Greetings from New York!
Hurricane Henri brought A LOT of rain to the city this weekend, but rest assured, the NYU community will be ready for the start of the fall semester next week.
In addition to many elite academic programs, the university is integrated into the Greenwich Village neighborhood that includes the lively Washington Square Park, restaurants with every cuisine imaginable, independent movie theaters, book stores, comedy clubs, and music venues.
It's not hard to see why, despite the pandemic, over 100,000 students applied to NYU last year.
✍️College Essay Masterclass -- Tuesday, August 24 at 7 PM EDT. Hosted by Peter and myself, you'll learn the "ACE" method our students have used for years. Register Here.
📆Save the Date. Live sessions of the fall cohort of Write Your Way Into College begin September 14. Registration opens August 25 and is first come first serve. The best way to insure your spot is to register early.
The greek poet Archilochus wrote, "the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." Philosophers have had a field day interpreting this parable, but I have often thought of it in terms of college admissions strategy.
So, is it better be a proverbial fox or a hedgehog?
This could be a really long essay, but to keep it simple—I think about the fox as embracing the nuance of the holistic admissions process more than the hedgehog.
In one scenario the hedgehog can be students who focus an inordinate amount of time and energy on standardized tests. Even with a top score the hedgehog may keep studying and re-testing in hopes of getting even closer to perfect. Meanwhile the fox may choose to prepare for a standardized test, but he or she keeps it in perspective. The fox understands the opportunity cost of the test and the law of diminishing returns.
Students often classify themselves as "STEM people" or "humanities people" or "business people." It's true that we may have natural proclivities, but the hedgehog sometimes chooses to specialize too early and stops studying one of the core subject areas due to a lack of interest (the most common, and detrimental to college applications, is foreign language). The fox on the other hand is curious about almost all subjects and understands their interconnectedness and importance (a globally minded citizen will want to be multilingual, or at least have the experience of struggling toward fluency in a non-native tongue).
To be continued...
I know the emails will come in from the Savvy Applicant community: "But Ben, isn't it true that selective colleges aren't looking for well-rounded individuals (foxes), rather they are trying to assemble a well-rounded class made up of spiky individuals (hedgehogs)?
I will address this question and continue this line of thought next time. For now, if you are curious to learn more about the philosophical underpinnings of The Fox and Hedgehog, check out the first page of the philosopher Isaiah Berlin's famous essay on the topic and then dive into this this story from NPR.
A few more things...
🗣️Quote to ponder: "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" —Seneca