There are eight Ivy League schools; you’ve probably heard of them all: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania. Some say Stanford and MIT count, too. The premier handful of Ivy-branded Northeastern universities are a magnet for the country’s best and brightest students.
The elite Ivy League has long defined the highest standards for postsecondary education in the United States. Whether you think these schools really are the nation’s absolute best, there’s no denying that they can’t be beat when it comes to name recognition and academic reputation.
The Ivy League has always been competitive, but the fight to get into one of these prestigious institutions has never been fiercer. Harvard and Princeton are now denying more valedictorians than they accept, and the numbers get tighter every year. What do you have to do to land a spot among the Ivies? What do Ivy League admissions look for?
<h2>Standing Out From The Crowd</h2>
Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer; admissions offices speak of their criteria in purposely broad terms, and keep the details of each decision shrouded in secrecy.
It’s common to assume it’s a numbers game – GPAs, SAT and ACT scores, class rank, et al. But that’s just the beginning. Plenty of people with excellent academic records and stunning test scores apply each year. While these characteristics are recommended — you may not even be in the running without them — there’s clearly something beyond transcripts and testing records that makes accepted applicants stand out.
You probably know that great recommendations, robust extracurriculars, and lots of volunteer experience will help boost your image. But not all factors are so obvious, or meritocratic for that matter. Here’s a list of admissions factors that are less emphasized, but no less important when it comes to cozying up to the Ivy League.
Admissions officers care about numbers, but they really do look at the entire application package, from recommendations to extracurriculars and the essay. Of course, keep in mind an officer will spend <a href=”http://www.businessinsider.com/secrets-of-dartmouth-admissions-office-2012-10″>about 10 or 15 minutes</a> looking over an application, so the story you’re trying to project needs to speak up right away, and that story should tell the tale of a well-rounded student with not only intelligence and achievement, but integrity, honesty and critical awareness of self and society.
According to <a href=”http://www.businessinsider.com/secrets-of-dartmouth-admissions-office-2012-10″>one admission officer</a> who preferred to remain anonymous, most of the kids that get in come from high-income backgrounds. Incoming students have money, and can often pay most or all of their tuition without financial aid. In general, low-income students are not actively recruited.
<a href=”http://www.businessinsider.com/secrets-of-dartmouth-admissions-office-2012-10″>Legacies get points</a>. If your parents went to the school in question, you have a greater chance of getting in. The lower your grades and test scores, however, the less points you’ll get for your connections. In other words, a legacy is not a guarantee, but it sure helps.
If Harvard wants you to play for their basketball or lacrosse team, your odds of getting in <a href=”http://www.businessinsider.com/secrets-of-dartmouth-admissions-office-2012-10″>are above average</a>. A stellar athletic record is one way to get into an Ivy League even if your academics are not 100 percent astounding. Still, the athletes who are chosen tend to be those with above-average GPAs and test scores.
<h3>Clean Facebook Rep</h3>
<a href=”http://press.kaptest.com/research/kaplan-test-preps-2012-survey-of-college-admissions-officers”>Believe it or not</a>, your social media profile increasingly factors into admissions decisions. Why? To evaluate all those earnest statements of worthiness, counselors often simply google students or find them on Facebook to see how they present themselves when the pressure to be perfect isn’t on.
Social media profiles can give admissions counselors a more intimate and personality-driven perspective. They’re also a great way to get disqualified if you have something embarrassing or condemning on display for the world to see.
The decision of who gets in and who doesn’t is ultimately quite subjective. When a decision is subjective, the best strategy is to appeal to the subject – in this case, the person reading your application, especially the essay. So use the essay make a connection with that person. Tell your personal truth, and put some soul into it. Don’t be afraid to take risks to grab the reader’s attention. Above all, <a href=”http://qz.com/174631/what-every-ivy-league-college-is-looking-for-in-its-admission-essays/#/h/46248,2,3/”>do not be boring</a>.
Admissions give the benefit of the doubt to some applicants because <a href=”http://www.businessinsider.com/secrets-of-dartmouth-admissions-office-2012-10″>evaluations are supposed to be made in social context</a>. That is, counselors want to see how far you’ve gone relative to how you started out.
Likability is key, and we don’t mean Facebook Likes. According to <a href=”http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2009/01/09/dirty-secrets-of-college-admissions.html”>one Ivy League admissions </a><a href=”http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2009/01/09/dirty-secrets-of-college-admissions.html”>c</a><a href=”http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2009/01/09/dirty-secrets-of-college-admissions.html”>ounselor</a>, “some 70 percent of kids who apply are qualified to come to school here, and we have space for one in ten. We can be as choosy as we like. It almost always comes down to whether or not you’re a likeable person.”