PrepWell Blog


Will Erin Get Into Princeton?

As a college admissions counselor specializing in students with big ambitions (e.g. Ivy League, Military Service Academies/ROTC, Athletic scholarships), I have seen dreams realized, shattered, and everything in between.

Case Study

In this case study, I reveal what goes through a college admissions officer's mind as they review an application. What do they care about, what do they disregard, what jumps out, and what factors might seal the deal (for good or bad)?

In this blog, I review Erin's profile. Erin is a junior at a public high school in CA. She's an elite soccer player, near straight-A student, member of student government, and involved in community service.

Sound familiar?

Many parents of talented 9th and 10th-grade athletes tell me similar stories. They want to know their child's chances. 

Here's how the story goes:

Hi, Phil. I've heard you're the expert in helping kids get into highly-selective colleges by mentoring them early in their high school careers. Can I tell you about my daughter? She's a [freshman or sophomore] and a very good [enter name of sport] player. She was pulled up to varsity as a [freshman or sophomore] and plays on the most competitive club team in our area. She's a 4.0 student, scored in the [enter any number in the 90s] percentile on her PSAT, is very involved in [enter generic student club], and just won the Presidential Award for community service. She really wants to go to [enter Ivy League school]. We think [enter name of sport] could be her ticket in. Our [enter random relationship]'s friend just got into [name of Ivy League school] for [enter name of other random sport] and my daughter has much better board scores. What do you think?

If this is how you find yourself describing your son or daughter, please watch the full video above. It will give you insights into what matters, when it matters, and why it matters.

Here are the summary findings for Erin:

Objective Academic Metrics:
So-so (for Princeton standards).

  • SAT (1310) strong, but not competitive for typical applicants (range 1430 - 1550)
  • GPA (3.7) okay, but not great. 4.5 is the new 4.0
  • SAT Subject Tests: 670 and 690 are strong, but not blowing me away
  • Rigor of classes: Modestly challenging course load

I see a lot of "soccer-related" activities in this section. That's okay, as long as it translates to an ability to play soccer at Princeton. If not, it just shows me that Erin really likes soccer. Good for her. The other activities are relatively generic and not overly compelling. I hope there's more to the application.

Honors & Awards:
Generic and uninspiring

Letters of Recommendation:
Assume these will be strong, but not earth-shattering.

Demonstration of Interest:
The 3-year relationship with the Princeton Soccer Coach gets my attention.

Assume these will be strong, but Erin is no JK Rowling.

Eureka! Erin's name is indeed on Princeton Women's Soccer Coach Driscoll's list of "supported athletes". Okay, now I'm sitting up in my seat. I've got a live one...

Will Erin get in?

When an Ivy League athlete has "official support" from the coach, the Admissions Officer's job is to determine whether or not Erin can handle Princeton academically. The answer to that question is yes. No question.

Unless something materially changes in the next 6-9 months, Erin will apply Early Action (usually a pre-requisite for supported athletes) and get her acceptance letter by Christmas. She may even receive a piece of paper called a "likely letter" from Princeton Admissions which will give her extra confidence about her chances of acceptance.


  • Erin enrolled in the PrepWell Athlete program as a freshman.
  • Erin was highly-motivated. She followed our weekly videos and took action when prompted.
  • Erin did not wait for the Princeton Coach to call her. Erin marketed herself to Coach Driscoll starting her sophomore year. This took a lot of time, persistence, and guidance.
  • Erin began putting together a highlight reel in 9th grade after a PrepWell lesson showed her how to do it. She continued to refine her work until it was a quick-hitting, action-packed, 3-minute video that caught the attention of the Princeton coaches.
  • Erin made the extra effort to attend Princeton's Summer Soccer Camp - even though she was completely burned out by then. In some cases, these camps are money-making scams that rarely deliver the promised exposure. In Erin's case, she had greased the grooves ahead of time and made the most of her time on campus in front of the coaches.


As talented as Erin is, she still beat the odds. She is the exception - not the rule. She did EVERYTHING right, and still had to be lucky.

Here are some potential scenarios that must be considered:

  • athlete is not as good as they thought they were
  • athlete is good, but not good enough to play Div I
  • athlete fails to put in individual work outside of team practices
  • athlete assumes they'll improve as they get older
  • athlete fails to take care of their body
  • athlete plateaus physically
  • athlete waits for texts or phone calls from coaches
  • athlete assumes club coach will get them recruited
  • athlete doesn't know which camps, invitationals, or showcases to attend
  • athlete has no idea what to do, how to do it, or when to do it
  • athlete does not market themselves to coaches
  • athlete does not put together highlight reel
  • athlete gets distracted by friends, social life, videogames
  • athlete can't keep grades up
  • athlete gets injured
  • athlete misses summer camp opportunities
  • athlete never studies for the SAT and doesn't crack 1300
  • coach does not like the athlete's game
  • coach already has someone in the athlete's position
  • coach gets fired
  • coach leaves for another program
  • Princeton reduces number of soccer spots

As you can see, the list of obstacles is long and ever-growing.


If your child is a talented high school athlete that hopes to use athletics to get into an Ivy League school, please review these insights with them. 

If you want your son or daughter to follow in Erin's footsteps, I suggest that you help.

Enroll them in the PrepWell Academy Athlete or Ivy Program. These programs will address each of these pitfalls (and dozens more) and will give your son or daughter the best chance of making their dreams come true.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. I hope to see your son or daughter inside PrepWell Academy soon.

Enroll in PrepWell Academy

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Author: 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, etc.

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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