College Admissions and Professional Growth Strategy


ATI students are superbly prepared for college admissions and college itself, or to step directly into a career that does not require a college degree. Each student will work with a mentor to develop an individualized college admissions or professional growth strategy, tailored to their chosen field. Whether they attend an elite college, step into entrepreneurship, or start a career, regular and ongoing real-world opportunities through internships, apprenticeships, or entrepreneurial projects provide essential and transferrable experience. Mentors guide college-bound students to choose relevant AP classes, and SAT preparation is integrated into core classes such that each student hones abilities that improve SAT scores in ways that also translate into meaningful real-world gains.

As Cal Newport, author of How to Be a High School Superstar puts it, “Harvard wants to admit Bob Dylan with high SAT scores.” To take an example from ATI founder Michael Strong's personal experience, “In my freshman class at Harvard in 1979, the student with the lowest SAT scores had been elected mayor of a small town in Michigan. If a teenager can win a mayoral election, Harvard doesn't care about SAT scores.”

Michael also observes, “I've discussed this issue with Jeffrey Brenzel, former admissions director at Yale, who says openly that, provided the student was academically qualified, Yale would be more interested in a student who had done a significant real-world project such as start a successful company or become a YouTube star than someone who had merely gotten good grades and been involved in many conventional activities (student council, varsity sports, volunteer work, etc.)”

Newport's book, cited above, provides structured guidance for teens who want to design their high school experience so that they can achieve something meaningful prior to graduation and thus, prepare themselves for their chosen future, as well as stand out to admissions committees at their top college choices. One of Newport's suggestions is to take fewer academic courses so that a student has time to do something really significant. It is important to elite colleges that students be academically capable of succeeding in the demanding courses provided by those colleges, but it is sufficient to signal that capability by taking several AP courses and achieving high SAT scores. ATI's simple and proven recipe for elite college admissions is to do well on a modest number of academically demanding courses (such as Advanced Placement (AP) courses), do well on the SAT, and accomplish some significant real-world achievement. What is most striking about this strategy is that it does not require as much busyness as is the norm among high school students. Teens may, indeed, end up spending more hours on the activities that will lead them to lifelong success (and college admissions)—but their enjoyment of that time increases, and their overall high school experience is far more rewarding. They are learning the habits required for a happy and productive life instead of doing hours of often meaningless homework at night and feeling like they are spinning their wheels at school during the day.

Note that insofar as real-world achievements require internal discipline, focus, initiative, and responsibility, and the ability to collaborate with others, a well-supported self-directed education provides the best training for such achievements. Many students at conventional schools are so accustomed to the passivity of standard academic coursework that they are not prepared to take initiative on their own. By focusing students on the “superstar” strategy, ATI cultivates the independence and initiative that is one of the most valuable results of a self-directed education.

The same process that supports ATI students to succeed with elite college admissions is relevant to an intentional career launch. Every startup, every organization, wants people who take initiative, know how to add value, and are focused on becoming great at what they do. A great high school prepares young people to be drivers or desired partners for startups and organizations in all ways.

The systematic cultivation of student projects is a core principle of ATI, and supports both college admissions and professional development strategy. In some cases, this will include internships and apprenticeships. In other cases, it will include makerspaces, graphic design, or coding. In many cases it will include intensive collaboration with other students and the development of a business model using the business model canvas. In all cases it will include the science and art of “Life Design” to optimize one's personal productivity and goal setting—including establishing long term goals and revisiting them over and over again. Finally, it will include a relentless focus on the pursuit of excellence.

Learn more about ATI and college admissions by clicking here.

A high school for teens who want to excel on their own terms.

In the right learning environment, high school students are capable of much more than conventional education permits them to achieve. Teens that choose ATI are ready for responsibility and able to take ownership over their own education in a way that the control mechanisms of typical schooling make virtually impossible.

If the average high school experience just doesn't inspire your teen, consider the Academy of Thought and Industry. We're looking forward to connecting with you and answering all of your questions.

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