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9 Tips For Getting Accepted To An Ivy League College: A Firsthand Account

Securing a spot at an Ivy League college is no doubt a dream; and yet, the path to reaching that goal often appears to be daunting and elusive for many, as success is not always simply based on merit. While my own acceptance into Columbia University certainly represented a culmination of years of hard work, it was just as much about strategic planning as anything else.

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1. Adequately Prepare For Applying To An Ivy League College

Such a critical aspect became all the more apparent to me when I assumed the role of a College Advising Fellow at my school — a practice that I am still currently involved with and which I initially assumed with the intent to reach other applicants who are likewise struggling to meet the lofty standards of an Ivy League college. Thus, I would like to share my admissions journey here as a means of providing insight into the precise methodology that I utilized so as to offer practical advice to prospective students who may likewise be seeking guidance with such prospects, in addition to maximizing the odds of their success.

2. Stay on Track With Academics

From the very outset of high school, I prioritized maintaining strong grades across all subjects. At the same time, I consistently chose challenging courses, including AP and honors classes, in order to indicate both a willingness to tackle rigorous course material and a readiness to learn at the higher collegiate level. This conscientious focus on academic excellence resulted in a solid GPA and strong proof of credibility, two components which became essential for gaining admission.

3. Start Early With Test Preparation

Moreover, what was equally important was starting early with a standardized testing plan. The SAT and ACT are central to the admissions process. Therefore, I made sure to set aside time for test preparation in the summer after my sophomore year, which allowed me to familiarize myself with the test formats, identify my weaknesses, and steadily improve my scores. In my case, I began my test prep journey well before junior year, utilizing practice tests, prep courses, and study groups to enhance my performance so that I could score above 1500.

4. Research The College

I would definitely recommend for applicants to research the academic expectations of the colleges that they are interested in, with the goal of understanding the specific requirements each institution holds. This includes looking into the average GPA and standardized test scores of admitted students as well as reading about reports by current students on the rigor of their schools’ respective curriculums. By doing so, applicants can better gauge whether or not they align with the standards of that college, in addition to better tailoring their academics to those standards.

5. Engage in a Wide Variety of Extracurriculars

I would argue that what you accomplish outside the confines of your classrooms can be even more important than what you achieve inside of them in the eyes of each Ivy League college. As an applicant, you are required to present at least ten distinct extracurriculars for the “Activities” section of the Common Application and for that, ideally, you want the majority of such endeavors to converge under an overarching theme that is connected to your proposed field of study. For instance, given that I was applying as either a Creative Writing Major or Comparative Studies Major, I made sure to involve myself in numerous publications on campus — from my school’s weekly newspaper to its poetry journal to its book review magazine — as well as various cultural initiatives such as our annual Asia Night, hosted by the Asian Affinity group. Furthermore, I also attempted to diversify my list in order to feature other personal interests such as Volleyball and Stage Crew, which could speak to my wide-ranging ability to pursue different ventures all at once. Nowadays, there are thousands of applicants who have a 4.0 GPA and perfect SAT scores; thus, it is imperative that students expand their extracurriculars, as these are facets that may ultimately serve to strengthen their profile with respect to the rest of the population.

6. Assume Leadership Positions

It is one thing to be a part of a group and another thing to be the one overseeing it. Assuming leadership positions is crucial when it comes to significantly enhancing your application with extracurriculars. Leadership roles indicate a capacity to take initiative, manage responsibilities, and influence others — qualities that colleges highly value. Knowing this, I made an effort to contribute to the clubs for which I was a member of. In school, I eventually worked my way up to several presidential or editorial board positions by the time I reached my senior year. These commanding experiences, in turn, painted a comprehensive picture of both my capabilities and my commitment, for they exhibited to admissions officers that, in addition to being passionate, I was equipped with the skills and drive necessary for leading others. After all, it is not only the breadth but the depth of your extracurricular activities that may truly set you apart in the competitive landscape of college admissions.

7. Showcase Community Service and Work Beyond Campus

Just as applicants who aspire to an Ivy League college should try to build and curate an extensive lineup of extracurriculars from opportunities offered within their schools, they should also aim to partake in external initiatives where possible. This could look different for each applicant, especially insofar as it relates to their interests. Whereas STEM students might want to focus on securing foundational experiences with research, more Humanities-oriented individuals might want to participate in intensive writing programs and/or related workshops. To this extent, it also helps if these efforts are community-based. In my case, this entailed volunteering for local non-profit organizations where I could serve to plan and host meaningful events that were intended to raise money for charitable foundations. Not only will incorporating this sort of engagement convey a sense of student initiative, but it will also show that the applicant is dedicated to furthering ventures far greater than themselves. Admissions officers will, in turn, be bound to take interest, as such involvement effectively demonstrates a devotion to making a positive impact on society.

8. Perfect the Essays

Last but certainly not least, are the essays. The essay portions of the application process are a great chance to either expound upon elements that were already mentioned or to tell the admissions committee something unique about themselves, which may therein allow that individual to stand out from the crowd. Thus, whether it be with the infamous Common App essay or the supplementary essays, I always urge applicants to really take their time to reread, revise, and refine the writing that they want to present. I myself spent quite a while editing my own submissions and even wrote four different drafts for the Common App essay in order to explore each of the ideas that I had. This iterative process, albeit tedious, did in fact aid me in experimenting with distinct narratives and in discovering the one that best represented my story and voice. As a result, the admissions officer specifically went on to commend me for my essay upon my acceptance. Indeed, the time and energy invested towards perfecting the essays in such ways does pay off, as it ultimately allows the student to create a more compelling and authentic representation of themselves as an applicant and as a person.

9. Get Valuable Assistance From The College Admissions Essay Expert

As a former applicant, I am fully aware of the fact that applying for any college is complex and arduous. It requires a significant amount of diligence, dedication, and attention to detail on all accounts of the application. The key tips outlined above are meant to assist other students in navigating this strenuous process. I hope the applicants who read this are able to take inspiration from my experiences and to implement the lessons with regards to their own journey at hand. If you would like to get expert advice and guidance to help you gain admission to an Ivy League college, I strongly recommend The College Admissions Essay Expert. With over a decade of experience, they have an excellent track record of helping aspiring students reach their educational goals, whether with the admissions essays or the overall college application.

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