The 20 Minute Magic

In 20 minutes, you can get an effective workout, complete a good chunk of homework, eat, bathe, watch a tv episodes, or listen to a TED talk. 20 minutes is that happy medium between too short to get stuff done, and too long that it becomes tedious.

Check out our guest post over at InGenius Prep on the 20 minute magic rules.


Image credit: Some rights reserved by Tal Bright

The Right Kind Of Dream


“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” President Kennedy said in 1961. At this time, no American had even travelled to space.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. realized that dream. There were many decisions that led to this landmark achievement, the first, and most important, being we started off with the right kind of dream.

What is the right kind of dream? The right kind of dream

  • is not vague like “be a good student.” It is clear at any point, if you have achieved it or not.
  • has a deadline by when it needs to be achieved.
  • is really hard. There is no formula for success, and even if you do everything you can, there is only a slightly more chance of success than failure.
  • cannot be achieved in a short period of time.
  • will require you to up your game, and get better.

If that sounds a bit like a college admission dreams, it is!

The little known secret of successful people is that they embrace the right kind of dreams, over and over in life. They don’t always succeed, but they know they wouldn’t ever succeed otherwise.

And, they always get better.

Are you ready to embrace your dream? Are you ready to up your game?

What is your differentiator?


To get into the college of your choice, you need not have PERFECT grades and scores and extracurricular activities; in short, you need not be perfect in everything.  Identify what truly stands out in you and realize that as your differentiator.  Remember, you are SPECIAL and your experiences make you the person you are.

Your college admission officer is looking for interesting and unique students.  Being YOU is what makes you unique and interesting.  Bring that out in your essay in your own voice and voila!, you have become that.

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What Do Your Clubs And Your Titles Mean?


Please don’t start another club at school just to impress admissions officers. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t become Executive Director of something meaningless, just to get it on your resume. 

It is true that admissions officers won’t figure out how awesome a leader you are, unless you show them. However, there are better ways to do that. 

Tell them how the stamp collections changed when you and your friends could more easily exchange stamps, and they will know you are an enabler. Tell the stories the stamps tell you, and they will know you are a true stamp enthusiast.

When you say that you started a stamp collector’s club, and grew membership ten fold: don’t expect them to not guess the membership went from 1 to 10, and that most of the people did you a favor when they joined. Admissions officers are too smart for that.

And, more importantly, this little secret will bring you success with college admission and beyond.

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How Am I Special?

The question is not : am I special? You are. There is no one who has lived the life you have. There is no one who sees things exactly as you do. There is no one who enjoys things exactly the way you do. There is no one who can be more you. The question is: how am I special? Figure that out, because

  1. In spite of you being – just – you know – regular, you are special
  2. Special does not mean genius or international champion or world record holder, and college admissions officers consider it your job to know the difference

Which picture are you showing your college admissions officer?

Image credit: facebook

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How To Be The Perfect Admission Candidate


The best and most selective colleges don’t have a template that you can mold yourself into, in order to get admission.

Correct that: they do have a template … for their class.

And they have experience with other students from your school.

You have three choices –

  • look like the students from your school who went to that college. If they worked OK on the quilt, and you fashion yourself after them, you might too. If you take this path, remember that many others in your school are trying to do exactly that.
  • Look like someone who they have not seen. Someone who may make the quilt interesting.
  • Just show your best colors and patterns, and let the right quilt find you.
Image credit: Some rights reserved by quiltiverse

Free Webinar: Breaking Down Supplement Essays

Our dear friend, Carol, is offering another awesome free webinar tomorrow (Tuesday, October 15) 4:00-5:00pm Pacific Time.

Space is limited! Sign up today

If you attend, you can ask questions. If you are in a timezone you cannot attend, I still recommend registering, and they typically send you a link to the recording.

As a follow up to the last post, below is Miss South Carolina’s second attempt:

Supplemental Prompts and Other Beauty Pageant Questions

“If you had your community’s undivided attention, what would you tell them?” is Pomona College’s supplemental prompt for this year.

In the next post, we will share valuable information about answering these questions. Today, let us just relax, enjoy this 49 second clip, and thank our stars that our answers will never be on YouTube.

The College Rank Illusion

US News ranking ranks colleges in a context. Contexts (and composite scores) create illusions. To look beyond the illusion, look at the colleges in different contexts:


  • Forbes ranks are based on outcome or return on investment, and they also rank the individual components that go into their overall ranking.
  • Princeton Review ranks by 62 specific criteria, broadly categorized as academic, campus, town, politics, social, extra curricular, school type, and quality of life.
  • PayScale provides ranking based on pay of graduates who do not go on to do higher studies.

While US News and Princeton rankings are based on “input” criteria (faculty pay/education, student selectivity, peer reputation, etc.), Forbes and PayScale measure the outcome (alumni pay, graduation rate, charity contributions by alumni, student awards, etc).