PrepWell Podcast


Ep. 193 | When Do You Want To Take The Pain?

One of PrepWell Academy's first principles is: Prepare Early. Doing so allows you to spread out the pain and will get you closer to your goal. Procrastinating will do the opposite. Which do you choose?

Show Notes:

In this week's podcast, I discuss one of PrepWell Academy's first principles:

Prepare Early

Every August, it becomes abundantly clear who has been preparing early (and often) and who has been procrastinating - especially when it comes to seniors and their college applications.

Students fall into two categories:

  1. Preppers: who will complete their college applications by September
  2. Procrastinators: who have not yet stepped into the fire

Both students will spend time on the pain train.

The preppers will have taken the pain for the last 3 years in small, incremental doses.

The procrastinators will have deftly side-stepped the pain for the last 3 years and will be in for a rude awakening when they open the Common Application.

Which camp do you want to be in when you are a senior?

Listen to this podcast and hear the pros and cons of each strategy.

Show Transcript:

Hello friends, and welcome back to the PrepWell Podcast. In today's episode, I want to reiterate one of the first principles of Prep Academy, which is that early preparation is almost always better than last minute preparation. I can't emphasize this enough, not only in the realm of college admissions, but in life in general. And I say almost always because I know there are occasions where waiting to do something, dare I say procrastinating actually turns out to be the better call. These are anomalies. I'm sure we can all think of a time where you said to yourself, Thank goodness I held off on doing X, otherwise I would have never had the chance to do Y. But again, in my worldview and thus what I teach in prep academy and with my private prep leathers is that these occasions are exceptions and that the rule that works most of the time. If I had to give it a number, I'd say 80% of the time is that early is better than late. This is especially true when it comes to college admissions. This is why Prep Academy starts in ninth grade earlier than any other program. Because the earlier students and parents begin to engage with these ideas and insights and possibilities, the better. After all, there's no harm in learning about these principles earlier than most. But there may be some real harm in waiting too long.

[00:02:03] And as college admissions gets more and more competitive, for all the reasons I talk about every week, it's even more important to begin your preparation early. The challenge with high school students, especially ninth graders, is convincing them that the upfront preparation that leads to the downstream success is worth the upfront costs, because in reality, teenagers know that the word preparation is a euphemism for work. To prepare means that you actually have to do something, something that may be uncomfortable, at least more uncomfortable than playing video games or swiping on their phones, which is a pretty low bar. It means that they have to take action. That might be to listen to a four minute prep video every week or read a book or sign up for a class or seek out a leadership position. All of that stuff in a teenager's mind equals work. And they don't want to do work. They want to do what they want to do when they want to do it. Their first reflex is, No, I don't want to do that. Especially if they're told that the payoff comes in two or three years. How many teenagers do you know who understand and act on the concept of delayed gratification? Think about it. Probably not many. Teenagers are very focused on the now, maybe tomorrow. And much less focused on the two or three years from now. And when you try to convince them that they should do something now that will help them in 2 to 3 years, it doesn't often compute. What I try to teach teenagers is that the pain will come regardless of when they put in the work. There's no way around it. And their choice is to take the pain early or take the pain late.

[00:04:12] And human nature says, Take the pain lake. Put it off. Procrastinate. And I see this with students every year when it comes to the admissions process. I work with a lot of students who happen to be very squared away. They've been prep well since ninth grade. They listen to their weekly prep videos. They schedule one on one consulting calls with me to stay on track. They take early leadership positions. They establish relationships with their counselors. They do well in school in ninth and 10th grade. They join clubs. They think about their future. They plan their summers ahead of time. Are any of these things easy? No, of course not. They take some effort. Especially when they don't see any of their friends doing it. Their friends are bopping along, going on their merry way without a care in the world. And they as a propeller are grinding. They have chosen, and in my opinion, rightfully so, to take their pain early when everyone else is cruising. This is an actual decision that they are actively making. But lo and behold, what happens a few years later in senior year when those motivated prep dwellers begin to apply to college. Well, they stick to the plan. They continue to do things early. They start their applications early. They draft their essays early. They ask for letters of recommendation early. They take the SAT early. They apply to colleges early. Once again, they take their pain early. And what often happens next? Well, many times they are handsomely rewarded for these early efforts. I'm working with a propeller right now privately who already has received what's called an away a letter of assurance from West Point, which basically means that this student has a guaranteed appointment to West Point.

[00:06:14] Assuming they get the last few items of their application submitted and it's not even September yet, this is crazy town in the big scheme of things. Many students haven't even started their senior year yet or opened the Common Application or thought about college or their college essay. And meanwhile, this student already has a full scholarship to one of the most highly selective programs in the world. And then, of course, you hear people out there who claim that this student is so lucky or they must be connected or some other claim when in reality it's because the student has taken they're paying upfront in dribs and drabs for years in order to get where they are. These things don't happen by accident. They happen on purpose. Because the student had the parental support, the self-motivation, the trust in the process, and the smarts to start working with prep academy in ninth grade. Does that mean that the student had to study for the S.A.T. 10 hours a day every weekend, starting in ninth grade? No. It means that they took a long term approach. They took their lumps early and often in small doses in order to get the pay off later. My sons had similar experiences, as you can imagine, with me as their dad. They had a tendency to be ahead of the curve, if you will, on these matters. They took the pain early. They put in the work. They delayed gratification and they came out on top. Similar to the student who received that West Point letter of assurance. My two oldest sons received full Navy ROTC scholarships in August before their senior year as part of a program called ISR Immediate Scholarship Reserve. These IHSAA scholarships were only issued to a few applicants on the entire West Coast.

