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May 31, 2022

4 Minutes Read

Hi friends,


Greetings from New York!


The school year is now coming down the home stretch. There will be festivities to enjoy, but they will certainly be tempered by the tragedy in Uvalde,Texas last week. (And while they did not get as much media attention, there have been several more mass shootings in last few days.)


There are no quick or easy solutions, yet other countries don't seem to have such a severe a problem. As the news cycle moves on, we must stay committed to being informed and working toward gun safety. This will take different forms for each of us, but it is a test of our collective civic character.

NBA coach Steve Kerr used his platform to call out 50 senators blocking proposed legislation. How will you contribute?


The most selective colleges are hungry for students with genuine civic character (not necessarily the student body president) because we so obviously need passionate young leaders. David Hogg is an example of one student who became a leading gun safety activist after surviving the shooting at Parkland HS in Florida. He has continued his advocacy while a student at Harvard and almost certainly will continue far into the future. 

For a documentary on this subject, I recommend Michael Moore's Oscar winning Bowling for Columbine. It came out after the 2001 shooting in Littleton, Colorado and is just as relevant today. While Moore can be a polarizing figure, challenge yourself to analyze the rhetoric (ethos, logos, and pathos) in his argument. 


🔥 Savvy Applicants recognize that selective colleges want students who are ready not just to express an opinion, but to inspect their opinion's intellectual and philosophical underpinnings, have a civil discussion with others who may disagree, and are open minded enough to potentially change their mind.

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 what I want to share this week:


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👩‍🍳 Too Many Cooks


✍️This is part 5 of the 5-part "How to ACE Your College Essay" Series

Receiving feedback is a crucial part of the writing process. Even the most talented authors have editors. The key is to ensure you are asking someone whose opinion is credible, knows you well, and that you trust to give constructive, honest, and valuable feedback. Be mindful however; one of the biggest mistakes and causes of stress for students is getting feedback from too many people. They all mean well, but "too many cooks in the kitchen" never works. 

So whether it is a counselor, teacher, parent, sibling etc., try to work primarily with one person. There are points where it may be appropriate to share with someone else, but be specific about what you are asking them to react to. “What are the main character strengths or values that this essay highlights?” is a good one. It limits the scope and ensures you get actionable feedback.

As you go through the writing process, be patient. Know that many exemplary essays have gone through 7-10 drafts before you have had a chance to read them. Step away from your essay for a couple days between drafts. Fresh eyes see more clearly. And just because someone else wrote ten drafts doesn’t mean you should or need to. As Neil Gaiman says, at a certain point you have to “trust your story.”

If your story is authentic, and well developed, admissions committees will appreciate your work. Your personal statement will help them understand who you are beyond the grades, test scores, and list of activities. It is one of your best opportunities to stand out, so do a  thorough final review of your work. 


Check Mechanics

 You have gone through the process of crafting a competitive admission essay. Now that you have completed your higher-order edits and revisions, it’s time to proofread.  Focus on formatting, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Errors of this nature sneak in during rewrites. Run a digital check, but take personal responsibility.


Read Out Loud

Hearing your essay emphasizes any mistakes that may have crept through.  It's also not a bad idea to print your essay. There is a strange distinction between reading on your computer screen and reading on actual paper. In addition to reading out loud, you can also try copying and pasting it into Google Translate. Google will read it back to you. 


Before Hitting Submit

When you actually paste your essay into the Common Application—read your essay once again and fix any formatting errors that may have occurred in the system. Use the "Preview" feature so that you can see the essay as readers will. You can’t be too careful. After all your hard work, you don't want careless errors to detract from your message.


Submit and Celebrate! 🎉


To see a summary of the entire series, check out our guide "How To ACE Your Personal Statement"

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A few more things...


  •  🌿 Ivy + Yields:  Admission rates are plummeting partly because yield rates (the percentage of students admitted who actually matriculate) are soaring. This is due in large part to schools using Early Decision more aggressively than ever before. Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt are two standout cases. Read more about Early Decision and other techniques selective colleges use to their own advantage.
  • ⏰ Testing, Testing: The College board is introducing a new AP class and test. AP Pre-Calculus is geared toward giving more students an opportunity to be well prepared for calculus as a college freshman and therefore not be shut out of STEM related majors. For those of you interested in STEM who attend affluent high schools that offer AP Calculus (AB/BC and beyond)—you should go as far as possible.
  • 📚 Odysseus on Campus: After two years of the Pandemic and much online learning, professors are finding that students, across all socioeconomic backgrounds, aren't ready for the standards of college level work. After your own odyssey of online high school, think through, and be prepared to articulate in your application, what excites you about the challenge awaiting you on campus. 


And I'll leave you with a stoic quote that offers wisdom for approaching the college admissions process, and an image from the above NYT article that wittily transforms the Harvard logo. 

🗣️ Quote: "Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens."  - Epictetus 


📸  Image: If you feel this way, what do you need to do to re-charge?