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June 27, 2022

4 Minutes Read

Greetings from New York!

In the previous Savvy Applicant I mentioned my commitment to a 30-Day Digital DetoxIt's honestly been a struggle, but I'm certainly learning a lot about myself in the process. I've also been gratified by the number of responses from students interested in their own digital detox. 

Based on the screenshot of my phone, I've had several questions about the apps I actually chose to keep—particularly in the "Productivity" group. I often offer tips for managing time and information, but today I'll share a little of my own method.


📲 Getting Things Done


These are 3 apps that I use in tandem to stay organized:

📰 Instapaper is a "read later" app. I use it to save online articles or other things from the web that I might want to read, but would distract me from something else more pressing—or—potentially turn out to be not as interesting to me later. 

It's so easy to get pulled into the 24/7 news cycle, clickbait listicles, or the rabbit hole of Wikipedia. With Instapaper, I only read the saved item if I still have the desire when I'm free. Half the time I delete the article without reading. Out of the other half that I do read, I delete most. A small percentage I save in Evernote. 


🗂️ Evernote is a simple yet highly effective note taking app that integrates with Instapaper. Evernote allows you to have "notebooks" and "notes". I have a notebook for subjects I'm interested in like "College Admissions" where I'll save an article (like the ones below) as a note.

I'll use progressive summarization to get at what's most important and discard the rest. Then it's ready to be used as reference in creative projects which I track in Notion.


📆 Notion is an app billed as an all-in-one workspace, but I especially like its Content Calendar board. At any one time I may be working on several projects in various stages of development.

I have projects on a digital board with columns for "Ideas", "In Progress", "In Review", or "Published." In fact this newsletter goes through each phase every two weeks.

Again, this is just a peek into my own system. You can experiment and find what works best for you, but if information overload is an issue for you, I recommend checking out Tiago Forte's new book, Building a Second Brain

Of course, if you have a question about this, or any other aspect of preparing 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 more that I want to share this week:


✍️ Random Ideas to Strategic Storytelling


Last time I told you a bit about my own college essay. This week I want to tell you about the experience of one of our students. 

For years, Andrew had 3 distinct interests he was passionate about. He loves making music, scientific research, and Latin literature. He had taken each activity to significant levels of depth and they were all on his resume, but it was clear that each deserved further attention in an essay. 

The problem was that many of the schools Andrew was applying to, including several highly selective ones, only had students submit one essay—the personal statement. 

Andrew valued these pillars of his life equally and wanted to find a way to expand on each. But for weeks, he didn't know how to make them coalesce into one unified story. He thought he might have to settle for some colleges not getting a full appreciation of “who he really was.”

Even though he had A’s in English, he wasn’t a very savvy storyteller. Writing a narrative essay about his experiences in any one of his pillar activities was difficult enough, let alone integrating three. 

When he tried, he felt like they were random anecdotes that didn’t lead to an essay. He felt discouraged. Do I really have a chance at highly selective colleges if I can’t write an essay that stands out?  Can I succeed if I just keep writing more drafts? Am I ever going to make sense of how the different aspects of who I am tie together?

But as we worked it through together, his relationship with the personal statement changed. With the ACE framework, and good guidance, he began to think differently about the true goal of his personal statement.  With a better understanding of how to create thematic connections in his essay, plus constructive feedback, he started to build more confidence.

Spurred by excitement, he finished an exemplary essay, and felt like he had a framework for approaching supplemental essays from schools that required them. Instead of being frustrated that he already “wrote about science research”, he understood the supplements that he did have to write as a bonus opportunity to communicate additional stories and even more character strengths. 

Today, Andrew is a freshman at Cornell double majoring in Chemistry and Classical Languages. He hasn’t produced any hits yet, but his dorm is pretty much a music studio.

🔥Andrew was successful because the university knew exactly what he would be like on campus. His "Genius Zone" was both clear and compelling.

— — —


A few more things...


  •  😞 Cancelled at 17:  Cancel culture is part of life at some high schools. New York Magazine recently wrote about the complexity of what happens when students make mistakes and classmates never forgive. Related, the Biden administration has proposed reversing Trump era changes to Title IX (federal gender equity law). This means more protections for LGBTQ+ students and widening the scope of behavior that's considered sexual harassment. Read more about the changes here
  • 🏛 Battle of Cambridge: In contrast to the proposed Title IX changes, the supreme court has now officially overturned Roe and expanded gun rights. Race conscious admissions at Harvard (and UNC) is the next culture war case on the docket. The last time this issue was before the court there was much discussion about Class-Based vs. Race-Based Admissions.

  • 🌿 What (Selective) Colleges Want: Eric Hoover, one of the best higher ed reporters there is, lays it out in detail. Pay attention to the video submitted to Yale and MIT's "Maker Portfolio." Both are representative of a chance to shine at selective colleges


And now that school's out for summer, I'll leave you with a quote about learning, and an image of a painting that my father always hung in his office...

🗣️ Quote: “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education” - Mark Twain


📸  Image: It has always inspired me to stay curious and follow my interests.