"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...
Assume a group a college applicants have similar:
but participate in different "Extracurricular Activities" that could be categorized as Typical or Non-Typical Teen Activities.
TTA (Typical Teen Activities)
NTTA (Non-Typical Teen Activities)
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?
Why is it easier to get into a school by applying ED?
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...
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...
How teens spend their summers has become an increasingly important piece of the college admissions puzzle. Objective measures like GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and transcripts can quickly become lifeless numbers in a sea of sameness. (Yup, another 4.0 GPA, check).
Admissions officers are being forced to look elsewhere to find what differentiates students from each other. They often turn to letters of recommendation, alumni interviews, and, of course, summer experiences.
Let's start with the tactics, then we'll move into strategy.
Here are some options to consider for the summer:
Volunteer Work (FT or PT):
Volunteer work is easy to find, affordable, and can be full-time, part-time, or project-based. Not only does volunteer work show that you care about someone other than yourself, but it also allows a teen to gain real-world experience in a field or industry they enjoy.
Paid Work (FT or PT):
Colleges love to see applicants who have worked at a paying job - of any kind. Sometimes,...
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:
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 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: