"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].
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...
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.
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).
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...
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:
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:
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:
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...
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...
A Broken Model
After years of engaging with hundreds of high school students, parents, and guidance counselors from around the country, I've witnessed an unfortunate pattern.
These individuals continue to operate under the assumption that "college preparation" should begin in junior year.
I strongly disagree.
In fact, before stepping one foot into junior year, students should have a firm understanding of the expectations, milestones, and context for what lies ahead. [More on exactly what these factors are in a subesquent post].
Otherwise, students (and parents) risk feeling overwhelmed, paralyzed, and ill-prepared to manage the onslaught of information dumped in their laps. Once a student enters junior year, there are no do-overs.
In my private counseling practice, I find that a student's freshman and sophomore years (The Golden Years) have disproportionate impact on their readiness for the college admissions process, college selection, and life itself.
They are - as an economist...
Please don't underestimate the power of the summer. It's a magical time for teens that can either be optimized or squandered.
Yes, colleges like to see your child engaged in interesting and productive pursuits during the summer, but that's only half the story.
The summer is also the time for your child to find out more about themselves. What do they like? What do they hate? What is it like to make money? What is it like to do manual labor? What is it like to work in a cubicle? What is it like to find a job?
These are invaluable experiences that teens need to live through to make better decisions in the years ahead.
I call summer activities "Summer Quests" because your child should be searching for something. Here are some things worthy of their search:
What interests your child?
The first place for your child to start when considering their summer plans is what they are interested in. If...
A lot of my days are spent trying to help teens unlock their "potential". If you are a parent or teacher, you know that this can make for some long days.
Most teens are content to operate at 50% capacity. A few strive for more.
The teens who care about their development, progress, and improvement are my oxygen.
Every once in a while, I catch wind of a PrepWeller who has figured it out.
Such was the case with a PrepWeller we'll call "Heather".
Heather started PrepWell Academy as a freshman and wasn't the most diligent PrepWell student of all time. She watched a majority of the videos but not without cycles of skipping and binge-watching. All totally normal. The program was designed with this dynamic in mind.
However, in early sophomore year, the proverbial lightbulb went off for her. All of a sudden, the terminology, advice, and guidance within the videos took on new meaning.
Heather "got it".
It wasn't long before Heather was engaged in the college admissions process as...
Summer: A Terrible Thing to Waste
Does your child have a plan for the summer?
Summer is one of the most important and often underutilized blocks of time in a teen's life. With few mandatory school commitments, the possibilities for growth and life experience are endless.
Unfortunately, end-of-school fatigue and the allure of "time off" can overwhelm even the most well-intentioned parent and child. Snap your fingers and "poof" - it's September!
One of the most important skills a teen can learn is how to think about the future (vision), how to plan for the future (preparation), and how to follow-through on a plan (execute). This skill will be repeated hundreds of times over their lifetime.
The skill is known as goal-setting - and should be taught and practiced sooner rather than later.
Summer is the perfect time and duration to practice this skill.
What We Teach
PrepWell Academy's Lesson (Week 2) is all about goal-setting. I challenge students to not only ...