student celebrating ivy league acceptance

Attending an Ivy League is a high aspiration for many high school students. Many Odyssey College Prep students inquire about how to get into the Ivy League school of their dreams. In fact, every year, tens of thousands of students worldwide apply in hopes of getting into an Ivy League college.

After all, they are the crown jewels of American higher education.

Unfortunately, the odds are not stacked in your favor if you seek to attend an Ivy League college. In fact, from a sheer mathematical standpoint, most people have a higher chance of winning the Hunger Games than getting accepted into an Ivy League.

Gaining admission to an Ivy League has always been competitive.

may the ivy league odds be ever in your favor

However, college acceptance rates in the Ivy League are currently at a record low. These low admit rates are mainly due to various 2022 college application trends. These trends include the rising popularity of test-optional colleges, the increased number of college deferrals on account of the pandemic, and lengthier waitlists.

Applying to an Ivy League college is complicated and is becoming increasingly more competitive. This is why it is imperative to plan strategically.

Fortunately for you, we have a comprehensive blog post that teaches you to do just that.

The Ivy League Obstacles

Two obstacles stand in the way of students who want an education in an Ivy League college:

  1. Cost
  2. Competitiveness

Keep reading to learn more about the obstacles. And if you’re serious about going to a college in the Ivy League, we’ll show you how to craft a college application to overcome these obstacles.

The Ivy League Obstacle #1: Cost

The Ivy League consists of some of the most competitive universities in the US. Because these elite colleges are never short of an endless supply of applicants, they can demand a heavy price for their tuition. The average Ivy League tuition alone usually costs over $55,000 a year!

The Ivy League Obstacle #2: Competitiveness

As we mentioned before, the Ivy League contains the most competitive colleges in the world. They’re the gold standard of Higher Education in the US, for better or worse. They receive droves of applicants, and the more who apply, the more challenging it is to get accepted.

For reference, in 2022, 42,749 students applied to Harvard. Only 1,962 students gained admission, giving Harvard University a college acceptance rate of 4.6%. Similarly, Yale received 35,306 applicants in 2022 but only admitted 2,229 students. Thus, Yale boasts a 6.3% college acceptance rate. If you are wondering how to apply for Ivy League colleges or get into an Ivy League college, read on!

Typically, the Ivy Leagues accept between 5% and 10% of applicants. This is a staggering statistic to consider, which has led to a common misconception that gaining admission to an Ivy League college is almost random.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, there are significantly more qualified students than admission slots. There are college application strategies that can dramatically improve your chances of admission.

This article shows you successful strategies you can use to get into an Ivy League school.

A Closer Look at the Ivy League Admissions

There are over 5,300 universities in the United States, but how many Ivy Leagues are there? Spoiler alert, there are eight Ivy League Colleges in total.

  • Brown University
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Harvard University
  • The University of Pennsylvania (aka UPenn)
  • Princeton University
  • Yale University.

Here’s where you should start taking notes.

Yes. Ivy League colleges indeed boast a competitive admission process.

Each college, however, contains its unique qualities and advantages in the education it offers its students (more on that later). While assembling your college list, it’s essential to keep this in mind rather than focus too much on their common Ivy League brand name.

When preparing to apply for Ivy League schools, you must be strategic. Remember to carefully research each school and its programs to see what makes it unique from its collegiate cousins.

This research will allow you to do the following:

  1. Tailor your college application to each college.
  2. Demonstrate your commitment to each school through your college application materials.
  3. Show the Ivy League college the unique value you’ll bring to its student body.

The research you’ll need to complete to execute these steps will be tedious. Fortunately, we’ve done a lot of it for you.

Ivy League Statistics

How hard is it to get into an Ivy League college? We’ve said it’s challenging already. If you’re serious about becoming an Ivy League candidate, you need reliable data on each college to determine which Ivy League colleges you’ll apply to.

By understanding the Ivy League admission data, you can create a realistic application strategy.

The list below will give you the specific application requirements of each school. By reading this list, you’ll learn the following:

  • Each school’s location
  • Undergraduate population
  • College acceptance rate
  • U.S. News ranking
  • Notable programs

Brown University

Brown university campus

Brown University is located in Providence, Rhode Island. It has an undergraduate population of 6,792 and a college acceptance rate of 5.4%. It is well known for its English and history programs and its medical school. According to the 2022 U.S. News ranking, Brown University ties for #14 with Vanderbilt University and Washington University in St. Louis.

