Most Common Applicant Misconception: You Need to be “Well-Rounded”

December 16, 2015

Anthony-James Green has been tutoring students for years, so he knows just how difficult the entire admissions process is. From coffee to meditation, he’s here to tell us more about work, life, and everything students should be paying attention to when applying to college.

1. Company and website?

Green Test Prep

2. Where did you go to high school? College?

High school: Phillips Academy Andover

College: Columbia University

3. How long have you been working in this industry as a test prep expert?

I started tutoring the SAT my freshman year of college, which was 2005 - so it has been over a decade at this point. Crazy to think about!

4. Approximately how many students have you worked with?

I’ve worked with 463 students one-on-one (not approximate, I realize), and roughly 17,000 more via my curriculum and online program.

5. How did you get into this field?

I got a good SAT score in high school, and when I went to college, a friend of mine suggested tutoring as a way to make a bit of extra running-around money. I put up some flyers around the Upper West Side, picked up some clients, and realized that I really enjoyed tutoring, and that I had a bit of a gift for helping kids to excel. The rest is history!

6. If you could change the common app essay question to anything, what would it be?

“Tell us one thing you think needs changing in our society, and give us the first five steps you’d take to start changing it.”

Kids need to start becoming problem solvers, rather than rote learners, if they want to do well in today’s society. I want to challenge kids to start taking things into their own hands and becoming more enabled, responsible, and proactive. Questions like the one above would start to move the needle.

7. What’s your motto?

I don’t have any specific motto, but I do like Freud’s view that the only two things that matter in life are love and work. If you have people you love and surround yourself with them, and work that feeds your desire to create, to help others, and to build something incredible, you’re doing okay.

8. Favorite quote?

“There IS no meaning to life. The universe couldn’t care less. So go create your own meaning, and enjoy that freedom.”

-Anonymous philosophy professor

9. What was your first job?

I worked at an ice cream shop in Quincy, MA. It was hell.

10. What’s the first thing you do in the morning to get your day off to a good start?

I always start my day with 20 minutes of Transcendental Meditation. My friend and business partner got me the training, and now I can’t live without it - it’s like a shower for your mind. Highly recommended.

11. One breakfast item you can’t skip in the morning?

Bulletproof Coffee. Butter coffee might sound weird, but trust me - it’s incredible. I put in some extras, like raw cacao powder, ginger root, and turmeric, along with a bit of grass fed whey protein. The morning is usually meditate—-> shower—-> bulletproof coffee—-> read for an hour—-> work. It’s a good routine - for me, at least.

12. What are the biggest mistakes students make when applying to college?

They fail to define themselves as individuals. They assume that if they just get the grades and the scores, schools will accept them as some anonymous number. Even worse, they try to be “well rounded.” But schools don’t want well-rounded individuals or classes full of drones who can do what their teachers tell them to do - they want kids who are amazing at one specific thing - kids who care. It doesn’t matter what that thing is. I got a girl into Yale who was the head of an online Pokemon fan art illustrator’s society - sounds ridiculous, but she cared about it, she was great about it, and Yale clearly saw her passion, her leadership abilities, and her capacity to excel at something she cared about. No one knows what they want to do in high school, but you should care about something by the time you’re eighteen!

13. Describe your perfect weekend.

All my best weekends involve short, irresponsible trips to foreign destinations via sales on Travelocity and other sites like it. If I can get a few friends to ship off for the weekend to Costa Rica, Montreal, etc., I couldn’t be happier.

14. What advice do you give students to help with time management?

Only two things. Use both of these and you will never need time management help again.

1. Time-block your tasks. Plan your days in advance and don’t use to-do lists - use chunks of your day planner and set them aside for specific tasks. This will revolutionize the way that you study and use your time. Don’t just say, “I’m going to write an essay and also study and also work on the bio project.” That’s meaningless. Instead, plan to write your essay from 5-6:15, then have dinner, then study for your math test from 7-8:15, then take a break and exercise, then work on bio from 9-10:15. If you set aside specific times for specific tasks, they actually get done.

2. Get more sleep. Most high school students are zombies running at 20% capacity. Most can’t get their tasks done in time because they’re walking around with cotton candy for brains. Get eight hours of sleep a night for a week straight and see what happens. You won’t be disappointed.

15. How do you think the college application process will change in the next 10 years?

They’re going to force kids to prove their individuality and problem-solving skills more and more. We’re not in the industrial revolution anymore. Kids need to demonstrate creativity, innovation, and problem-solving skills to thrive in this world. Colleges would be wise to require those skills from applicants, and to deepen them once they accept students.

16. What’s your opinion on ACT vs. SAT? Do colleges have a preference for one over the other?

Zero preference. They just use the concordance table to compare scores. Just take the test that gives you the best comparative score. I actually have a free guide on The New SAT vs. ACT Guide on my site. Very worth the time investment to figure this out and take the test that’s best for you!

17. Favorite place in the world?

New York City. I need to leave every once in a while because it’s ridiculously intense, but at the end of the day, it’s the most exciting place on Earth.

18. If you could require one book for all students to read, what would it be?

Resilience by Eric Greitens. Most kids need to put things in perspective - and boy oh boy does this book do that. If you ever felt that your life was hard, read this book and then call me in the morning. Might be the most life-changing thing I’ve ever read.

19. If you could submit anything (an object, an animal, anything!) to a college admissions officer that embodies who

you are, what would it be?

Probably some of my comedy writing. It’s my favorite pass time and might surprise them, because most of what I do publicly is pretty serious and unfunny.

20. What do you consider the world’s best invention?

The printing press really doesn’t get enough credit.

21. Choose 3 people to have dinner with (dead or alive).

Ben Franklin

Montaigne

Mark Twain

22. What’s one activity / habit you wish you had time to pick up?

I’ve always wanted to learn a new language, but I’ve never really had the reason/motivation to do it. Every time I go to a foreign country everyone speaks English. It’s sort of deflating.

23. What’s the biggest thing students stress out about?

Getting into college. But they shouldn’t. There’s no need to stress if you just plan ahead and do a bit each day to prepare yourself.

24. What’s the biggest thing parents stress out about?

Getting their kids into college. But they really shouldn’t.

25. Have you ever had to fire a client? Why?

Countless times. I have to fire clients whenever they think that paying me is going to get them higher scores. Hard work gets you higher scores. I show you what work to do, when, and how - but you still need to do it. Some parents think that writing me a check will magically transform their children, and they’ll actually make excuses on their child’s behalf (“well of course John didn’t do your homework - he’s tired!”). When I see even a hint of that, it’s over. I can teach kids anything, and I can turn a “bad math student” into an 800-level math student, but there’s no fixing someone who views work as unnecessary. They really shouldn’t be going to college in the first place. Or doing much of anything, for that matter.

26. Tell us a joke!

I never wanted to believe that my dad was stealing from his job as a road worker.

But when I got home, all the signs were there.

Anthony-James Green, founder and CEO of Green Test Prep, was recently called “America’s Top SAT Tutor” by Business Insider, and his work and insights have been featured everywhere from The New York Times and The Atlantic to CNN and FOX Business. In his career, Green has tutored over 450 students one-on-one, and thousands more through his online SAT and ACT prep program. Green lives in New York City where he works on his online prep software full-time.

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ClaireL
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