PrepWell Podcast


Ep. 171 | Thank You Notes

As college admissions decisions roll in this month, it's important not to forget to thank all of the people who helped you along the way.

In this episode, I remind every PrepWeller (and parent) out there, about the importance of sending "thank you" notes to people who helped you on your college admissions journey.

Most colleges will send out their regular admissions decisions this month. Don't get caught up in the results so much that you forget to thank those who helped you along the way.

If you think your list is just one or two people, you probably aren't thinking hard enough. Listen to this episode to find out how my son's list went from 2 to 20 people. And, considering that he only applied to one college, your list may be longer.

I know this has been a long and challenging road for many of you. Make sure you finish strong.

Show Transcript:

[00:00:25] Hello friends, and welcome back to the PrepWell Podcast. The whole point of today's episode is to make sure that every proposal are out there and non PrepWellers for that matter, sends thank you notes to the teachers, counselors and other supportive adults that have helped them through the college admissions process. Now, your son or daughter may have already gotten into their college of choice. Maybe they applied in the early admission round and got in. And if that's the case, hopefully they've already done this. If they have not, it's not too late to make this happen. And for those PrepWellers who are still waiting to hear back from colleges, this is the month that irregular admissions decisions come out. So I wanted to prime the pump because you'd be surprised how easy it could be for your child and you to forget about this final step. Families sometimes get so laser focused on the outcomes of the admissions decisions and the choosing of the college and the finances associated with these decisions that they sometimes forget about the people that help them along the way. It was my own son's experience with writing these thank you notes that further inspired me to devote this whole podcast to the practice. My son, who was a senior, received his official appointment to the Naval Academy a few weeks ago. And when it came time for him to sit down and write his thank you notes, I asked him who was on the list, who would be getting a thank you note.

[00:01:54] His list had only two names on it the two teachers that wrote him letters of recommendation. Now, at first blush, many parents might think that that's it. The teachers who write letters of recommendation are typically the first people who come to mind when it comes to the thank you notes. That might even be the type of advice you would get from a Google search. However, if you want to do the process justice and abide by prep academies best practices, most students will probably need to reach beyond just two people. And this was definitely the case for Kiefer. Since I'm in the business, I knew that there was no way he was stopping at two teachers when it came to thank you notes. So I started to ask about some other people who helped him on his journey and whether or not he wanted to include them on the list. Again, these people, I'm suggesting to him would be in addition to the English and the math teachers who wrote the required letters of recommendation. I asked about his high school guidance counselor who had to submit multiple school related documents early in the process. Actually, starting over the summer, things like transcripts, a school profile, mid-semester transcripts, and any other administrative material needed during the application process. How about his high school water polo coach who also wrote him a letter of recommendation to the Naval Academy and spoke to countless college water polo coaches on his behalf during the recruiting process and met with the two of us for recruiting strategy sessions and administered his official Navy physical fitness test and who provided great mentorship for the last three years. Shouldn't he be on the list? How about his high school swim coach who within two years helped turn the six foot one gangly freshman with no swim experience into a six foot seven avatar like Junior, who nearly became the county's fastest swimmer in the 1500 yard freestyle.

[00:04:02] He might be a good candidate to thank. What about the scoutmaster of his Boy Scout troop who was flexible in working around his erratic water polo schedule and helped him develop leadership skills as he moved up and through the ranks? What about his Eagle Scout Project advisors who went out on a limb and took significant reputational risk to help him get his Eagle Scout project approved and completed in the middle of a COVID lockdown. He would have never become an Eagle Scout without their help. What about the two people who wrote him letters of reference required for his Eagle Scout application? What about the orthopedic surgeon who went out of his way and maybe even outside of standard protocols to get him a special MRI on his spine to quickly rule out the need for surgery during his freshman year? What about the physical therapist who took an especially keen interest in helping him recover from a thumb injury so he could make a once in a lifetime summer trip to Hungary with the U.S. national team? What about the SAT tutor who met with him at odd hours of the day and on weekends to accommodate his athletic and travel schedule? What about his club water polo coach who believed in him right from the start and put a lot of trust in him and pushed him well beyond his comfort zone? All in an effort to help him develop into a national caliber player. What about the person known as the Navy Blue and Gold officer? This is the Navy representative who was responsible for interviewing him and making sure that his admissions package was complete. This person took a special interest in him and kept him apprized of what was happening behind the scenes during the admissions process.

