do you have any advice for applying to college in general and/or for specifically applying to ivy league colleges? thank you!
Okay, here’s the thing about applying to any college, but especially a highly selective college like an Ivy: it’s all a numbers game. Literally, the admissions office will boil everything you’ve spent the last few years working your ass of for down to a handful of numbers and it sucks, but that’s how it is.
At an Ivy, everyone is going to have your test scores, your grades, and a bunch of extra curriculars. Not that you have to give up hope, hope is good, but it’s something to keep in mind. Still, there are things you can do and some things you can’t control.
- Some things you just can’t control: race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, your school and state, your parents’ education level. Schools are trying to build a diverse coalition of students from different races, income levels, and parts of the world and being “different” from their normal (read: rich white male and probably northeastern) can help.
- Don’t lie about this stuff, obviously but if you do have something that makes you more diverse, share a bit about that if you feel comfortable. (My Common App essay was about how my ethnic identity was tied into my inability to speak Spanish, for example.) This especially helps if your school puts special emphasis on their diverse population (*cough*Columbia*cough*)
- Get good letters of rec. Remember all letters are going to recommend you go this school so pick teachers who know you well enough to help you stand out. Ask teachers who you have more of a personal relationship with. who liked you and had you for multiple years, if possible. If you can, ask teachers in the field of study you would like to pursue, as long as they’re a core class (English, math, history, science, language, etc.)
- If you have an arts or music teacher, coach or gifted teacher who knows you very well and can add a more personal touch to your application, submit something from them as a supplemental second or third letter: most schools allow for this. Don’t send more than one though. Two to three letters is enough.
- If you have one class that’s a little bit more rough than the others (@AP Calc for me this year) try to work for an upward trend in that grade to show you’re dedicated to improving in the places where you struggle. Yeah, you have to have good grades for an Ivy, but they know you aren’t perfect. They just want to see you’re trying.
- Take advantage of alumni or campus interviews and use them to make yourself seem more human. My Harvard interview was actually a lot of fun: we talked about fake news, fanfiction, being LGBT at Harvard, and a bunch of other stuff. These people see a lot of rote answers that are just people reciting their resumes for an hour. Be polite and polished, don’t be a afraid to brag a little, but be yourself.
- Also, if you have gaps in your application (example: I couldn’t afford subject tests, which Harvard recommends) this is often your place to explain those. Take advantage of that.
- Don’t load up on extra curriculars. It’s stressful as hell (speaking from experience here). Instead pick a handful and show dedication to them. Stay with them throughout your high school career and take on leadership roles where you can.
If you have more specific questions, let me know! Hopefully this is a start though.