Marching Toward Summer

The Mistake 

High school students who want to attend top 100 colleges are working hard to gain admission to these highly selective institutions.  But working hard is not always “working smart.”  Most of these high achieving students are focusing their college preparation entirely on grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities.  And while demonstrating one’s qualifications in these areas is necessary, it’s not enough.  In 2014, the University of Pennsylvania posted a short statement on their admission website that showed how important standing out from the competition is in their admission process. 

“While we could easily fill the class with valedictorians and students with perfect test scores, our goal is to build the ideal incubator for tomorrow’s leaders.  As such, we look beyond mere numbers to intangible qualities.  It is therefore essential that you help us discover what separates you from those with the same or similar, GPA and test scores…” 


The Solution 

Parents who want to help their teenager stand out in the admission process at top 100 colleges must plan for the development of their teenager’s “intangible qualities.”  Some universities like Duke, Stanford, and UPenn are very clear about which intangible qualities they like to see in students.  Visit these three websites and see how they describe these intangible qualities.  As you review these websites you will find intangible qualities that are unique to each institution and other qualities that are common across all three.  At the end of this report, I’ll show you how to get a list of the nine most common intangible qualities for top 100 colleges.  After you visit the Duke, Stanford, and UPenn websites, take a look at the Office of Admissions’ website at your teenager’s target colleges and learn about the intangible qualities they like to see in prospective students. 


Duke:  http://admissions.duke.edu/application/overview  

UPenn:  http://www.admissions.upenn.edu/apply/whatpennlooksfor/holistic 

Stanford:  https://admission.stanford.edu/apply/selection/index.html 


Getting Started 

Step one is research.  Identify a few (1-3) intangible qualities from your teenager’s target colleges and then focus on building those qualities.  Next, help your teenager build their intangible qualities by completing a simple, but important activity that I call the Annual Growth Summary (AGS).  The AGS is a tool I created and use when I provide one-to-one coaching to my college prep clients.  The AGS consists of a series of six (6) questions your teenager will use to reflect on the previous year to determine how their intangible qualities have grown.  Here are two (2) questions to get you started: 

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