PrepWell Podcast


Ep. 221 | Insights From 30 Hrs Of Consulting In 1 Week

Insights from 30 hrs of consulting in 1 week

Last week, I emailed a link to my private calendar offering PrepWell families an opportunity to book a consulting session with me.

College admissions is so off the rails that I thought it might be nice to give families a chance to ask questions.

I was overwhelmed with the response.

With the craziness going on with college admissions these days, who could blame them?

In today's podcast, I share 3 insights that jumped out at me after 30 hours of conversations during Spring Break.

Listen to what all of these sessions had in common...

Show Transcript:

Hello friends, and welcome back to the PrepWell Podcast. Today I want to share some insights I discovered last week after talking to close to 20 different prep well families about college admissions. Connecting with this many families in such a short period of time was new to me because I normally don't send out an email with a signup link to my personal calendar.

But since it was spring break and the admissions world continues to be on fire, I thought I'd give it a shot and I didn't really know what to expect. But now I know. A lot of people, it seems, are interested in talking about what's going on out there in the world of college admissions, and for good reason. If you've been paying attention, you know that the admissions world is completely chaotic right now.

You probably heard that Harvard and Caltech recently reversed course basically overnight on their test optional policies. They just announced that they two, along with Dartmouth, Yale and a bunch of other colleges, are returning to a test required policy for the S.A.T. and the act the way it was pre-COVID. For decades now. I knew this was going to happen eventually, but even I was surprised about how abruptly it came about.

And there's lots to talk about on this topic, but we're going to save that for another day. There was also a slew of articles about the rising cost of a college education, and an announcement regarding the first college to charge over $100,000 a year next year. Again, I've been saying this for months, but now it's finally gotten to print, and there are a ton of other issues related to free speech on campus hunger strikes, political turmoil, the Fafsa fiasco, Joe Biden's debt relief fiasco.

I won't even try to dig into any of these topics today. My point is, it's not surprising that many parents and students would be interested in talking to someone who can help them sort out how much of this stuff they should care about, or ignore, or wait out someone to orient them to these new developments and help them chart their course.

And that's what I tried to do. So what I'd like to do is share some of what I gleaned from these 30 plus hours of conversations with these prep well, families, and I keep referencing them as families, because nearly all of these zoom sessions included the student and their parent or both parents. It was a true family affair, which I highly encourage.

And it turns out that the majority of these calls were with freshmen or sophomore students. So it makes sense that a parent would want to participate, given the relatively young age. When students get to 11th or 12th grade, they're typically a lot more independent, they're more mature, and they normally handle our sessions on their own. Here are the three insights that I hope will resonate with you.

Insight number one super parenting. I was across the board really impressed by the parents who participated in these sessions. They came from all walks of life, different ages, different areas of the country, varying levels of experience with college admissions. And what impressed me was their level of engagement, which was high, their level of support which was also high.

And maybe most importantly, their ability to control themselves. What do I mean by that? Well, most of the time the parent or the parents are present on the call and I'm grateful for this, but they're mostly in the background while their child is in the hot seat. And as much as the parent might want to, and I can see it in their eyes, in their body language, they want to interject and ask a question or correct their child on something.

The parent knows that they need to bite their tongue and let their child do the work. Their child should be the one front and center, while the parent takes on more of an observer role. This can be very frustrating and challenging for these parents who are obviously well-adjusted, smart, engaged, and savvy. They know their kids well, but they have to sit off to the side and let the session play out.

Now, that's not to say that I put some kind of gag order on the parents. That's not my role. If there's an important issue to discuss, they can certainly chime in whenever they feel is necessary. It's their phone call. This is an open forum and they do chime in and I encourage that. But they need to be judicious in how often they do so.

They don't want their child to think that their parent will bail them out. Whenever a tough question gets asked or wherever there's a pregnant pause or a break in the action. It's actually very heartwarming to see the wise and conscientious parent sitting in the background who has a lot to offer, but knows that it's time for their child to start taking ownership of the process, which is exactly right.

The less the parent chimes in, the more the student feels like they're invested in the process. But it's so hard to resist chiming in because 14 and 15 year olds aren't known for being particularly articulate. They often forget things big, important things, and sometimes the parent lets it go, and sometimes they give their child a little a gentle reminder.

It's a wonderful dynamic to witness. They give their child as much room to operate as possible, but they're still there as a backstop to fill in some important blanks if necessary. This is exactly the way I like to see the conversations go. The parent does their best to blend into the background. Maybe they take some notes, they observe and they learn.

