Okay, so some general study tips for getting into an Ivy League college/university…
First and foremost, this isn’t really a study tip, but don’t ever think you’re not good enough if you don’t get into the school of your choice, and also don’t think you’re superior to other candidates because you did. A lot of things go into student selection, some of which are completely out of our control. As long as you do your personal best, then continue to do your personal best when you get in, you should be proud of yourself. You can’t necessarily control what school you get into, but you can control your grade once at uni, so be proud of what you’ve earned.
Now onwards to actual advice…
I guess the best thing is to make sure that you’re always challenging yourself. You don’t need to take every single AP your school offers, but if it’s a subject you like and you think you can take the advanced course, do it. Schools will look for what you had the opportunity to take, but did or did not take. In addition, don’t wimp out on the easy stuff. Do all your homework, go to class every day, study for your tests and quizzes. You don’t need to kill yourself with stress, but try to at least make doing the bare minimum be your standard. I was not a perfect model student by a long shot, but I never skipped a single class.
I did all of my hw; some more sloppily than others, but I also never turned in a single late assignment. I never ran from a quiz. It’s hard to give exact studying hours, because it depended on what classes I was taking at the time, the work load, and how much I liked it/was good at it, but I always gave everything the amount of time it needed. My Junior AP English class required around 4 hours of hw a day, but my Senior AP English class barely had any HW. I suck at math, so I’d spend hours on stuff that’d take my friends half an hour. It all depends bro, go at your own pace and don’t let yourself feel bad if you need some more effort than other people.
Moving on! Another tip is to try to stand out on paper! Schools won’t get to meet you in person until later in the selection process, and even then not all schools. You can do this through a variety of ways.
If you school has some slightly unique classes that may not be offered at any schools, putting those on your record might even be better than taking an AP. For example, my senior year of HS I took an Anatomy course. We dissected a cat. It was awesome, and probably one of the most educational courses of my hs career, and gave us a lot of hands-on experience that’s a bit rare in a HS environment. It wasn’t an AP, but it was worth it.
The obvious thing is extracurriculars. Clubs, sports, music. You’ll hear from everyone that you should participate in lots of things and get leadership positions, yada yada. But not all of these things are equally attractive. An Asian kid who’s captain of the swim and/or tennis team, who’s played piano and/or violin from a young age is a very common resume. Try to do something unique, and stick to it. Show progress and achievement, show dedication and passion to small number of things rather than spreading out thin.
I’ve played cello since elementary school, and in my HS I was in the top orchestra all four years, participated in youth orchestras, chamber orchestras, and quartets, took summer courses, tutored elementary kids in music, did solo recitals and for my senior school concert, got to play a concerto. By my Junior/Senior years I was first chair in most of my orchestras. Most of my after school hours, when not procrastinating, was something cello-related. I also did Aikido for three years.
Keep in mind that when looking at your list of activities, schools are interested in seeing what you can bring to campus life in terms of diversity. They want to see things you’ll most likely pursue, and share with other students. Do you do anything unique and cultural? Dance? Singing? Acapella groups are HUGE on my campus. Same with sports. Are you at a level where you’d be interested in competing at the University level, and are you capable of handling the pressure while maintaining your high grades? This is why you need both good grades and proof of dedication to whatever it is you do.
But most importantly, when doing your hs stuff, don’t get too stressed. Don’t break down. Never push yourself beyond what you are comfortable doing, and make sure you have time to take breaks. If you’re doing too much, ease off a bit. College is not as important as your health, both physical and mental. College is plenty stressful itself, no need to burn out before you get in. To be honest, with its long, rigid hours and constant parental supervision, high school is a lot harder than uni in a lot of ways. Keep that in mind. When choosing clubs and activities and classes, you can think, “Hey, this could be useful for getting into a good school!” but also prioritize what you personally think is fun and are passionate about. Don’t make this a miserable experience for yourself. And if your parents make you miserable and are forcing you to do more than you’re comfortable with, I’m sorry. Please tell them that plenty of kids get into Ivy Leagues without doing “everything” and being “perfect.” And that plenty of kids who do actually do “everything” and are “perfect” on paper don’t get in. Do your best, don’t ask for the impossible.
I think it’s hard to say “how hard it was to get in,” because I tossed in my application, like half of my school did, and didn’t expect to get in. For whatever reason, I did. I want to say it was a 7-8% acceptance rate my year, but I could be wrong. Anyway, don’t put everything on one school, and have backups that you wouldn’t mind going to, and safety schools to. Also think about tuition; ‘cause man, I got into one of my first choice schools only to realize afterwards that I couldn’t afford it…that sucked.
We didn’t have early app my year. I think Princeton does now though. Not too sure.
In terms of your application itself, make sure you’re prepared well in advanced, don’t be up pulling an all-nighter writing your essay hours before the deadline. Make your essay as unique as you are; most prompts allow lots of flexibility. And again, do your best, but don’t blame yourself if things don’t turn out perfect.
Sorry for the long rant, I hoped this helped somewhat!