• The College Admissions Manifesto

    or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Get Excited About Applying To College In 2024

  • Getting into college requires making smart choices.

    And you can make smart choices if you know how the system works.

    The admissions committee are the gatekeepers, the people in charge of reading your application. They view the college as their home; the students, faculty, and alumni as their extended family. If you want to join their family, they want to know what you are all about.

    "We are looking to build a well-rounded class. A well-rounded class has all kinds of students in it."

    - Jeannine Lalonde, Dean of Admissions, University of Virginia

    Colleges want you to join them, but they can't find you if you pretend to be like everyone else. Pretending doesn't work. Either they don't believe you - or they do, and you end up at a place where you don't fit in.

    "In these uncertain times, context in the college admissions process matters more than ever. Make sure that what you submit reflects you to the greatest extent possible."

    - Douglas Christiansen, Dean of Admissions, Vanderbilt University

    Your task is to give colleges insight into the real you - your strengths, your personality, and your quirks. Where you have been, where you are now, and where you are going.


  • Colleges Want More Than High Scores

    They want your story.

    "University of California Will No Longer Consider SAT or ACT Scores."

    - New York Times, May 15, 2021

    "Ours is a holistic review process that considers many factors. If students do not send in standardized test scores, they will not be at a disadvantage. We simply will focus on the many other items in the application that highlight each student's strengths and perspective."

    -Tim Wolfe, Dean of Admissions, College of William and Mary

    Although schools like Harvard and Dartmouth have reinstated the SAT requirement, the vast majority of schools have elimimated it. You don't need to submit a score to apply.


    Other schools give you a choice - you can submit AP Scores or an SAT/SAT score to satisfy a test requirement. And a growing number of schools are test blind - they won't even look at a score - including every UC and Cal State campus.


    For a comprehensive list of test-optional colleges, please visit:




    Not every school requires the SAT, but every school wants to know who you are.


    Show them with a DIY project.


    The point of a project is to demonstrate drive, spirit, and enthusiasm - and to set yourself apart from the crowd. Students who create their own "project" are 4 times more likely to get into an elite school. It's all about getting noticed.


    Consider: a school gets 20,000 applications. 12,000 have a 3.8 or higher GPA. Of that 12,000, 6,800 are varsity athletes.


    Of those 6,800 varsity athletes with a 3.8 or higher GPA, how many...


    ...create and run a local film festival?


    ...write for an amateur bass fishing blog?


    ...host a stoneware podcast?


    ...publish an online 'zine reviewing punk shows?


    ...oversee a sustainable sourdough bread research project?


    ...run a skateboard mentoring program?


    How many?


    Just one.


  • The essays make the difference.

    Keep it simple. Write about what you love to do.

    "Give me a glimpse into your world, not the whole world, but a thin slice. Make a moment represent something bigger. The universal is in the particular."

    - Parke Muthe, Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions, University of Virginia

    "The idea isn't to write an epic story. The point of your essay is to offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse into who you are, how you think, and/or what you stand for. We shouldn't have to say this, but: we know you are a work in progress. Otherwise, you wouldn't be applying to college."

    - Seth Allen, Dean of Admissions, Grinnell College

    "Some essay topics are just overdone, plain and simple. It's not that you shouldn't write about your torn ACL or your mission trip to Honduras. But please think long and hard before you do. Ask yourself 'is this a topic anyone could write?' If the answer is yes, you may want to reconsider."

    - Haley Burke, Assistant Director of Admission, Pitzer College

    Admissions officers read through hundreds of essays a day. Standing out is essential. What kind of story stands out? A fun story. A meaningful story. An authentic story. If you are happy with your story, they will be too. And if everything else checks out, they will let you in.

    This seems obvious - but unfortunately, most students don't do this. They try to be perfect, they try to guess what the college wants to hear. This never works. This creates fear, and fear creates creative paralysis. Then comes procrastination. And soon after, misery. Avoid this. Keep things simple. Write about what you love to do.


  • Authenticity is essential for success in today’s admissions climate.

    Be ruthlessly pragmatic. Learn the system, get into your top choices.

    Apply Mindful is a program that guides students through each step of the college admissions process. When thousands of students are vying for the same spot, success hinges on standing out. Apply Mindful helps you recover, develop, and analyze your unique story - and then - plug your story into a format that lets your best qualities shine through.

    Telling your story is a complex task. But success is possible if you know how to stand out in this system. The students who succeed are those who put their heart into the work and stay positive.


    Authenticity wins every time. Be the most you you can be. You will get good news, likely when you least expect it.


    And it will change your life.

  • Get Into The College Of Your Dreams.

    Apply Mindful

    Rick Gelber, Founder