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March 7, 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 join our community of over 5,000 readers, send them this link.

Because we've had so many questions from 11th graders working on their personal statements, we created a separate series to help students discover their best topic, structure a compelling story, and add the kind of polish that stands out. I'll be sending it in advance of Spring Break.

To receive the 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.



⏰ Measure This 

As Peter Drucker said, "What gets measured, gets managed." Because colleges use GPA's (in context) to sort through applications, many students are painfully aware of their grade average down to a hundredth of a point.
Here's the thing though: colleges care very little about those hundredths of a point. In a basketball game, finishing with a score of 104 to 103 is important. One team wins and one team loses. College admissions just isn't that kind of competition.
Students should focus on earning strong grades, but also recognize that colleges are interested in the level of depth and substance of your other pursuits. Given that time in the day is limited, students who are able to manage it well have a huge advantage.
Most of us feel we are good at multi-tasking, but science says otherwise. Even if last week's intro to meditation wasn't for you, savvy students save time by respecting the difference between what productivity expert Dave Crenshaw calls "background tasking" and "switchtasking." 
Want the proof? Watch this 5-min video.
Not only will you save time, but the quality of your work will go up and stress will go down!

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


  • 📝Bragging Rights: Some students think their favorite teachers will write them an amazing letter of recommendation, but the truth is great letters don’t just happen. Achievement in a course and being well liked may be the foundation, but providing your teacher with guidance through your brag sheet" can help you stand out. Read 4 Keys to Ivy League Letters of Rec. 

  • 💎Diamond In the Rough: The Diamond Challenge is one of the top entrepreneurship programs for high school students. Both a curriculum and a competition, it gives students the opportunity to learn to think like an entrepreneur and a structure to help them create. Ideas are important, but execution is everything. [Full disclosure: I'm a judge for this year's competition.]

  • 🎥Operation Varsity Blues Doc: It's been almost two years since the FBI uncovered the fraud at the heart of the Varsity Blues scandal. The new Netflix documentary comes out later this month. For an in-depth journalistic view, check out this New Yorker article about the unseen victims of the scandal.


Now that March is upon us, there is no question that college essays should be rising on the priority list of 11th graders.  For those of you wanting to stick to a 9-month writing schedule, the spring cohort of Write Your Way Into College begins April 12. More info on this next week.  

As I mentioned above, thinking about letters of recommendation should also be a priority for 11th graders. While they are the ones that will actually be asking this spring, 9th and 10th graders should also learn about the 15 elements of character that are evaluated. Watch Peter's video on LORs and start to think about the list below.