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Will "Pretty Good Pete" get into UPENN?

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 Pete's profile. Pete just finished his junior year at a big public high school in NY. He has a pretty good GPA. pretty good SAT score, has taken pretty hard classes, is a pretty good lacrosse player, and has pretty good extracurricular activities.

Are you getting my drift?

Pete is "pretty good" at just about everything. This is the profile of a lot of high school students these days.  That's why we call him "Pretty Good Pete". He has a closely-related friend named "Pretty Good Pamela."

The question is - is pretty good - good enough?

Many parents of talented 9th and 10th-graders tell me similar stories. They think their child is pretty good at school, sports, and academics - and they wonder how far that will get them. Let's find out.

Here's how the story goes:

Hi, Phil. I've heard you're the expert in helping kids get into highly-selective colleges. Can I tell you about my son, Pete?  He's pretty good at just about everything (school, sports, clubs, volunteering, etc.). He does it all and is working so hard.  I don't know how he gets it all done. AP classes, lacrosse, volunteering. We're wondering what his chances will be at some of the most highly-selective colleges. He has no weaknesses. 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 Pete:

Objective Academic Metrics:
Pretty Good.

  • SAT (1410) pretty good, but not overly competitive for typical UPENN applicants
  • GPA (3.9) pretty good, but not great. 4.5 is the new 4.0
  • SAT Subject Tests: 730 and 610 are pretty good (if averaged)
  • Rigor of classes: pretty challenging

He's done a pretty good job in sports, with volunteer work, pretty good school involvement, and pretty good variety of experiences.

Honors & Awards:
pretty good, not great

Letters of Recommendation:
pretty good, not great (he started too late)

Demonstration of Interest:
pretty good, but didn't know the secrets

pretty good, but story not overly inspiring


Will Pretty Good Pete get into UPENN?


  • Pete couldn't recover after waiting until end of junior year to think about the college admissions process. He was too late to the game.
  • Yes, Pete did better than he expected on his SAT, but that didn't automatically put him in the running for the most-selective colleges. SAT score is just one of many metrics.
  • Pete settled for mid-level leadership roles during high school.
  • Pete had no idea what other kids his age were doing over the summers. He didn't have anyone mentoring him or inspiring him.
  • Pete didn't have a plan in place to help him map out a thoughtful progression of extracurricular activities that would tell a story about what he cared about.
  • Pete never thought about college, or a career, or what type of job he might be interested in.
  • Pete was a fine student who never got into trouble. His parents assumed he was the man. They didn't realize that Pete was leaving a lot in the tank. Other kids were getting after it.
  • Pete has every opportunity to find a "good fit school" that will help him take the next step. I have high expectations for him.


If your child seems to be "pretty good" at a lot of things - great.  If they are happy with being "pretty good" then don't rock the boat.

If you want to give your child an opportunity to move from pretty good to great - share the insights from this blog. Let them know that there are resources that can show them the way - before it's too late.

If you don't want your son or daughter to follow in Pretty Good Pete's footsteps, I suggest that you lend a hand.

If you don't know where to start, enroll them in the PrepWell Academy in 9th or 10th grade. This online program will help give your son or daughter a fighting chance to make 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.

If you want a copy of the "College Admissions Snapshot" to use with your child or students, please contact me and I'll send you one.

Enroll in PrepWell Academy


Keep Prepping,

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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