[00:05:49] What about the district congressman who nominated Keefer for an appointment to the Naval Academy? Without a nomination, there would be no path to an appointment. I'm sure the congressman would love to hear from the person in his district that will be attending the academy. What about his two older brothers who are sophomores in college, who were inspiring and supportive siblings, who provided him with good role models and challenged him and showed him the template for success? He might want to throw them a bone. What about the Navy water polo coach and the assistant coach who began recruiting him in his sophomore year and nailed him dozens of handwritten letters and called and emailed and texted and went to his games and vouched for him with admissions. What about his grandparents who funded a Coverdale account in his name that he was able to use to finance some SAT tutoring sessions? If you're really looking for brownie points, you might even consider sliding a quick thank you note to your parents, who I'm guessing probably played some kind of role in getting him to where he is today. So as you can see, that list went from 2 to 22. With just a few minutes of thinking and reflection. Now, as you're listening to this list, many of the characters on this list would probably not be relevant for your child unless, of course, they happen to be applying to the Naval Academy or some other service academy. Your child obviously would have their own distinct list of people who have helped them on their journey. And by the way, if you think Kiefer's list got pretty long at 2022, people keep in mind that he only applied to one college, the Naval Academy. That's it.

[00:07:39] He didn't apply anywhere else. So this list might actually be short in the big scheme of things. Imagine if he applied to 15 colleges and for an ROTC scholarship, this list could be even longer. Now, having said that, applying to a military service academy as an athlete is unique and probably does add a few more layers to the process, which may account for a longer than average list. Obviously, the list will change on a case by case basis. If your child applied to eight, ten, 15 schools. They may in fact have a longer list of thank you notes to send. Maybe they had someone help them with their college essays. Or an alumni who talked to them at length about their experience at College X or College Y or mentor who took particular interest in their progress or development. Someone who offered them an internship when they ran out of options. A supervisor at work that was especially helpful, a particularly helpful teacher or other supportive adult that mentored them, someone who helped them with their interview skills. Maybe a college admissions advisor who gave them good advice. The bottom line is this College admissions can be an all consuming process that may span a few years. Spend some time reflecting about all of the people who helped along the way. These are people who cared about you when you needed it the most. These are the people who spent time writing a letter of recommendation or talking to coaches on your behalf or hiring you for a job or creating an internship out of thin air to help you out or connecting you with people at your target schools. All of these things matter. And the responses that Kiefer got from his simple thank you notes were quite revealing.

[00:09:27] It seems obvious, but people really appreciate being appreciated. And many times when we need something from someone like a letter of recommendation, for example, we are very attentive and very aware of deadlines, but once we get the thing that we're looking for, we quickly move on to the next pressing need and we forget about the time and effort it took for that person to do what they had to do. By sending a letter of thanks, you are letting them know that you acknowledge their effort, their promptness, their reliability, and in many cases, their love for you. And that you wouldn't be where you are today without their help. Which in many cases would be true. And by the way, don't think that this will be the last time that you might need a letter of recommendation from any of these people. You may need one when trying to get a summer job or an internship, or you may need a letter of reference for some program you're interested in. And if you never thank them for helping you out the first time, don't be surprised when they're not overly responsive the second time around. Make sure you close the loop. Don't be bashful about sending out thank you notes. It only takes a few minutes and I'm telling you, it'll make a person's day. Now, I'm sure some people are curious, should you send a physical thank you card or will a text or an email suffice? Well, it depends. It depends on the person, the relationship, the depth of their help and your personal style. Now, I would love to say that my policy is handwritten cards only. That's certainly the ideal way to go. But I know that that will probably reduce the overall number of thank you's that will go out.

[00:11:12] So I would leave it up to the student. A handwritten note is certainly preferred in most cases and more personal and more memorable. But in this day and age, a text or an email goes a long way as well. Now, what do you say in a thank you note? Obviously depends on the person and what what role they played in the process. At a minimum, you want to let them know that you are deeply appreciative of all that they did for you, that you wouldn't be where you are today without their help and that you're very excited about what the future holds. Let them know what you're up to, what college you might go to or you are going to. Maybe you're taking a gap year or you're entering the workforce, whatever it might be, and let them know that you'll stay in touch and let them know that if they ever need help with something down the road, that they can count on you to return the favor. Receiving this thank you note from you will be the highlight of their day, I can almost guarantee you. For one. Not many students do it, unfortunately. So you will definitely stand out from the crowd. And two, you will be helping out the next group of students that will be asking them for letters of recommendation or an internship or help with their essay. And by thanking them and showing some appreciation for their time and effort, they will be more motivated to help the next student who comes asking. That's all I've got for you today, folks. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for your continued support. In case you didn't know, this podcast supports prep academies, online mentoring program or high schoolers, and their parents receive weekly videos from me where I break down important topics and give timely advice about college admissions, particularly for top tier colleges, service academies, and for ROTC and athletic scholarships.

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Podcast Host:

PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank (2X), etc.

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Inside PrepWell Academy, Black teaches students everything they need to know about the college admissions process in a series of expertly-timed, 3-5-minute, weekly training videos starting in 9th grade and continuing through 12th grade [Note: this program can only be joined in 9th or 10th grade]. My specialties include military service academies, ROTC scholarships, Ivy League, and student-athletes.

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