Boost An Application in Five Minutes – or – How Your 9th, 10th or 11th Grader Can Leverage Five Minutes


How are you? 

The typical response to that question these days is a breathless, "Busy, and you?" with the occasional sigh and a somewhat forced smile. The point of this newsletter is not to create more "busy" for you or your teen; it's to help your teen make one or more small shifts that can yield significant results when it comes time to apply.

It's high season for college applications right now. My team and I are continuously reviewing applications and helping students position themselves. Not a day goes by that I don't wish I could help late-coming students turn the clock back to 9th, 10th, or 11th grade. The shift I'm suggesting is for your student to consciously take action to feed their curiosity and then, in turn, leverage the result of the time invested now to boost their application later. This could be a five-minute-a-day shift or an entire summer plan. What do these small and sometimes larger shifts look like? 

My teen has five minutes a day... 

  • Read (or listen) to one article a day on a topic of interest
  • Tackle a test-prep problem of the day
  • Complete an online puzzle such as Wordle or Spelling Bee

My teen has an hour a week...

  • Engage in a virtual volunteer opportunity (we enthusiastically refer students to this fabulous organization, GIVE3600
  • Visual and fine artists can block a time to engage with their medium of choice: sketching, photography, painting, graphic design, etc
  • Lean into maintenance on a car or bike
  • Read and make sure to log the titles and authors as books are completed
  • Conduct a science experiment 
  • Play with learning a new coding language

My teen has a week, a month, or the entire summer...

  • History buffs could select a biography to read and a documentary series to watch 
  • Budding entrepreneurs could try their hand at a side gig (yes, Sideline Swap and eBay count as side gigs)
  • Environmentalists could challenge themselves to abstain from single-use plastic and journal about the experience
  • Highly motivated students could engage in mentored research through firms like Polygence. (Did you know that last year between 20 and 30% of academic admits to schools like Penn and Hopkins had conducted a research project?) You can learn more about this opportunity here.
  • Scope out in-person internships and job opportunities now to land the best spots for next summer
  • Take a class at the community college or online for college credit

Of note, we often find that students have an interest they pursue regularly or have engaged with meaningfully over time, but they don't think to add it to their application. One of the best ways to ferret out these forgotten activities and interests and see how your student can strengthen their application is to start drafting a resume and keep it updated. We work with all of our students at EA, yes 9th and 10th graders, too to create resumes for the same reason that hiring companies ask for resumes from job hunters: they're a powerful snapshot of who a person is and their interests and skills. Invariably, just about every student we have worked with will send me a text when they are at college wondering what happened to that doc, asking for the link, as it is time to apply for an internship, grad school, or meet with their career counselor. 

I know the last thing you're hoping for is one more thing to ask your teen to do, but trust me – when it comes time for your senior to apply, you'll be glad you did. And, if you or someone you know could use some support, we are just an email away.

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