Columbia University

Columbia university campus

Columbia University lies in the hustle and bustle of New York City, New York. It has an undergraduate population of 8,842 and a college acceptance rate of 5.1%. It is well known for administering the Pulitzer Prizes and its School of Engineering. According to the 2022 U.S. News ranking, Columbia University ties #2 with Harvard University and MIT.

Cornell University

cornell university campus

Cornell University is located in Ithaca, New York. It has an undergraduate population of 14,743 and a college acceptance rate of 10.6%. It is well known for its Agriculture and Life Science programs and its Colleges of Arts and Sciences. According to the 2022 U.S. News ranking, Cornell University ties for #17 with Rice University.

Dartmouth College

dartmouth university campus

Dartmouth College is located in Hanover, New Hampshire. It has an undergraduate population of 4,170 and a college acceptance rate of 6.2%. It is well known for its research and study abroad opportunities. According to the 2022 U.S. News ranking, Dartmouth College is #13.

Harvard University

harvard university campus

Harvard University is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It has an undergraduate population of 5,222 and a college acceptance rate of 4.5%. It is well known for its business, law, government, and medical programs. According to the 2022 U.S. News ranking, Harvard University ties for #2 with Columbia University and MIT.

The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)

Upenn campus

The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It has an undergraduate population of 9,872 and a college acceptance rate of 7.4%. It is well known for its business school. According to the 2022 U.S. News ranking, UPenn is #8.

Princeton University

prinecton university campus

Princeton University is located in Princeton, New Jersey. It has an undergraduate population of 4,773 and a college acceptance rate of 5.8%. It is well known for its programs in engineering and international affairs. According to the 2022 U.S. News ranking, Princeton University is #1.

Yale University

yale university campus

Yale University is located in New Haven, Connecticut. It has an undergraduate population of 4,703 and a college acceptance rate of 5.9%. It is well known for its music and drama programs. According to the 2022 U.S. News ranking, Yale University is #5.

Ivy League Acceptance Rates

ivy league acceptance rates

What ACT Scores Do You Need to Get Into the Ivy League?

Study hard and strategically for the ACT! The rise of test-optional colleges and test-blind colleges does not mean you shouldn’t take standardized testing seriously. Studying for the ACT can help you stand out by showing your commitment and willingness to go above and beyond.

You may even consider hiring an ACT tutor to hone your test-taking skills.

hire a tutor now take the stress out of test prep

 

As far as what ACT score you need, you’ll likely need 33 or above to get into the Ivy Leagues. Look at the table below for some useful ACT score statistics.

Ivy League Average ACT Scores

College Average ACT Score 25th Percentile 50th Percentile 75th Percentile
Brown 34 32 34 35
Columbia 34 33 34 35
Cornell 34 32 34 35
Dartmouth 34 32 34 35
Harvard 34 33 34 35
UPenn 34 32 34 35
Princeton 34 32 34 35
Yale 34 33 34 35

How to Raise Your ACT Score and Get Into The Ivy League

Studying for the ACT may seem overwhelming. After all, it is a comprehensive test that covers mountains of academic content. Fortunately, there are effective strategies that will help you reach your goals. In this section, we will outline key steps for you to take.

Important ACT Study Strategies

  1. Take an official practice exam
  2. Calculate your baseline score
  3. Analyze your results
  4. Research ACT Score for each school on your college list
  5. Determine your target score

During your practice exam, do your best to replicate official testing conditions. Take the test in a quiet room and time yourself.

When you’re done, take your time analyzing your results.

What patterns do you notice?

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Are there any key concepts that you need to review, such as mathematical formulas or grammatical conventions?

Design an ACT Study Schedulestudent completing sat study plan

Now, it’s time to make a study schedule. Realistically, how many hours can you devote each week to studying? Your ideal study schedule should allow for some flexibility. After all, this is a busy time of year!

It’s important to regularly make time to study for 90-minute intervals. Study often and do your best to commit to a schedule. Remember, you will have to work hard and put in the hours to reach your target score.

Important ACT Study Tips

  • Focus on your weakness while maintaining your strengths
  • Periodically take full-length practice exams (this is an effective way to monitor your progress while reevaluating your strengths and weaknesses)
  • Familiarize yourself with the test’s format by answering practice questions
  • Consider hiring an ACT tutor to hone your test-taking skills

The ACT is an effective way to demonstrate your level of college preparation. Follow the strategies and tips above to reach your target score. Applying to an Ivy League is an extremely competitive process. Give yourself every advantage by studying hard for this test.

