PrepWell Podcast - Ep. 3 | 10 Life Skills Teens Must Learn During The College Admissions Process

prepwell podcast Oct 14, 2019

Show Notes:

One key insight I’ve learned after working with hundreds of families over the years, is that the particular “college" a student attends, isn’t nearly as important as the “skills" they learn during the college application process. 
The process is more important than the prize
Which begs the question, what are the critical skills that students need to learn to prepare for college - no matter where they go - Princeton or Passaic Polytech?  And how can I help them learn these lessons?
In this episode, I walk through all 10 Life Skills and explain why they will play such a critical role in your child’s future.
If you want to support the show, here are a few steps to take.  
  1. Subscribe to the podcast
  2. Share this episode with your friends
  3. Follow me on Instagram or Facebook
  4. Give us a review
  5. Join our mailing list
  6. Enroll your 9th or 10th grader in the program


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Will Erin Get Into Princeton?


As a college admissions counselor specializing in students with big ambitions (e.g. Ivy League, Military Service Academies/ROTC, Athletic scholarships), I have seen dreams realized, shattered, and everything in between.

Case Study

In this case study, I reveal what goes through a college admissions officer's mind as they review an application. What do they care about, what do they disregard, what jumps out, and what factors might seal the deal (for good or bad)?

In this blog, I review Erin's profile. Erin is a junior at a public high school in CA. She's an elite soccer player, near straight-A student, member of student government, and involved in community service.

Sound familiar?

Many parents of talented 9th and 10th-grade athletes tell me similar stories. They want to know their child's chances. 

Here's how the story goes:

Hi, Phil. I've heard you're the expert in helping kids get into highly-selective colleges by mentoring them early in their high school careers. Can I tell...

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PrepWell Podcast - Ep. 2 | Why Highly-Selective Colleges Seem To Prefer Specialists vs. Well-Rounded Students

prepwell podcast Oct 06, 2019

Show Notes:

Why is it that today, many highly-selective colleges seem to be more interested in students who are specialists, experts, or angular versus those who are generalists, jacks-of-all-trades, or well-rounded? 

Because 30 years ago, it used to be the opposite. 

Back in the day, highly-selective schools were impressed by the proverbial “well-rounded student” who seemed capable of doing just about anything - sports, academics, guitar, community service, work.

And the "specialists" were thought to be more on the fringe, narrowly focused, or maybe didn’t have a broad enough base of curiosity to take advantage of a liberal arts education. 

Well, the tides have turned.

In this episode, we explore the implications of this trend and how your child might fit (or not fit) into this new landscape.

Is your child a generalist or specialist? If they’re still undecided, should you give them a nudge one way or the other? Or stay out...

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Is your Child Well-Rounded or Angular?


Back in the day, highly-selective schools were impressed by the proverbial "well-rounded student" who seemed capable of doing just about anything - from sports, to academics, to community service.

"Old School" Well-Rounded Student:

  • 4.0 GPA
  • National Honor Society
  • Soccer player (2 years)
  • Piano (3 years)
  • Vice President of Spanish Club (Junior Year)
  • Soup Kitchen volunteer (various)

College Admissions Officers used to assemble their incoming classes by selecting many of these "well-rounded" applicants. 

Campuses eventually became havens for lots of students who were good at lots of things.

Today, things are different.

In fact, many schools today are not as impressed by generic "well-rounded" students and have turned their attention to more "angular" students.

Angular Students

Angular students take a deep dive into one (or two) core activities  -  often at the exclusion of others - to become world-class in their field. 

"Modern Day" Angular Student:

  • 4.4 GPA
  • ...
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Prepwell Podcast - Ep. 1 | Waiting Until 11th Grade To Prepare For College Admissions Is Too Late

prepwell podcast Sep 29, 2019

Show Notes:

If your child does what most students do - and waits until 11th or 12th grade to begin thinking about and planning for college - they will be leaving 70% of their application up to chance. For students who aspire to the most selective colleges - this is not an option. This is a recipe for disappointment, frustration, and missed opportunities. 

If you have a child who is considering Ivy League or near-Ivy league schools (like Duke, Stanford, MIT, Vanderbilt), or a service academy, or is seeking an ROTC or athletic scholarship, please encourage them to engage in the process now - and by now - I mean 9th or 10th grade.

Good news: Given how few people understand how this new reality works, your child can use this knowledge to their strategic advantage when it comes to college admissions. This episode walks you through my thesis and uncovers why most people (including guidance counselors) continue to use 20-yr old advice. 

