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April 17, 2022

By
3 Minutes Read

Hi friends,

Greetings from New York!

In addition to Ramadan, Passover, and Easter, for many of you, it has also been spring break. For seniors, this means it's time to review various admissions packages and make the final decision on where to spend the next four years.

It's a big decision, but if you've done a good job choosing where to apply, you're deciding between schools, and cohorts of peers, that you already determined to be good fits—considering size, location, specific educational and professional opportunities, culture, social life and cost.

The last one, is a biggie. Understanding admissions decisions can be tough—why did I get accepted to Cornell and not BU?—but deciding how much different schools are worth to you can be even tougher. Is it better for me to go to Cornell for $75K or Rutgers Honors College for $15K?!? 

The answer to questions like this vary based on each family's circumstances and values. For some the money may be less of a factor, but savvy applicants always thoughtfully consider their options. 

If you have a question about how to choose, get into, or pay for college, just hit reply and let me know. If you want to share this newsletter with friends, you can use the link at the bottom of this email 🙏.

 

Here's what I want to share this week:

 

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✍️ Epic and Episodic College Essays 
 

While a personal statement is a piece of creative writing, it still needs structure. There's not necessarily one that's correct, but there are a couple classics that both allow for flexibility and promote cohesiveness.

The epic structure is one of the most enduring in history. It has been used in everything from Homer's Odyssey to films like Star Wars and The Matrix. Commonly referred to as "The Hero's Journey", it's a great way to structure your personal statement.

If you have one primary character strength or core value you want to highlight through one continuous narrative, this is the way to go. You can and should weave in additional character strengths and values along the way, but the defining characteristic of the Hero's Journey Structure is that the events are linked by causality.  

In contrast, the events in an episodic structure are linked thematically. We refer to this as the "Curated Stories Structure." Often used in short story collections like James Joyce's Dubliners or TV shows like "Law and Order", this is also an excellent way to structure your personal statement.

If you want to tell multiple stories that highlight one primary character strength or core value this is a good choice. Don't worry, you will weave more in along the way here as well. You can read more about both the Epic and Episodic here. Still brainstorming ideas? Read how to find college essay gold.

 
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👑 Crossing the Rubicon

 
Sample before specializing. Students should be encouraged to explore lots of different interests as they grow up and high school is part of that period. Having said that, AOs at selective colleges are looking for students who were curious enough to take a deep dive into something specific. 
 
Colleges know that the majority of students change academic majors in college so they won't hold you to anything, but metaphorically, crossing the Rubicon—the river Julius Caesar made famous with his decision to cross—means you have committed to seeing a goal through. 
 
⚡Admissions Insight: Students that commit to a project, excitedly pursue it, encounter challenges, learn from their set-backs and keep going, potentially apply what they've learned in other areas of their life, and—this is especially important— articulate what it all means to them, will tend to do rather well in admissions.  
 

It's a bit of a cliche, but what I'm talking about is sometimes referred to as "grit." For more on grit, read Angela Duckworth's short article "All In, Crossing the Rubicon." Then use The Grit Scale to assess just how gritty you are. 

❌ Common Mistake: While grit is good, sticking with something you are not interested in, or no longer interested in, is not helpful. I see too many students doing things they are not excited about because they think it will "look good for college". It won't.

 

🔥 Knowing when to pivot is one of life's most important skills. 

 

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A few more things...

 

  • 🌎 Speed & Scale: Earth Day is coming up and we all need to reflect on how we can do our part to combat ecological collapse. A changing climate is the world's challenge par excellence and well informed students committed to solving it will be in high demand. In addition to the recently released IPCC report, the plan in renowned investor John Doerr's book, Speed & Scale informs and inspires.   

  • ⌛ Testing, Testing: I'm not the only one who believes MIT's stated reasons for requiring standardized tests is a little lackluster. Read this interview with college admission expert, Paul Tough. At least MIT is clear however. Colleges like Davidson that are declaring they are permanently test optional are only furthering confusion.

  • 🌿 Embarrassingly Low3 Ivy League Universities— Princeton, Penn, and Cornell—had admissions rates lower than they were willing to publicize. The numbers will come out eventually in the Common Data Set (a little known fantastic resource), but hiding them for now is not helping lower anyone's anxiety as they claim. 

 

I'll leave you with a quote resonant of active experiential learning and an image of Spring and renewal on our beautiful planet. 

🗣️ Quote: "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself"  - John Dewey 

 

📸  Image: A variety of spring blooms bringing Central Park back to life. 

spring - savvy applicant pic