SAT Scores for the Ivy League

The SAT is another important standardized test. Submitting high test scores for both the ACTs and SATs will further distinguish your application. However, the Ivy League admissions process doesn’t distinguish between or have a preference for either test.

Do Ivy League Colleges Prefer the SAT over the ACT?

To clarify, Ivy Leagues value high ACT and SAT scores equally. They do not prefer one over the other.

Do I have to take both the SAT and ACT?

It does give you some clout if you do well on both. So, if you have time, you can study for and take both exams. If you’re swamped with AP classes, extracurriculars, and other projects, don’t study for the ACT and SAT. Pick the one you’ll have the easiest time raising your score on.

What SAT score do I need to get into the Ivy League?

Generally, you will need a score of at least 1420 to be considered a competitive Ivy League applicant. The average SAT score for an incoming Harvard student is 1520. The average SAT score for an incoming UPenn student is 1500. Similarly, the average SAT score for an incoming Dartmouth student is also 1500.

However, the SAT is a bit of a wild card. It’s about to change to a fully electronic test.

Additionally, the SAT will soon have adaptive questions, which is a completely different challenge. The testing format will be new for the next, and there’s no data and little to no curriculum available. So, if you have to pick one test over the other, studying for the ACT is a safer bet.

High School GPA in Ivy League Admissions

Your high school GPA is an important factor in Ivy League admissions. One way this is measured is by your high school GPA. Most students who were accepted to Ivy League colleges have a perfect or nearly perfect high school GPA.

report card showing 4.0 gpa

What is an unweighted GPA?

You may have heard the terms “weighted GPA” and “unweighted GPA.” Basically, an unweighted GPA is scored on a scale of 0-4. In this GPA scenario, it’s impossible to have over a 4.0 GPA.

What is a weighted GPA?

A weighted GPA, however, rewards students who take challenging classes, such as Honors or AP classes, by adding more points to their overall GPA. For example, if you get a perfect GPA in an Honors class, you will have a weighted GPA of 4.5. (You cannot score higher than a 4.0 unweighted GPA). If you get a perfect score in an AP class, you will have a weighted GPA of 5.0.

Can you get into an Ivy League with a B on your transcript?

The answer depends on the rest of your application. Similarly, if you want to know how to get into an Ivy League and your GPA is a little below the average applicant, you’ll have to compensate and bolster other dimensions of your application.

Average GPA of Accepted Ivy League Applicants (Highest to Lowest)

College Average GPA of Accepted Applicant (weighted)
Harvard 4.15
Columbia 4.14
Princeton 4.14
Yale 4.10
UPenn 4.10
Dartmouth 4.07
Brown 4.04
Cornell 4.05

Challenging Course Loads and AP Classes

There’s no magic number of AP classes you should take to get into an Ivy League. It mostly depends on how many AP classes your high school offers.

For example, I recently advised a student who had his sights set on Dartmouth. The private school he attended offered 10 AP courses. He had taken 8 of them. This worked in his favor when he applied to Dartmouth. However, had he only taken two or three AP courses, it would have likely been a red flag for the admissions officer reviewing his application (and yes… he got into Dartmouth).

Ivy Leagues want to see that you are eager to challenge yourself. Take the most difficult classes available to you, especially in subjects that interest you.ivy league university applicant

Your high school transcripts should tell a story that aligns with your interests as well. For example, if you are a poet, while you still need some strong math classes, you’ll want to take the most challenging literature and language arts courses available to you. This communicates to admissions officers that you are invested in your passions.

With that said, please heed this warning: try not to overload yourself.

You do not have to take every AP class that’s offered at your school. Try your best to prioritize. One way to do this is by focusing on your passions. For example, if you have medical aspirations, it’s important to take AP Chemistry and AP Biology. If you do not excel in Spanish class, however, you don’t necessarily have to take AP Spanish.

Can you get into the Ivy League without AP classes?

It depends on the rest of your application. There is no guaranteed way to get into an Ivy League college. Because of this, there is no magic number of AP classes you should take. A typical Ivy League applicant, however, will have taken between 7 and 12 AP classes.

Also, keep in mind that it matters more to have completed an AP course than to do well on the AP test. So hopefully that’ll relieve some stress!

