourself?

A: Apply Yourself is unique, informed by Dr. Shnier’s own experience through intensely competitive admissions cycles as an applicant, graduate and professional programs as a student, as a university professor, and as an Admissions Committee Member. Apply Yourself is founded upon our mission of skills-based, health-focused, sustainable advancement that is informed by high-level holistic coaching that focuses on our client’s goals and dreams as our guides, not “competition” and “admissions stats.” At Apply Yourself, we understand that applications are not just about “getting in,” they’re about our lives, the kinds of lives we want for ourselves and those around us. They’re about freedom – freedom of opportunity, freedom of choice, and financial freedom. We are focused on life, futures, and opportunities in abundance, not in scarcity. And our clients are seeing amazing success, gaining admissions into Ivy League graduate and professional schools internationally, including Columbia, NYU, University of Toronto, Queen’s University, McGill University, Western University, McMaster University, Schulich School of Business, and many many more.

What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?

The best part of being the Founder & CEO and Advancement Coach & Strategist of Apply Yourself: The Advancement Spot Inc. is, of course, the success of our Community Members and the motivation to help applicants and young professionals achieve lives beyond their wildest dreams. Beyond this success, the best part of Dr. Shnier’s role is being able to create for our Community in ways that actually, practically, help our Members propel themselves forward, without the constraints of having to answer to anyone else or any institution or bureaucracy, their expectations, or being constrained by “the way things are.” We create for our Members – unapologetically, based on Dr. Shnier’s experience and vision for the way things should be – suffering, being miserable, and isolated through intense periods of growth and advancement are not mandatory. At Apply Yourself, we actually enjoy advancement and the strategy, troubleshooting, passion, and thought behind our growth. We do not mask how we feel and we actively encourage and teach reflection, mindfulness, and support.

The worst part is undoubtedly when an applicant requests our services too late, or too close to their deadline. We understand applications to be much more than a document that can be quickly pulled together – applications require mindset shifts, perspective shifts of ourselves and others, and so much more internal work that is integral to a successful application. We truly value getting to know our clients on their journeys and working together in the long term, so ideally, our clients start to work with us around 3-6 months in advance of their deadlines.

What are your social media channels?

Website | Instagram

Also, you can listen to The Advancement Spot Podcast, available on all regular streaming platforms

PAY IT FORWARD: What is another Toronto business that you love?

Little Bird Macrame, a homegrown handmade macrame company, founded by Alana Shnier – a self-taught macrame and fibre artist (and soon-to-be naturopathic doctor). You can visit their website and Instagram.



About Demian Vernieri 602 Articles
Demian is an Argentinian retired musician, avid gamer and editor for the Montréal Guardian, Toronto Guardian, Calgary Guardian and Vancouver Guardian websites.