<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=155486331574868&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

January 16, 2022

4 Minutes Read

👋Hi everyone,

Greetings from New York!

Welcome back to those of you who have been following along, and welcome to those of you who have recently joined us.

📫The Savvy Applicant is a biweekly email where I share important news and actionable guidance on the selective college admissions process—And I never pull any punches! 
If you have a question you'd like answered or a topic you'd like us to spend more time on, just hit reply and let me know.  

To join our community of over 5,000 students, parents, and counselors sign-up here. 


📅Time In

While some seniors who applied through an early admissions program may already be sporting their new school sweatshirt, many will have to continue waiting until spring. MIT cheekily releases decisions on Pi Day (March 14), and others start to roll out from there.  


🎓Class of 2023 - Your admissions season is now officially underway. Everyone should be digging in on researching college options, but for those of you interested in highly selective schools, I encourage thinking of the application completion process as a 9-10 month endeavor. 

That probably sounds ridiculous to anyone who, like me, applied to college in the 90s or before, but things are seriously different now. 
👶Underclassman - The Savvy Applicant always has something for you. You have time on your side. The question is what will you do with it?!?
— — —


🤓The Genius Zone


Over the course of the year I will write a lot of about admission strategy. Thinking strategically starts by taking a step back, looking at the big picture from 30,000 feet, and asking — How can I stand out from so many other well qualified applicants?

Because your application will probably be read in under 8 minutes, the answer lies in developing an application persona that is as easily understood as it is compelling. You might think of it as your application elevator pitch or your personal brand.

Rick Clark, Dean of Admissions at Georgia Tech, acknowledges that admissions officers must boil down an applicant to one sentence At PCC, we call this sentence your "Genius Zone." 

Your "Genius Zone" may get expressed in a sentence, but it's actually a full blown strategy for authentically powering your potential throughout high school. Much more to come on this....


— — —


📦Inside The Box


To begin thinking about your "Genius Zone" you MUST understand the holistic admissions process and how admission officers do their work.  Watch my PCC co-founder Peter Tilles explain:

  • Character-Based evaluation
  • 11 elements of your college application
  • 3 questions AOs ask about you
  • 4 key skills for success in the admissions process

📺 Inside the Black Box of Holistic Admissions, is available exclusively to the Savvy Applicant community on a private Youtube channel.

— — —


💰Early Decision Unbound

It is often said that applying to college Early Decision is a "binding contract" meaning that, if admitted, the student must attend. This is a half truth at best.

Colleges can't in good faith require a student to commit prior to them knowing the actual net price. Sorry Northeastern! Other schools like NYU have been less than forthcoming on their websites as well. The New York Times' Ron Lieber explains in detail.

He continues to hold colleges feet to the fire in a follow up article about Early Decision and "merit aid." This is a must read for anyone who wouldn't comfortably afford a $75,000 tuition bill. 

😳Why is this all so important?

Early Decision is a strategic choice that may significantly improve your chances of admission. Colleges are so obsessed with high yield rates that they are admitting more and more of their class through Early Decision. 

In fact some colleges are so embarrassed by the high number of early admits that they don't like to share the actual data.  Investigative reporting by Jeff Selingo estimates it's north of 50 percent at UPenn, Dartmouth, and Duke.  


— — —


🌿Trending #Harvard  

I watch what's happening in the admissions office at the 8 schools in Ivy League (athletic conference) closely because it's often representative of what's brewing

at the other "highly rejectives." 

Historically, Harvard has been the most significant trend setter of the bunch. And in the modern era, no dean of admission has made more of an impact on the landscape than Harvard's William Fitzsimmons.

The application evaluation process at Harvard is complex, but A.L.D.C.'s (athletes, legacies, dean's interest list, children of faculty) have a definite advantage. From the lawsuit challenging their admissions practices we learned that this group represents 5 percent of applicants and 30 percent of admits. 

Additionally, we recently learned Harvard would be staying "test-optional" for the next four years. This is better than required standardized testing, but one of the vaguest admission requirements possible. 

There are more cynical ways to explain the policy—which exists at most colleges now—but according to Harvard, it is mostly due to a concern about lack of  access to testing (and sophisticated preparation)  due to covid and other circumstances.   

⚡Admissions Insight: Students from families with the resources to test should test, as a high score (≈1500 / 34 +) will be advantageous. It will complement the other aspects of your application.

🔥Bold Move: After copious research, declare your opposition, philosophically and / or  politically, to standardized college admissions testing. Then do not study for or take the SAT or ACT. 

This is not right for most students, but if it's authentic to your ethos and complements everything else in your application --- an AO might love it.  Another AO, however, might not. Bottom line: When the odds are against you, being bold doesn't guarantee success, but it may increase the potential for serendipity. 


— — —


A few more things...


  • 📲Deferral Pride: Not being admitted to a top-choice college can sting. There are actions a student can take after a deferral to increase the probability of admission later on, but after a disappointment we can all use someone in our corner. Check out one father's touching show of support for his son after being deferred from Stanford. It went viral on LinkedIn
  • 😎California Kids: The UC system is another big driver of selective college admissions trends. By going "test blind", a clear policy of not considering test scores in admission decisions, they may inspire / force a growing number of schools to do the same. Read about California's new star applicants. 

  • 🏛️Beyond APUSH: Historical context adds depth to everything. Democracy is fragile and requires an engaged citizenry (which is why colleges look for civic engagement in applicants). This short podcast addresses President Biden's attempt to revive Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision of voting rights.

And I'll leave you with one quote to ponder and a photo that I hope inspires you...

🗣️Quote to Ponder: "The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." - Michelangelo


📸Photo to Inspire: Walking toward the beach in Anna Maria Island, Florida. It made me feel the potential of the new year.