How To Get Into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Penn, Brown, Dartmouth..

Our Class of 2018 coaching clients had a good year.  Many had a GREAT year, getting into at least one of their top 1-3 choices. Or more.

We worked one-on-one with kids who got into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Dartmouth, Penn, Brown, Cornell, Duke as well as many other competitive colleges.  Congrats to all of ’em! 😉

One question that you may have is, “How did they do it?”

So today, finally, for the first time ever, I’m going to reveal our “secret sauce.”

The much sought after, but rarely discussed, “Dark Magic” we have here at Lockwood College Prep, that helps get these results, year after year.

Are you ready?  (Or do you want me to drag this out any longer?:)

Here it is:

“Super-smart kids who work their tushes off.”

You’re welcome!

OK,  in the off-chance that you’re rolling your eyes, give me three minutes, because I actually have some lessons for you.

First, a kid can do everything right, be an all-star at his/her high school and STILL not get into their “Dream College.”  Or any Ivy. (Whether that actually matters is another question for another day.  Spoiler alert:  it doesn’t seem to matter that much.)

Just because someone has a 50% chance of getting into six Ivies does not mean that they’ll go three-for-six.  They could just as easily go 0-for-six.

The issue is that a standout kid at a high school is not such a megastar when compared to 5,000 other competitor-applicants with virtually the same academic credentials.

So what does “Super-smart kids who work their tushes off” look like?  It can include some, even all, of the following:

  • Drafting and redrafting and re-redrafting a college essay until you’re so sick of it that your eyeballs are bleeding and you want to vomit (slight exaggeration, but you could feel like that).  It’s got to be perfect, even if it counts for only 10% of your application.
  • Allowing yourself the TIME to get your essays and applications done.  This means starting early, summer before Senior year of high school, and FINISHING before school starts (or coming close).  Not spending excessive amounts of time in the “thinking” stage.
  • Writing and editing, over and over, the college resume so that it “sells,” instead of merely listing, in dull, bone-dry generic fashion, your membership in National Honor Society and your participation in the last four cancer, autism and crohn’s walks/three-on-three basketball tournaments. (Yes, that was harsh. But did you know that you could submit a resume?  Most colleges allow it.)
  • Taking the ACT or SAT multiple times (3-5), and finding the TIME to prep, either on your own or with tutor or classes.  Best time to start is end of Sophomore year or the summer between Sophomore and Junior years.  Some high-achieving kids start even earlier.
  • Pushing yourself to engage in a respectable (not overwhelming) number of meaningful, strategic extracurricular activities that send the right signals to admissions officers. This involves thought (yes, T-H-I-N-K-I-N-G)  and implementation.
  • Making difficult choices.  Example:  the soccer or volleyball coach may threaten to bench you if you miss a practice to visit a college or take a test prep class or tutoring session.  My response (as a former coach and high school and college athlete):  come off the bench if you have to.  Is this fair?  I see both sides, kid’s and coach’s. Who cares?  Unless you’re going pro in soccer, volleyball, lax, curling, whatever, the college stuff is more important, no matter how outraged you might be at the moment.
  • Not leaving anything on the table.  This means shoring up your weaknesses as best as you can, so admissions officers can’t hang their hat on any “one thing” to keep you out of their club.  Example: if your GPA and rigor (number of AP or IB classes) is superior as far as Brown is concerned, but your ACT is a 33, you need to do whatever you can to beg, borrow or steal an extra point or two.  Otherwise, it could be THE THING that knocks you out.  Ditto for demonstrating interest.  Or supplemental essays.  Bottom line:  you can’t afford to have any chinks in your armor.

There’s a whole more to say on this subject, but that’s enough for now, my fingers are cramping up. 🙂

Sorry if I mislead you into thinking that we have a magic wand.  But the truth is, there’s a bunch of moving parts beyond any of our control.  There are no guarantees, only ways – ACTIONS, not hoping or dreaming, or blaming others – to maximize your odds of admission.

Personally, I think of this process as being about giving it your best when you throw your hat into the ring.  You’ll probably (not definitely) take some lumps, but you’ll learn more about yourself and how others think you stack up at the end of the process.

Your kiddo could “run the table” like a couple of our clients did, getting in everywhere. Or, more likely, your child might be told that they don’t quite cut it academically, which could represent their first real setback, ever.  (If this is the worst thing that ever happens to them, they will have lived a charmed life. 🙂

If you’re the parent of a high school junior, when you and your child look back at this process, one year from now, I hope you feel satisfied that you gave it your all, took your chances and have no regrets.

We have four slots left for our guaranteed SAT Crash Course, because we keep enrollment down so that everyone gets personalized instruction.


We also added an online version, that will include the same class instruction and offline support Marissa gives to our “live” members.  That option is listed on the same SAT class page, at the bottom.

If you’re interested in our college advising services, email me privately. We have plenty of room for Class of 2020 Sophomores, but our capacity for Class of 2019 kids is tightening quicker than a Mueller investigation.

-Andy “The Harry Potter Of College Planning” Lockwood

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