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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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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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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What are Non-Traditional Teen Activities?

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 (A Guide)

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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Blow-Your-Mind Extracurricular Activities

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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