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How do I get into an Ivy League college?

I'm moving in with my dad because my mom and her boyfriend don't have any room for me. The school where my dad lives is terrible. It's in the bottom 20 schools based on academics in my state. I'm not a rich person who was sent to a prep school. My mom is a nurse and my dad is a janitor. I told my dad that my dream school is Dartmouth and my dream is to become a neurosurgeon. After telling my dad this he laughed in my face. It hurt. He reccomended the local community college. But this just gives me more motivation to prove everyone wrong. I've never gotten a grade below a C+ and I get mostly A's. The problem is Ive never been in an after school activity. Instead I stay home and help my mom raise my brothers and sisters and recently they found she has a tumor on her spine. So it has been very hard for her. I've risked my social life (not a big deal for me) so that I make sure she has help and that my brothers and sisters are ok. I'm a junior and this summer I'm planning to go to a future physicians school in Princeton for a few weeks, but what else can I do. I have been studying for the ACTs. But it's not enough. I just need a little guidance. Thanks #college #doctor #neurosurgeon #dartmouth #medicine #hospital-and-health-care

Thank you comment icon Ur story is really touching and We are really similar in the sense that each time anyone tells me I cant do something dat just pushes me to do it and prove them wrong and add it to my goal so keep at it I suggest looking for a mentor that is already there that can lead you and tell u all d pathsyou need to cross hope I was helpful Diepreye E.
Thank you comment icon If you are able to communicate all of that in a personal statement, and if you are a minority, in addition to a very high GPA, you might just get in. I really hope you do! You sound very motivated and intelligent. Good luck! Vera L.
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David’s Answer

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Hi Tyler!


I worked in admissions when I was in college. It sounds like you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself regarding traditional extracurricular activities. Don't stress about those. You ARE doing after-school activities, and way more important ones than the traditional kinds like sports.


When we evaluated applicants at Connecticut College (a selective northeastern liberal arts college), we were focused on those that had intellectual curiosity, a holistic view of the world, strong academic grades and a desire to impact the world. For most kids, traditional clubs and groups are how they get a holistic view of the world. You're getting your holistic view in a much different, but no less valid way.


If I can give you a little guidance, it would be three things:


1) Focus on your communication (writing and presenting) skills. Getting in to any top tier school will require you to express yourself and explain why you are a great choice.


2) Get great grades. Top schools are competitive. Show that the C+ was an outlier and that you're an A student at heart.


3) Continue to dream big. People will laugh, tell you why the dream is a bad idea, and encourage you to lower your aspirations. Don't listen to them. Yes, have a backup plan, but don't stop striving for your dream. It's a little cheesy, but there's a great quote that I love: "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."


One final note. Reach out to an Admissions Counselor at Dartmouth. Ask them how you can make yourself as competitive as possible. Being proactive like this will change the game for you.


I hope this helps, Tyler!

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Grant’s Answer

Hi Tyler,


I didn't attend a top school, nor am I a doctor. However, I'll share a quick story and some advice. A friend of mine just finished med school at Penn and matched to Penn hospital for residency. Instead of an Ivy League undergrad, she went to a smaller liberal arts college where she excelled academically and socially in order to build the profile and narrative necessary to compete for a place in an Ivy League medical program. Getting into Dartmouth is a great goal. Do everything you can but also have a back up plan. Wherever you end up for college, use that as your platform to do and experience the things that will help you reach your goals. It's just the beginning. Good luck.

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Deepal’s Answer

Hey Tyler,
Congratulations on making such a big decision. Lots of people wish that they were in your shoes since you have made a tough decision about becoming a doctor.


First of all, you should not let any one bring you down regarding such a big decision. There are lots of ways of getting to become a doctor. You definitely do not need to be involved in after school activity but it does help. The things that are the most important are your grades, and SAT score. My suggestion to you would be knock those out while you are in high school. Then, once again focus on your grades in college/ MCATS. But, take one step at a time, and right now it is your chance to focus on two big things - grades and SATs. When it comes to your college application, you have a wonderful story and you can make it work for you. Good luck, I am sure things will work out :)

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Jaron’s Answer

Best of the Village

Hello. I am so sorry for the very difficult home life you are in right now. I am sorry your dad laughed at you. You will be able to eventually find people who support your dreams--don't hang out with people who don't, if possible.


