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February 28, 2021

2 Minutes Read

Hi friends,

Greetings from Princeton!

The Savvy Applicant is a weekly email where we share important news and actionable guidance on the selective college admissions process. If you have a question you'd like answered, let us know by replying to this email. If you'd like to invite a friend to be part of our community, you can send them this link.

Additionally, because many 11th graders who are following our 9-month college essay timeline have been asking questions about their personal statements, we created a separate 5-part email series to provide answers in a structured way. In this new series, we'll share techniques you can us to: find your best topic, structure your story, and add the kind of polish that makes an essay stand out. 

To be one of the first to receive this 5-part [How to ACE Your Personal Statement] email series simply email me with "ACE" in the subject line— I'll personally add you to the list.



As we reach the end of February, most students are set with their courses for next year. What's important now is finishing the current semester strong. During the pandemic, however, we've seen many students struggling to do what Cal Newport, author of How To Be a High School Superstar, calls "deep work." 
Three hours of studying can easily turn into six when you're receiving a constant flow of DMs or going down a YouTube rabbit hole. Our savviest students are facing this issue head on by developing a mindfulness/meditative practice that works for them. 
Not only will it help you focus and save massive amounts of time, it will also demonstrate to colleges that you value your own well-being and are committed to performing your best (yes, this goes in your applications!). 
Not sure where to start? I began my own practice with this 10-minute guided meditation on the Headspace app

🎙️Character Counts Podcast

Many schools went test-optional for the Class of 2021 and are continuing that policy for the class of 2022. Colleges have their own institutional priorities, but now more than ever, it's the evaluation of a student's character that influences admission decisions.
Moira McCullough invited me on the College Scoops podcast to discuss what character strengths colleges are looking for and how they will evaluate something so seemingly subjective. You can listen or read the transcript here.
🔥Hot Tip: The number one mindset shift that sets students up for success is to think of admission to college as a by-product of becoming their best self, rather than an end in itself.

Here's what else we want to share with you:


  • The Most Onerous Form in College Admissions:  Completing the Common App can be hard, the FAFSA is tough, but the CSS Profile—the financial aid and scholarship form used by many private colleges— has been called grueling and worse. Get familiar and start completing it early. For a deep dive into its complexities check out Eric Hoover's new article in Chronicle of Higher Ed.

  • 5-Star Dorms or Discounts: Universities have been in an arms race for a while. While some schools only give need-based aid and are almost proud that their students are willing to put up with less than stellar living conditions, others try to attract students by rolling out the red carpet. This may mean dorms with a private bath, a lazy river pool, or a generous "merit scholarship." Ron Lieber's article in the March issue of Town and Country offers valuable insight for consumers.
  • SCOTUS v. Harvard: Last Thursday the anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court’s decision upholding Harvard’s race-conscious admissions practices. The petition is not likely likely to be successful, but it is worth understanding the argument. 


Finally, with so many activities cancelled or significantly curtailed during the pandemic, many students who had aspirations of attaining leadership positions in a sport or a club are asking what else they can do to "demonstrate leadership?" Being a leader, however, doesn't necessarily mean having a formal title. Watch this super short video where Peter gives his take on what matters most.