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June 25, 2021

3 Minutes Read

Hi friends,

Greetings from Princeton!

The Savvy Applicant is a biweekly email where we share important news and actionable guidance on the selective college admissions process. If you have a question you'd like answered, send it our way.  

If this was forwarded to you, please join our community of over 5,000 readers. You can sign-up here.  


Upcoming @PCC


🚀College Admissions Launchpad (class of 2023 and 2024 + parents)

Hosted by Peter and myself, this intensive virtual workshop addresses every element of the college preparation and application process. Date: Saturday, July 10 at 10 AM ET. To learn more: Click Here

✍️Write Your Way Into College (class of 2022)

We're happy to announce our signature college essay writing course. It's 5 weeks that take students through a process that provides confidence, expert coaching and accountability. Live Zoom sessions begin July 13



✍️Great Essays Rewritten


It's important to know that writing compelling college essays involve a process of writing and rewriting. The best essays often do not start off anywhere near their finished form. Start with big picture macro-editing like questioning the focus of your story and making important connections. Save the micro-editing of stylistic choices for later. Here's a few tips:

Adjust Your Focus. In early drafts, it is easy to have an essay that is either too broad or too narrow in scope. The right level of focus will highlight your character strengths in a meaningful level of depth without getting lost in the weeds of details that don't advance the story.

Add Intellectual Vitality. One of the most important character strengths selective colleges look for in an applicant is curiosity.  Read through your essay and look for opportunities to explore how your experience may be connected to historical, literary or philosophical ideas you care about.

Get Emotional. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable in your essay.  Demonstrate emotional intelligence by expressing how certain experiences made you feel and your awareness of the deeper need underlying the feeling.

Ask Rhetorical Questions. How do you sound smart in your essay without showing off? How do you communicate your personality or sense of humor? Ask yourself or your reader interesting questions within the essay. This is a secret weapon of essays that stand out.

Use Literary Language. Metaphors and similes can bring your writing to life. Shakespeare was a master. To explain human behavior he said, "All the world's a stage." Just beware of mixed or dissimilar metaphors used in rapid succession which may confuse the reader.

For more, check out our guide on How to "ACE" Your College Essay




A few more things...


  •  💡Admissions In One SentenceWe all have a personal brand. Think of it as how someone describes you to other people. In the world of selective college admissions it's how an admissions officer describes you to the full committee. Savvy applicants understand the power they have to cultivate and shape their brand in a way that is both authentic and strategic. Read how Rick Clark (Director of Admissions at Georgia Tech) explains it. 
  • This American Test: The biggest change in admissions this past year was colleges no longer requiring the SAT or ACT. Listen to NPR's This American Life host Ira Glass talk with admissions officers around the country about what this means for their particular college and the future of admissions (27 min). In part II Paul Tough, looks at what happens when UT Austin admits students with great grades, but poor SATs. (20 min)
  • 💰Pay Less for College: Or at least have a greater understanding of what others like you are paying for the same college. At most private colleges few pay the sticker price, but it is not always easy to discern who pays what. It's like an airline ticket where the person in the seat next to you could be paying substantially more or less. Mark Salisbury's organization TuitionFit is trying to bring families more information to even the playing field.  

Before signing off, I want to remind everyone that letters of recommendation are an extremely important piece of your application. I've emphasized this before, but it's worth repeating. If any rising seniors haven't already asked for them, you should do so now. Your teachers and counselor will be busy in the fall and often take more care with the letters they are able to write over the summer.

In addition to evaluating 15 elements of your character, colleges are looking to answer the 3 key questions below.  For more, see our detailed guide on letters of recommendation.  

3 Key Questions