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March 13, 2022

4 Minutes Read

Hi friends,

Greetings from New York!

We are two years into the pandemic and two weeks into Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine, but, as W.H. Auden says in the last line of one of his most resonant poems, we can still "show an affirming flame."

Whether creating or contemplating, turning toward art can be part of a resilient response to the world around us. While it was written as a reflection on the outbreak of World War II, re-reading the poem September 1,1939  this week helped me work through feelings of fear, uncertainty and hope in 2022.

As always, if you have a question you'd like answered, just hit reply and let me know. If you want to to share this newsletter with friends, you can use the link toward the bottom of this email 🙏.

Here's what I want to share this week:


🎭 Characters Wanted


In addition to reaching for art, we all have a responsibility to build context for our understanding of the world from reliable sources and also to ask ourselves how we can support other people. And if those are the right things to do, they're certainly important for those of you preparing to apply to selective colleges.

⚡Admissions Insight: Colleges are looking to admit students demonstrating strengths of character—intellectual, performance, civic and moral. The students who see admissions to college less of an end goal and more the result of their own character development will do well in this process.

🔥Strategic Action: Begin to develop self-awareness about your character strengths and weaknesses. Get started by using The VIA Character Strengths Survey.


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📅 Decision Days 
March is a big month for admissions decisions. Many colleges, including MIT which always releases its decisions on 3/14 (Pi Day), will notify students in the next few weeks. 
Because so many selective schools are filling up their class through early applications—and they are getting more applications than ever (105,000 at NYU)—expect another year of record low Regular Decision admit rates. 

💰Money Matter: When you are admitted, the next step is decoding the often cryptic financial aid award letters. Deciding on the right college is about many things, but financial fit is critical. Make sure you fully understand what each college expects you to pay. 

Realize you will never have as much power to negotiate as you do during the time after you are accepted, but before you commit. Because "Merit-based" scholarships are mainly just a polite way to say tuition discount, you may be able to negotiate a better deal.
I recommend checking out what my friend Mark Salisbury has done at TuitionFit. You'll be able to see what others similar to you are paying for the same school. 
Finally, for students who applied to highly selective colleges the math doesn't lie. There are going to be some disappointments. I just want to point out that many of the students I see admitted are the same ones most at peace with not being admitted🤔.
I truly appreciate how difficult it can be, but Savvy Applicants try their best to focus energy on the things they can control (which is quite a lot!) and not waste it on those they can't. 
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✍️ Trust the Process
If you're an 11th grader planning to apply to multiple highly selective colleges, I encourage you to think of completing applications as a 9-10 month process. Since we are now just under 10 months away from January 1st Regular Decision deadlines—and 7.5 months from the earliest deadlines—the time to start is now.
There is much more to applications than essays, but if you think about the process of writing 25-35 required essays while keeping up with school work, participating in extra-curriculars, enjoying summer activities, and making time for hanging out with friends, you'll see the challenge.
It can be met, but in my experience it takes about 9-10 months for students to do their best work.  Read more on how to develop your  9-10 Month Essay Writing Timeline.
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⌛ Time Back Guarantee 

Procrastination is one enemy of productivity, but multitasking may be a more insidious problem. According to productivity expert Dave Crenshaw, multitasking is actually more of a myth than anything. We all tend to think we're pretty good at it, but Crenshaw makes a distinction between what he calls backtasking and switchtasking. 
While backtasking may work for us in certain situations, Switchtasking is the enemy of productivity. As you move forward in high school, and beyond, the ability to do deep focused work can be a superpower. Read this article that will explain further and help you take back control of your time.
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A few more things...


  • 💼 Work For It: Colleges appreciate students that hold a job. One of the best ways to find an actual internship in high school is to be a "go-giver." Instead of just applying for an opportunity, try to anticipate someone else's needs and offer a complete solution. Glad to help US News on their article: How to Find a High School Internship.
  • 😎 Berkeley Says: NIMBY(not in my backyard). The courts have upheld the wishes of Berkeley homeowners to restrict the number of students flowing into their affluent neighborhoods. The ruling would force UC Berkeley to significantly cut this fall's enrollment, but lawmakers are attempting to keep their admitted students.  Note: Out of state students pay a 30K premium for the pleasure.
  • 🌿 Columbia's Fuzzy Math According to one of their own math professors, Columbia has manipulated data to move up in the U.S. News rankings. Since 1988 the Ivy League university has moved from #18 to their present position of #2.  The analysis is a bit esoteric, involving student-faculty ratios and financial resources, but you can check it out here (Penn gets a dishonorable mention as well).


And I'll leave you with a quote from one of my go to strategists on mental models and an image illustrating several elements of a college application that reveal your character.

🗣️Quote: "Working hard matters, but working on the right thing matters even more" - Shane Parrish 


📸 Image: Once you understand college admissions as a holistic character-based evaluation process, you can craft a strategic approach to your application. 

6 Elements of Character