What are some tips for high school students looking to apply to ivy league schools?
I am a high school sophomore looking to apply to several prestigious universities. I'd like to know what kind of things that they look for besides good grades. #high-school-students #ivyleague #harvard #yale #columbia #high-school-classes #high-school #college
ESSAY – Admissions officers reading your essays look for authenticity and want to know who you are, what you care about, why you do the things you do, and your goals and aspirations. A tall order for a 650-word essay, but it can be done. For starters, write about something you know. Don’t just recount the details of something you’ve done or experienced, but reflect on how you’ve grown and been shaped by it. Essay prompts are intentionally open-ended, so write about what you are genuinely interested in. Evolutionary anthropology, Middle Eastern studies, political feminism, machine learning, artificial intelligence – don’t be shy about the topics and questions that have captured your imagination. Show – don’t tell – the reader what makes you unique and distinctive. Find a creative angle or hook for your essay and let the rest flow from there. Be honest and authentic about what matters to you and why.
CHARACTOR – Most students are a bit biased when it comes to reviewing their qualifications, and they are going to go the extra mile in presenting themselves in the best light possible. That’s why admissions reps look to letters of recommendation for a more objective perspective. They know no applicant will ask someone for a recommendation if they think that person won’t speak highly of them, It’s the ones that are passionate, then, that stand out. So it’s important for you to seek out recommenders who truly know you and believe in you—people who can get very specific as to why you deserves that spot, why you are exceptional, etc.
LEADERSHIP – You’ve heard for some time that college admissions committees look for well-rounded students who engaged in a variety of activities while in high school. And while that’s true, they’re actually more interested in students who took on a leadership position within a few select organizations. If you are a member of 7 different groups, the odds are that you are spread thin and may not have had major impact on any one group. Being involved at a higher level not only shows leadership, but it can also give insight into the your personality and values.
LIFE – School activities are great, as is a strong GPA and high test scores, but admissions committees also want to know that you have a life outside of academics. Volunteer work shows a commitment to the community at large, which admissions reps certainly appreciate. But there’s a lot to be said for students who have held down real jobs. Jobs and internships show your desire to learn and grow beyond school, and they demonstrate your financial responsibility and time-management skills.
NEGATIVITY – Since it seems as though most teens’ preferred method of communication is online, it should come as no surprise that college admission reps are checking will check your social media profiles. Yes, admissions officers do check Facebook, so be mindful of how you present yourself online. College admissions officers are increasingly using your social media profiles to learn more about you, so keep it positive.
Good Luck Paige
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Nearly all of the elite universities, including those in the Ivy League, use what they call a wholistic admissions process. Put in plain English, when admissions officers review applications, they don't just plug grades, test scores, and extracurriculars into some calculator, instead they actively try to answer the question "how will this person contribute to our campus." Their job is to select students who fill different niches in the hope of building a class that is excellent in many different ways.
So what does this mean for you? Unfortunately, I'm not saying grades and test scores are insignificant. Speaking as a member of Harvard Class of 2020, nearly everyone I met on campus had excellent high school grades and SAT scores. Doing well in school and on standardized tests is for the most part prerequisite to being considered by an elite university. At the end of the day, there are more high performing kids than spots, so if you want to increase your odds, you have to think from the admissions officer's perspective.
They want to know what niche you will fill on campus. Beyond getting good grades and test scores, your job as an applicant is to answer that question with evidence. Your niche is something you should start thinking about as early as possible. Are you political? Do you love reading? Is there a cause or scientific question that animates you? Think about your interests and how they might connect, and then think about ways you can pursue those connections in an extra-curricular setting. Not only will this intentionality make your application more coherent, but it will also make your essays easier to write.
When I was in high school, I liked politics, science, and volunteering with children with autism. Early on, I decided to brand myself as a multidisciplinary thinker who was deeply motivated to better the lives of people with autism. I know that sounds cynical, but I honestly was "a multidisciplinary thinker who was deeply motivated to (you get the point)." The trick was in making that my north star early, and then building my resume around it. I continued volunteering with those children, but I also began volunteering politically and used that experience to get an internship with a mental health advocacy organization. Then, through some cold emails, I managed to get an internship as an RA with a professor using mice to study autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. By the time I was applying to school, my application as somebody who pursued multiple avenues to help people with autism wrote itself, and it did so well enough that I was admitted to Harvard, Stanford, and Duke.
I'll also point out that I was rejected from as many good schools as I was accepted to. At its core, college admissions is random. You can do everything right and still get rejected. So cast a wide net and embrace the uncertainty of this process. Getting into college is not an endpoint; it's the first step of going to college. Your dream school might not be what you think it is (mine certainly wasn't), andas long as you stay curious, hard-working, and self-motivated, every college on earth has resources to keep you inspired.
So pursue your interests, intentionally, in an active and thoughtful way. You'll never regret leaning into the things you're passionate about, and that's the kind of thinking admissions officers appreciate. And if it turns out that you're not actually a politician in waiting who is going to revolutionize mental healthcare (spend a three months on Capital Hill and you'll lose that idealism quick), then it's a good thing college is a place place for finding yourself, no matter where you go!
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