They watch how their child answers questions like what do you prefer, Stem or humanities? Or have you thought about what you might want to major in in college? Or do you have a target list of colleges that you're thinking about yet? Or a dream school? Or do you plan on using your athletic ability to help get you into college?

These are the questions that I often ask, and I think parents learn a lot from these sessions because they see their child answer these sometimes challenging questions. And this doesn't happen all that often with teenagers by the end of our call, in most cases, the parent has chimed in a few times to clarify a few points here and there that may have been unclear.

They've taken notes. They have time at the end to ask any of their own burning questions, and by the end they are much better informed about the process and the relevant questions that are still unanswered. And with all of this new information, they can provide a lot of support for their child in the months and years ahead. Because now we're all on the same page.

We share a common language. We've kicked around a lot of these ideas together, and of course, the child will get all of these lessons reinforced when they watch their weekly prep videos. And many of these families will schedule follow up calls down the road. If you have not availed yourself to a session like this, I encourage you to give it a try.

You might learn more about your child in those 60 minutes than you have over the last 12 months. So if you're interested, I put my calendar link again in the email that you received about this podcast. Click that link. Find a day and time that works for you when you're free. And let's make it happen. Let's move on to insight number two raising awareness.

A typical 14, 15, 16 year old is pretty unaware about how the real world works, particularly as it relates to college admissions and without some type of intervention. Maybe that's a bit of a strong term, but without someone who will call their attention to what lies ahead in an honest and straightforward fashion, these students will simply bob their way through high school, wake up at the end of junior year with a mediocre SAT score that they didn't study for, and face the fact that they are noncompetitive when it comes to college admissions.

This is not where they want to be left to their own devices. They will have one very little idea of what to do, and to no idea what other students out there are doing, or what they're capable of, or even what's possible. Their frame of reference and life experience is often very, very limited. They need someone to open their eyes to the possibilities in their future.

And I'm not suggesting that we fill every student's head with fanciful notions of going to Harvard or MIT or Stanford. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I do believe that it's important that they understand that they are on a path. And if they make some smart strategic decisions early in the process, i.e. ninth and 10th grade, that they will leapfrog most other students and put themselves in a good position in a couple of years.

I'm especially talking about ninth and 10th graders here because they still have a fighting chance. By the time a student wraps up 11th grade, the Di has pretty much been cast. They are already into their college applications and it's basically over. There's no turning back at that point either. They've made the right moves and they can put together a compelling application, or they have very little going on for them, and they have to do their best to put lipstick on a pig when it comes to their college admissions applications.

And finally, insight number three, there are no guarantees, even with supportive and engaged parents and someone like me who will tell them the straight truth and give them recommendations and guide them every week in their prep well videos at a time in their lives where they still have the ability to make things happen again. Ninth and 10th grade teenagers are still young and immature.

Their brains are not fully formed. They have a lot of competing priorities and distractions. But that doesn't mean we don't try. That doesn't mean we get lazy. We can't just throw our hands in the air and give up and simply hope for the best. Our kids deserve more than that. Someone has to let them know what's happening. Someone has to lay out a vision for them.

Someone has to challenge them to go beyond what every other generic kid is doing. For all of you parents out there listening, I'm happy to join arms with you and be part of that. Someone to deliver this message. And while there are no guarantees that anything we say will resonate, or anything we do will sink in or that they will execute a single thing we propose, at least we know we tried.

We gave them the tools, the vision, the resources, the blueprint, the support to make something special of themselves. And at some point it's going to be on them. We can only do so much. We can only do our best. And if we do our best, at least we can sleep at night knowing that our son or daughter has heard the truth multiple times from multiple people in multiple formats.

That's our job as parents. And then we have to let the chips fall where they may. If you think this type of intervention, if you will, would benefit your child and you and get your child pointed in the right direction before it's too late and you'd like to have me along to help you chart this course, click that calendar link in the email and sign up for a session, and we will tackle it together.

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 Preble Academy's 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 for top tier colleges, service academies, and for ROTC.

NFL scholarships. Many parents who listen to this podcast already have their high schoolers enrolled in PrepWell 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 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 have a minute. 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, DM me on Instagram, check out our blog or Facebook page.

Connect with me on LinkedIn. I would love to hear from you until next week. Goodbye! Good luck and never stop preparing.

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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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