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May 1, 2022

4 Minutes Read

Hi friends,

Greetings from New York!

May 1st is the traditional deadline for seniors to make their final decision on where they plan to enroll next year. If that's you—congratulations!

🎉 Whether you've known where you're heading for several months or you made a game time decision, I know the admissions process can be pretty taxing. There are AP exams this month, but with deposits in place, it's about time to start enjoying some of those celebratory graduation traditions (many of which have been sorely  missed in the last couple years).

 ⚡️ For juniors and underclassman — the whole AP program has its problems, but it's important to recognize that exam scores have taken on more significance in admissions decisions at selective colleges than ever before.

With rampant grade inflation in high schools, and SAT Subject tests relegated to the trash bin of history, AP scores are one of the measuring sticks to understand what you've done relative to your peers. Getting a 5 on an AP exam is not necessarily taken for mastery, but it compliments or contradicts a course grade and the perception of rigor at your school. 

If you have a question about AP exams 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 what I want to share this week:


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👁️ Perception and Reality

Selective colleges are knowledgeable about your high school. If they don't regularly send the AO that reads applications from the region to give a presentation and answer basic questions, they are a sophisticated analyst of your "School Profile". If you haven't seen your school's School Profile, you should be able to find it on the website.  
Of course it doesn't give the whole story, but your School Profile is important context for reading your application (and holistic admissions is all about context).
Less helpful is giving high schools a numerical ranking, but US News still does it. They recently released their 2022 update and I'll save you the suspense, TJ (Thomas Jefferson High school in Fairfax, Virginia) is again the National #1. You can see the full list here).
🏛 More interesting however, is the recent SCOTUS decision about TJ's new admission policy. Even with a majority of conservative justices, the supreme court upheld a lower court's decision to allow a more holistic review of applicants. 
The Coalition for TJ claims, similar to the group that sued Harvard, that the new policy unfairly discriminates against Asian students. The Harvard case coming before the SCOTUS next term will certainly get more publicity, but we may have just gotten a sneak peak.   
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✍️ Hook, Line, and Sinker


This is part 3 of the 5-part "How to ACE Your College Essay" series

The novelist Terry Pratchett said, “the first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” Because good writing is actually rewriting, the main goal of your first draft is just to get it done. This is not the time to be critical or worry about the prescribed 650 word limit.

With that in mind, there are a few key elements of storytelling to include in your draft. Even though it is technically an admission officer’s job to read your essay, you don’t want to take them for granted. Because they read hundreds (sometimes thousands) of personal statements, you want to hook them from the start, write with style throughout, and end on a high note.  


🪝The Hook
One attention grabbing technique is to start in media res, which is just a fancy Latin term that means in the middle of the action. So beginning your essay in media res simply means to start in the middle of a scene without telling all the backstory or what happened prior to it. The backstory or context can either be easily assumed or if it is necessary to understand the essay, it can be filled in later through flashback or description of the past events.

In media res Example:
Managing to break free from my mother’s grasp, I charged. With arms flailing and chubby legs fluttering beneath me, I was the ferocious two­ year old rampaging through Costco on a Saturday morning. 


📣 Showing And Telling
“Show, don’t tell” is one of the most common pieces of creative writing advice. It has become a cliche, because, on the whole, it is generally pretty darn good advice. Essentially, showing means using description and action to help the reader experience a story. Telling is when a writer summarizes factual information for the reader which limits the experience. For example:

Telling: I was sad to see my girlfriend leave

Showing: I wiped tears off my face as I watched my girlfriend board the plane.

🥊 The Pithy End
Just as you want to hook a reader from the beginning, you want to end your essay with pizazz. Strong endings are not necessarily abrupt, but do fairly quickly sum everything up, tie connections together and give us a last bit of insight.

Sometimes there is a “call back” to an earlier part of the essay that highlights the difference between an earlier time and the new normal. If you can do this with a nice turn of phrase that includes the hard-won wisdom, you probably have a winner. 


For example, here's a student wrapping up her essay about the evolution of her intellectual curiosity:

My intense desire to know, to explore beyond the bounds of rational thought; this is what defines me. Costco fuels my insatiability and cultivates curiosity within me at a cellular level. Encoded to immerse myself in the unknown, I find it difficult to complacently accept the “what”; I want to hunt for the “whys” and dissect the “hows”. In essence, I subsist on discovery.


Still brainstorming ideas? Go back and read part I - Finding Gold.

Trying to find a structure for your story? Read part II - Epic and Episodic


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A few more things...


  • 🇺🇦 Ukrainian Students Say: It's common to feel like you want to do something to help in Ukraine, but not sure what's possible.  Engin is an organization seeking volunteers to meet with students from Ukraine and help them continue to learn English. You'd be helping, and undoubtedly learning. Win-Win. Check it out here

  • 🌿 The Gap Advantage: There are many advantages to taking a gap year including time for social/emotional growth and figuring out what you want to study in college before you go, but now some students are recognizing that it can also be an advantage in admissions. Read why.

  • 🙈 Procrastinators Unite We all procrastinate, but some of us are better at staying on track than others. The latest Harvard Business Review includes an article that explains the 3 reasons we procrastinate (none of them are laziness) and the best strategies for breaking the habit


And I'll leave you with a quote about one of the character strengths colleges love to see in applicants and an image celebrating our PCC students...

🗣️ Quote: "Creativity is intelligence having fun"  - Albert Einstein 


📸  Image: We are so proud and excited to see you take the next step in your life's journey!