All in all, remember this:

  • There’s no magic number of AP courses to take
  • You’re evaluated by how many AP courses are offered at your school
  • Prioritize your AP courses around challenging curriculum and your interests
  • It’s more important that you score well in the course, not on the AP exam
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself with AP courses

Completing AP courses can be challenging. But remember, it’s not the entire equation, just a piece of it. You might be wondering if there’s anything easy about applying to an Ivy League. And actually, there is. The next Ivy League application tip is quite doable.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are an important admissions factor. It is also one of the most controllable parts of your application.

Reflect thoughtfully on who you should ask. Who knows you well both inside and outside the classroom? Who do you trust to advocate on your behalf?

Who Should Write Your Letters of Recommendation?

As you prepare for your college applications, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who can vouch for your character and integrity?
  2. Who could best write about an impact you’ve made?
  3. Who would be willing to write your letter early?

Who can vouch for your character and integrity?

Ask someone who can attest to your humanity as well as your academic expertise. Competitive colleges want students whose kindness, integrity, and humility rival their brilliance. While teachers are often capable of writing thorough, thoughtful letters of recommendation, it’s okay to think outside of the box!

Who else can attest to your work ethic and accomplishments?

ivy league Dartmouth admissions director Becky Munterer Sabky

Dartmouth admissions director, Becky Munterer Sabky

If you’ve been mentored by someone who has seen you demonstrate your expertise or evolve your passion, consider asking them for a recommendation. This might include the doctor you shadow, an internship supervisor, or an artistic mentor.

The goal, however, is to be memorable, not prestigious (everyone’s trying that).

For example, look at what former Dartmouth admissions director Becky Munterer Sabky had to say about rec letters.

In her book Valedictorians at the Gate, Sabky claimed:

“A note from a janitor will turn more heads than a form letter from the chair of the math department.”

Who could best write about an impact you’ve made?

Ideally, you want to submit personal, detailed letters of recommendation. In order to facilitate this, ask the person writing your recommendation to focus on a specific experience that demonstrates why they are recommending you.

Letters of recommendation provide college admissions officers with key insights into how you are perceived by others. They also add credibility to your application.

Who would be willing to write your letter early?

College application season is a busy time of year for students and for teachers. Keep this in mind as you formulate your letter of recommendation requests.

Start thinking about who can write your application letters EARLY. No later than the middle of your junior year. Also, be sure to ask for your letters of recommendation well before the application deadline. During the summer is a great idea. This will make sure you are well-organized and prepared. It will also demonstrate that you are respectful of your reference’s time.

Apply Early Decision

There are clear advantages to applying Early Decision and Early Action. It’s important to understand why, however, and to consider your options carefully. You will first need to know the difference between Early Decision and Early Action.

What’s the difference between Early Decision and Early Action

Both Early Decision and Early Action applications are submitted early. This is where their similarities end, however. The most important distinction to make is that Early Decision is a binding agreement. Students often apply to multiple schools through Early Action but can only submit one Early Decision college application.

Early Action

Typically, students can apply Early Action to multiple schools. This is unless one of the schools specifies that they offer restrictive Early Action, also known as Single Choice Early Action (SCEA). Students who apply Early Action communicate demonstrated interest and are thus more likely to gain admission. Early Action applicants also show college admissions officers their ability to take initiative and plan ahead.

Early Decision

Early Decision is a binding agreement with a college. Admitted students who submitted Early Decision applications are required to attend. You can only apply to one school through this program. Students who apply Early Decision are admitted at higher rates than students who apply Regular Decision. By clearly signaling demonstrated interest, Early Decision applicants are statistically more likely to receive admission.

student taking achievable act test prep course

The Ivy League Early Decision Acceptance Rate

Students who apply Early Decision and Early Action are admitted at higher rates. Let’s take a look at some statistics.

In the table below we include:

  • Class of 2025 early acceptance rates for all eight of the Ivy League schools
  • Differences between Regular Decision and Early Decision acceptance rates
School Name Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2025 Acceptance Rate Increase
Brown University 16% 10.6%
Columbia University  10% 4.9%
Cornell University (ED) 21% 10.4%
Dartmouth College (ED) 21% 14.8%
Harvard University (SCEA) 7.4% 2.9%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 15% 7.6%
Princeton University (SCEA) N/A N/A
Yale University (SCEA) 10.5% 4.6%
Reference from collegetransitions.com

The Myth of the “Well-Rounded” Student

Rachel Collins, former Stanford admissions team member

Rachel Collins, former Stanford admissions team member

Decades ago teachers and guidance counselors praised the “well-rounded student.” A well-rounded student likely manages a full course load filled with lots of AP classes and has competitive SAT scores and ACT scores, in addition to pursuing athletics, student counsel, and various volunteer opportunities.

