Will "Pretty Good Pete" get into UPENN?

 

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 Pete's profile. Pete just finished his junior year at a big public high school in NY. He has a pretty good GPA. pretty good SAT score, has taken pretty hard classes, is a pretty good lacrosse player, and has pretty good extracurricular activities.

Are you getting my drift?

Pete is "pretty good" at just about everything. This is the profile of a lot of high school students these days.  That's why we call him "Pretty Good Pete". He has a closely-related friend named "Pretty Good Pamela."

The question...

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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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What are NTTAs?

Assume a group a college applicants have similar:

  1. GPAs
  2. standardized test scores
  3. and high school course loads

but participate in different "Extracurricular Activities" that could be categorized as Typical or Non-Typical Teen Activities.


TTA (Typical Teen Activities)

  • VP, Spanish Club
  • President, Student Government
  • Corresponding Secretary, Recycling Club
  • Jazz Ensemble member
  • Mathletes Competitor
  • Captain, Soccer Team
  • Chess Club Member
  • Book Club participant
  • School Tour Guide
  • Sales Clerk, Forever 21

NTTA (Non-Typical Teen Activities)

  • Founder, SlimeFest (World's Largest Slimemaking Convention)
  • Skateboard Artist and Instagram Influencer (250K followers)
  • Founder, Bird Scooter Services (maintenance, repair, charging)
  • Subject Matter Expert, 19th Century Military Leaders
  • Professional Nerf Gun Collector (350+ different Nerf weapons)
  • Khan Academy Expert (completed 750 unique learning modules)
  • TEDx Speaker (topic: the demise of local newspapers)
  • Airsoft Military Simulation World Games...
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Accepted | Deferred | Denied

If you applied in the Early Round of admissions (Early Decision or Early Action), you have probably heard back from your schools by now. If not, you should be hearing very soon.

What should you do if you were:

ACCEPTED

Congratulations! You did it. Enjoy the rest of senior year.  You now know that you're going to college next year.

If you applied Early Decision, which is binding, it's time to rescind any other applications you may have already submitted. If you haven't submitted any other applications yet, then you're all set. No need to apply anywhere else. It's time to send your deposit to your ED school.

If you applied Early Action, which is non-binding, be happy that you have one or more schools in your back pocket. If you would attend your EA school(s) over any other schools that you haven't submitted yet, there's no reason to submit any more applications. Save the money. You still have a few months to make your final decision. Make sure you are able to afford your EA...

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What is ROTC and Why Should I Care?

If your child has any inclination to serve their country, consider two compelling paths that lead to graduating from college as a military officer (at little-to-no cost).

What are the options?

If your child wants to serve as a military officer in any of the branches, service academies and ROTC programs are two great places to start.

What do these programs have in common?

  • world-class education
  • unparalleled leadership training
  • international travel
  • high-prestige and reputation
  • engaged alumni network
  • emphasis on camaraderie and teamwork
  • guaranteed summer jobs
  • highly-transferable technical skills
  • guaranteed job for 5 years after college
  • paid a monthly stipend starting freshman year
  • free education

Yes, a free (or nearly free) education. With the rising cost of college, these programs are becoming more and more competitive.  And with options like attending Harvard and Princeton on an ROTC scholarship, people are paying attention.

What are service academies?

Military service...

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Should I Apply Early Decision?

What is Early Decision?

Early Decision (or ED) is a binding agreement between a student and their ED school. A student admitted in the ED round (usually in mid-December) must retract all other applications and make a deposit to the ED school.

[Note: Students may only apply to one ED school]

[Note: ED is different from Early Action or Restrictive Early Action]

[Note: RD is Regular Decision]

The trend in applying ED is on the rise.

Here's what you need to know:

Who normally applies Early Decision?

  • Recruited athletes who want to take advantage of "support" from a coach
  • Legacy students who hope to keep their longstanding family tradition alive
  • Students with a dream school that is their #1 choice by a long shot
  • Students not worried about affordability (either their family can pay full-freight or they are confident they can live with the financial aid package)
  • Students with no chance if they wait to apply Regular Decision (RD)

Why is it easier to get into a school by applying ED?

  • ...
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Running Out of Extracurriculars?

As applications are reviewed by college admissions officers, they must survive several "screens" to make it to the end. The more selective the school - the less porous the screens.  This week, we address the first two screens in the process.

Screen #1

  1. GPA
  2. Standardized Test Scores (SAT or ACT)
  3. Rigor of coursework

Outcomes on these three criteria will dictate the "selectivity" of colleges to consider. 

Screen #2

When (and if) a student gets through Screen #1, the more selective schools dig deeper.

Next stop: Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular Activities include anything that happens outside the classroom:

  • Sports teams
  • Debate Team
  • Part-time work
  • Elder or childcare responsibilities
  • Summer experiences
  • Volunteer work
  • Theater
  • Travel

On the Common Application, there is room for 10 such Activities. The activities should be listed in the order of importance to the student. Space is limited (50 characters for the position and organization name and 150 characters for the...

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How to Audit Your Child's Extracurriculars

Before we get too far into the new school year, I encourage you to perform an extracurricular activity audit with your 8th, 9th, or 10th-grader. Sounds like a blast, right?

This will either reinforce that you're on the right path, or open your eyes to a world you never knew existed.

Extracurricular activities are a critical component in the college admissions process - especially for very or most-selective colleges (Top 75).

Admissions Screen #1

There are 3 primary factors that determine whether or not your child will pass through the first admissions screen:

  1. GPA
  2. Rigor of course work (number of AP, Honors, IB classes)
  3. SAT or ACT score

As you move up the selectivity scale, the holes in the screen get smaller and smaller.

Admissions Screen #2

Once your child gets through Admissions Screen #1, admissions officers will then review their extracurricular activities:

  • sports
  • clubs
  • theater
  • music
  • family support (child or elder care)
  • job
  • summer experiences
  • internships
  • shadowing
  • volunteer...
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21 High School Clubs to Consider

As your child moves through high school, participation in after-school "clubs" can be a transformational experience - or a colossal waste of time.

Now would be a great time to sit down with your child to discuss how to think about after-school opportunities.

How After-School Clubs Can Help

High school clubs can benefit students in many ways:

  • provide an affinity group to make and cultivate friendships
  • provide a signal to colleges about what you are interested in
  • provide a path to leadership within an organization
  • provide a low-risk way to "test" a fledgling interest in a topic
  • provide a structure to start your own club

In the context of college admissions, "Clubs" are considered Extracurricular Activities because they happen "outside of the classroom".  Other Extracurricular Activities include sports, jobs, music, theater, child care responsibilities, etc.

As you may know, there is room for 10 Extracurricular Activities on the Common Application. Especially at the more...

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3 Ways to Demystify the College Admissions Experience

As you probably know, there is a lot hype surrounding the college admissions process - probably too much.

Yes, it can be tricky if you wait until junior or senior year to start the process. The "wait-and-see" approach can lead to anxiety and broken dreams.

It doesn't have to be that way.

As you know, my deep conviction is that the college admissions process should be introduced to teenagers gradually beginning in 9th or 10th grade.

This early introduction puts families in the driver's seat.

Here are three steps you can take to help demystify the process.

STEP 1: CAMPUS VISITS THAT INSPIRE

How can we expect our children to care about college if they've never stepped foot onto a college campus?

Campus visits can often spark interest and curiosity in the process. Motivation can be triggered by the strangest things - a certain vision, feeling, or personal encounter they experience during their visits.

Of course, there is no guarantee that visiting colleges will motivate your child, but...

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