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Top Ten Ways to Get Into the Ivy League

June 04, 2008 By: Category: Admissions insider, Get into College

So you’re contemplating applying to an Ivy League school. Getting into the “elite of the elite” —Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and Yale— is extremely difficult, but its not impossible. The following is a list of tips to help you win the Ivy admissions game. Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee your admission, but these tips will certainly provide you with solid direction in your application process.

  1. Be in the Top Ten Percent of Your Class
    While graduating valedictorian or salutatorian is certainly a worthy goal, just graduating in the top ten percent of your class is enough. Admissions officers often prefer a passionate student who got the occassional ‘B’ over a valedictorian who spends much of his or her time focused on grades and studying for the SAT and doing little else during their high school days.
  2. Take a Challenging Course Load
    If possible, look into taking Advanced Placement and/or Honors classes offered by your school and take as many as you can reasonably handle. Many schools also offer “dual programs,” which allow you to take classes from the local colleges for high school credit. The key here, however, is to not go overboard. Only take on what you can handle without burning out. You want to make sure you have time for other activities outside school.
  3. Volunteer
    Contributing to your community and to the well-being of others is always looked upon favorably. There are a myriad of ways to volunteer according to your own unique talents, so don’t feel constrained by the ‘usual’ volunteer jobs. Reading to/or tutoring kids at a children’s hospital, helping at an animal rescue center, assisting at an elder-care center are only a few ways you can volunteer. Plus, these experiences will also help you see the bigger picture in life and bring a level of maturity to your decisions.
  4. Have Meaningful Extracurriculars
    Admissions committees don’t like seeing a ‘laundry list’ of activities you’ve participated in.  They’d rather see you participate in one or two activities for a longer period of time. Reaching a high level of leadership or achievement in one or two activities (sports also count!) makes you more appealing than doing six or seven activities.
  5. Prepare for Standardized Tests
    When preparing to take the SAT, it is wise to take practice tests. This is both to familiarize yourself  with the format of the test, and also to pinpoint your weaknesses in order to optimize your score on the real thing. Keep in mind, however, that many applicants with perfect SAT scores are rejected from the Ivy League every year as well, simply because they don’t stand out in any other way.
  6. Apply Early Decision
    By applying to a binding Early Decision program, you show great interest in that school, which is taken into account. Understand, however, that not all of the Ivy League schools have Early Decision programs: Harvard and Princeton did away with their’s last year.
  7. Get to Know Your Teachers
    Constructively participate in class and always show respect to your instructors. Turn in your work on time, give it your best effort, and let your teachers know you appreciate them. Your teacher needs to see that you are a responsible, good person so he or she will write you a wonderful recommendation.
  8. Fill Up Your Summers
    Whether you decide to pick up more hours at work, volunteer in another country, or get a great internship, top colleges like to see that you haven’t just spent your summer goofing off and letting the days ‘slide on by.’
  9. Be a Meaningful Individual
    These days, admissions committees are looking for the stand-outs; students who are not just well-rounded but also have something to offer to the school. Know who you are and effectively convey that to the school you’re applying to. Let them know what you bring to the table and how your experience bring something meaningful to the school.
  10. Have fun!
    Most importantly, have fun. Top colleges don’t want kids who’ve lived their entire lives just to impress a future admissions committee. By following your passions, keeping busy, and working your hardest, you’ll become a stellar college applicant and a  great human being.

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