And, if your child really wants to...

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How Did This PrepWeller Get Into Every College He Applied To?

Wait, what?

"Wait, what? Jimmy got into Berkeley? Are you serious? My son has the same GPA and SAT scores - maybe even better. He took just as many weighted classes as Jimmy. Why didn't my son get in?  They both have the same profile."

This is one of the most common questions I hear from the PrepWell community and from random people around the water cooler, lacrosse field, and locker room.

I'd like to shed some light on this question by comparing three students that I counseled privately this year in my Private Mentoring program.

[FYI: I run a program where I work closely with a handful of PrepWell Academy students who opt to move from the online program to a full-service program in junior year].

What accounts for the difference in outcomes?

There are several factors at play here (e.g. extracurriculars, leadership, letters of recommendation, demonstrated interest, major preference, parental involvement, etc.)

However, I believe the biggest difference-maker is when a student...

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PrepWell Podcast - Trailer | Get to Know Phil Black

prepwell podcast Sep 22, 2019

Show Notes:

Hello, PrepWellers. Welcome to the first-ever episode of the PrepWell Podcast. I hope you enjoy the show and stick around for all the exciting things to come. I wanted to start off by giving you some background about me and why I started this podcast.

I created the podcast to help me communicate with you in a more meaningful way. Sure, I routinely send emails and post to social media – but these outputs often feel rushed and superficial.

As a busy parent with four kids myself (three going through the college admissions process as we speak), I wanted to create an option for parents who would prefer to listen to my in-depth commentary and advice at their own pace. The longer format allows me to convey details and emotions that can’t be transmitted in a bullet-pointed email or filtered Instagram post.

Since the subsequent shows are packed with my personal opinions and advice on how to help your child (and you) navigate the college admissions process, I thought...

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Lesson From a Quitter Podcast | Guest: Phil Black

To listen to the full podcast, please visit:

Listen here: Episode 47

    The path that many of us have been brought up to follow usually goes a little something like this: take the right classes, get the good grades, get into the prestigious school, graduate, and then find a high paying job. We're taught that it is a linear path that you stick to and climb to the top.
    Well, in today's episode, Phil Black teaches us why you should buck that wisdom. Phil has one of the most interesting careers we've ever highlighted on this show. His story is a testament to following your curiosities and always re-evaluating what is most important. Among his many accomplishments, Phil played D1 collegiate basketball at Yale, worked as an investor at Goldman Sachs, was a Navy Seal Officer, went to Harvard Business School, is a firefighter, entrepreneur, father, and more.
    While it wasn’t clear to him during his journey, he was gaining an incredibly useful skill: the ability to find his way into...
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Will Rohan Get into USNA or ROTC?


As a college admissions counselor specializing in students with big ambitions (e.g. Ivy League, Military Service Academies/ROTC, Athletic scholarships), I have seen dreams realized, shattered, and everything in between.

Case Study

In this case study, I discuss whether Rohan has what it takes to get into the United States Naval Academy or win an ROTC scholarship. These insights can be applied to similar service academies (e.g. West Point, Air Force Academy, Merchant Marine Academy).

Click these links to find out more about military service academies and ROTC scholarships.

Rohan just finished his junior year at a big public high school in MA. He hadn't thought much about applying to a service academy and didn't even know what ROTC was. No one ever introduced these two options to him. Now, as Rohan begins to prepare his college applications, he is struck by the amount of work required during the process.

Will Rohan be too late to submit a solid application?

Here are the summary...

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Why I Co-Read with my 8th-grader

In my opinion, a love of reading is the single biggest academic skill a child can develop prior to high school. A child's relationship to reading impacts their academic trajectory more than any other single factor. 

In a prior blog post, I offer 10 Tips on how to raise an avid reader.

Today, I have to admit that I have failed to achieve this goal for my 8th grader. He will read when he has to, but there is no spark - there is no love of reading.

I have tried many of the techniques and failed. Maybe I wasn't disciplined enough, or I assumed he'd be like his brothers, or I was just too tired to follow-through on the technique.

As a former Navy SEAL, giving up is not in my playbook, so I began looking for more options.

Here are some things I considered:

  1. Bribery: I'll pay you $10 for every book you read
  2. Punishment: If you don't read a book every month, you're grounded
  3. Negotiation: No IG time until you read 20 pages
  4. Fear: If you're not a good reader, you won't get into a good...
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