There are many routes to becoming a doctor. Once you are in medical school you can focus more on getting into your specific area, such as neurosurgery. I went to a cheaper public university in my home town--University of Utah--and saved a lot of money that way. I applied to medical schools toward the end of college and I did not get in! But I spent an extra year after college doing research and other types of volunteer work to support my application. I applied again the next year and I got into two medical schools and picked USC. My point is that it can take some time to get there but if you keep your dream alive and keep doing the next indicated step, keep doing the work, you can get there.


Right now, I would focus on trying to get into any college, period. Even if your high school grades aren't great and you have to go to a community college, that is fine. Once you are there and hopefully separated from the family environment--which can really stymie your efforts and has to be looked at very seriously as a possible negative influence--you want to work really hard and try to get an A in every single course. This will enable you to transfer to a larger college or university, like Princeton or Dartmouth, to complete your degree. It can also be a state school like I went to. But if being a doctor is your dream, then the real goal is medical school and it doesn't matter so much whether you went to an ivy league or other fancy college. Then once you are there, keep getting A's wherever possible. By that time, you will have a much more impressive application by getting out of a difficult home life and coming from a disadvantaged situation. Medical schools notice this and they are impressed. It builds character. Keep doing the next indicated step. If it takes you an extra year or more to do extra courses or whatever--that's fine. You can do it.


I am doctor (orthopedic surgeon) in California.

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Mozart’s Answer

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Hi Tyler ----


Thanks for asking a great question and as the other folks said I'm sorry to hear things aren't working out perfectly for you to get more involved. I had a non-traditional route --- never went to an Ivy League college, but I've spoken at a few prestigious schools (Brown, MIT, UT-Austin) and supervised many students who attended the kind of school you're seeking (Columbia, Cornell, Penn, etc.).


My advice is:


Do Something --- Of course get more involved, but try out Dosomething.org --- it is a all internet and text messaging nonprofit that helps young people like you get involved without requiring a car or money.


Fall in love with something --- The students who were truly exceptional and didn't just show up at great schools always were passionate and deeply focused on a specific topic. A good blog to check out as a H.S. student is Cal Newport (http://calnewport.com/).


Please keep in mind, that you should pursue your dreams to the fullest, but the way you do that is by getting curious, not just going to a school, to go to a school. I ended up being a kid who went to a little old state school who has spoken and worked with many of the colleges you aspire towards by being deeply committed to making an impact and being curious.


Wishing you the very best,


Mozart

Thank you comment icon Thank you! I never even thought of that website! Tyler D.
Thank you comment icon DoSomething.org would be a GREAT way for you to get involved/boost your resume and college apps without even having to leave your computer screen. Definitely look into ways you can 'do something' (get involved!) from your home so that you can not only continue to be there for your family, but work towards setting yourself up for a successful and fulfilling future as well. (we sent you an email yesterday I encourage you to take a look at - we want to help! hope to hear back from you soon) Lindsey Manning-Djabbari BACKER
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Rachel’s Answer

<span style="background-color: transparent;">Collegeboard.org is a great resource for this! I poured through the pages of universities all over the U.S. when I was a senior in high school. Collegeboard was my go-to site! They put all of the information in one place and it is very easy to use. They even have various filters you can apply to see only colleges that have programs you are interested. To determine academic rigor, look at the admissions requirements, G.P.A. of past admitted applicants, SAT/ACT scores, class rank etc. This will give you an idea of what scores and grades you need to be accepted. However, don't be discouraged your application will be reviewed based on the full picture! College-board will help you get an idea of what is most important to the specific school you are applying to.</span>


This professional recommends the following next steps:

  • <span style="background-color: transparent;">Chat with your Guidance Counselor</span>
  • <span style="background-color: transparent;">Create a Collegeboard.org account</span>
  • <span style="background-color: transparent;">Start using CollegeBoard as a resource to look up schools.</span>


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Richard’s Answer

Get good grades. Take a prep course for SAT or ACT. Try to form a narrative with your extracurricular activities. For example if you are passionate about science, your activities could include science bowl and volunteering could include mentoring underprivileged children at science and math.
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