[00:08:14] In fact, they were told that their applications were so strong and submitted so early that they didn't even have to send them to the selection board that wouldn't even convene until October. They bypassed the whole entire selection process. In fact, they received the scholarship 24 hours after submitting their application. These are $300,000 plus scholarships each. They also applied early to Yale in October of their senior year. They both got in by Christmas time, mid-December. They later got into Princeton and Cal Berkeley. And the funny part was when I asked them to reflect back on their college application experience, they remember it as being pretty easy, Pretty easy. How could that be? Because they had plenty of stuff to include on their applications. Their applications were done early. They got in early. They got into where they wanted to go. While most of their friends during that same period were sweating and panicking and freaking out. And not having a lot of success, by and large. This demonstrates the point. My sons took their lumps early and often for years in the form of hard work studying, preparation, writing, reflecting and their payoff came later, years later, in the form of getting into everywhere they wanted to go earlier than most students. And their friends, many of whom were less motivated early in the game, were left with experiencing their pain late in the game. Now, interestingly, I would guess that these students maybe endured slightly less overall pain in absolute terms, but experienced more acute pain during those hectic months in senior year and possibly more long lasting pain, if you will, if they didn't get into a college of their choice. My third son also took most of his pain early, while a lot of his peers were hanging out at the beach, playing video games, swiping on their phones for hours at a time.

[00:10:23] The first few years of high school, he was fully engaged in the athletic recruiting process, creating highlight videos, sending coaches emails, performing in his sport, getting in the pool at 5 a.m., getting in the pool again in the afternoon, making national teams, taking campus visits, filling out early applications, preparing for interviews, taking fitness tests. And after all of that upfront work, he was also rewarded with an alleyway, a letter of assurance from the Naval Academy, which happened to be his dream school before his senior year started. Much like the West Point student I was talking about. As with West Point, this Navy lobby basically guaranteed his appointment at the Naval Academy, pending him continuing to perform well in the classroom, and he never applied anywhere else. One application and that was it. And when he now looks back on his college application experience, he also remembers it as being pretty easy. Pretty easy. The truth is that he worked extremely hard in the years leading up to that application process and then happened to be rewarded for all that hard work. Well, again, many of his friends who didn't take their preparation as seriously or as early were flailing around. My point here is that there is no free lunch. And the students who look like they had it easy or lucked out because their college application process seemed to work out so beautifully for them, probably took their fair share of lumps early in the process when nobody was looking or keeping tabs or paying attention. They paid their dues. They hitched themselves to the pain train early on and came out as winners. And by the way, the long term impact of this decision, the decision as to whether to take the pain early or late in high school, if it means getting you into your dream college, could change the trajectory of your life.

[00:12:27] Let me ask it this way Do you think your life would be materially different if you went to Princeton University in New Jersey versus Occidental College in L.A.? Those would be two pretty distinct paths. If you had the opportunity to affect which of these two paths you took, would you seize it? And so my challenge to all of you prep all those out there or prospective prep dwellers who haven't enrolled yet. Is to decide when you want to take your pain. Do you want to implement a plan that may require some upfront pain in the form of hard work, studying, reading, listening to your prep videos starting in ninth grade that will position you for success when you become a senior or. Do you want to defer the pain? DeLay the pain. Procrastinate and do whatever you feel like right now and take your chances later on. Is getting sucked into the latest social media platform or video game or music album. All that are super fun. Worth putting off the hard work that is necessary to get you to where you want to be in a few years. That's the question you have before you. And I think, you know what my suggestion would be. If you decide that your future is more important than giving in to your insatiable short term impulses to seek out nonstop fun and games, then follow the Prebble Academy blueprint. It's all there for you. Listen to the weekly videos and do the work. Seek out the pain. If you are not a prep dweller yet and you're in ninth or 10th grade and you want a piece of the pain train, then enroll in prep academy and make life easier for yourself in senior year and for the rest of your life, for that matter.

[00:14:28] I wish all of you luck. 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 where high schoolers and their parents receive weekly videos from me, where I break down important topics and give timely advice about college admissions, particularly top tier colleges, service academies, and for ROTC and athletic scholarships. Many parents who listen to this podcast already have their high schoolers enrolled in Prep or Academy, which is great if you don't yet. Please consider enrolling them. Registration is only open during freshman or sophomore year. After that, we no longer accept new students. So if you have a freshman or sophomore in high school and you like what you're hearing in these podcasts and you'd like to get more content like this tailored specifically for your child for their specific grade and with their specific goals in mind, go to Prep Academy and enroll today. If you know a parent with a middle schooler or high schooler that might find this helpful, please share the episode with them and give us a rating if you can. Word of mouth and positive ratings help our podcast reach a much wider audience. If you have questions, comments, or an idea for an upcoming episode, please reach out to me by email. Demi on Instagram. Check out our blog, our Facebook page, or connect with me on LinkedIn. I would love to hear from you. Until next week, Goodbye. Good luck and never stop preparing. This podcast is brought to you by Prep. Well, Academy Prep Academy is my one of a kind online mentoring program that delivers to your ninth or 10th grader a short, highly relevant video from me every week.

[00:16:19] Every Sunday, in fact, where I give them a heads up about what they should be thinking about, to stay ahead of the game to get these valuable lessons into your child's hands. Please head over to and enroll your child today.

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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.

Learn More About PrepWell:

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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