Although impressive, these accomplishments are no longer unique.

Rachel Collins, former Standford admissions team member said this:

Overachievers are no longer the most coveted candidates. Even if they were, who among us wants to complete with 29,000 valedictorians, 29,000 salutatorians, 29,000 student body presidents, or 29,000 editors-in-chief of school newspapers.

In order to get accepted to his or her dream school, it is imperative to stand out on multiple levels, not just through good grades and test scores.

Unfortunately, it’s often not enough to be a capable, well-rounded student. The truth is, countless Ivy League applicants look exactly alike on paper. The key to knowing how to get admitted into the Ivy League is to learn how to stand out by cultivating your unique passions and abilities. We’ve listed a guide below to help you do that.

What Are Ivy League Colleges Looking For?

This is the truth: Ivy League colleges want to admit students who will change the world. This is why college websites proudly list notable alumni.

Take Princeton University for example:

Both Michelle Obama and Jeff Bezos graduated from Princeton. Furthermore, Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald and even former President John F. Kennedy and Woodrow Wilson also call Princeton their alma mater.

That’s just five names from one Ivy League college.

Yet, it goes to show you the kind of caliber of student the Ivy League colleges look for. Ivy League colleges work hard to maintain their prestige and reputations.

One of the key ways they are able to accomplish this is by doing their best to admit students who will contribute meaningfully to the colleges’ reputations in the future. You have to somehow show an Ivy League admission officer that you’re a game changer.

But how do you do that?

The most effective way to convince colleges you are capable of changing the world is by changing your slice of the world. For example, if you are a talented writer, hyperfocus on your craft.

Submit your short stories to notable literary magazines, start and manage your own student publication, complete a summer internship at a notable publishing house, and commit to a consistent, vigorous writing schedule.

Impress college admission committees by having a portfolio of published writing and winning writing awards and competitions.

As a science student, you’ll have lots of potential projects to choose from. Suppose you are passionate about environmental science and land management. In that case, you may consider a project such as the following:

Start a nonprofit that partners with landowners to provide community garden spaces and a sustainable food forest in town. Then record a series of podcasts exploring your nonprofit’s inner workings and interviewing local politicians and policymakers about conservation concerns.

Of course, these are only a few examples. There will be lots of different projects to choose from, regardless of your interests. Reflect thoughtfully on your passions as you brainstorm and design potential projects. Pursue activities that showcase your unique talents and expertise. Your project can then demonstrate that your expertise is actively changing your community. Then you just have to show that in your application. Read below to find out how.

How to Stand Out to Ivy League Colleges

So, now for the final question:

What does your college application need to get you into the Ivy League?

As you might have guessed, there’s no short answer. It’s more like a combination of long answers combined with an “it depends.” However, we’ve done our best to condense that into a reasonably short checklist. Before you read this checklist, note that this is in addition to the previous points we made about letters of recommendation, GPA, ACT/SAT scores, etc.

To attend an Ivy League college, your college application must communicate three things:

  1. Passion
  2. Skill
  3. Impact

Ivy League colleges struggle to deny students when their applications include these qualities. So, it’s essential your application contains these ingredients.

Out of these three application ingredients, the first one is the easiest to demonstrate in a college application.

Passion: Ivy League Ingredient #1

In strategizing your application narrative, passion is paramount. You want to communicate that you care deeply about something outside of the classroom. I met one student who enjoyed politics and debate. She wielded words with incredible fluency, loved public speaking, and even organized political speaking events.

When it came time to pick the focus of her application, she chose international politics. This was easy to do. She’d organized several protests and rallies in her hometown. One of her peaceful protests even made the state news. But it wasn’t her general political enthusiasm that got her on the news. Her passion was far more specific.

ivy league hopeful students taking action

Her main interest was in South Asian military conflict. Her singular focus singled her out from her other peers applying to top schools. Yes, organizing these events took work. However, her college application communicated the genuine passion she possessed. Subsequently, she received great offers from incredibly competitive colleges.

Ivy League Colleges respect these kinds of specified interests. If your application demonstrates these interests, it will go far in raising the eyebrows of the admissions committee reviewing your application. Make sure your passion meets this checklist:

◻ The passion is pursued outside of the classroom

◻ You genuinely care about it

◻ It involves changing, helping, creating, or improving something

If your passion checks the boxes above, you’re ready to move on to the next ingredient.

Skill: Ivy League Ingredient #2

Demonstrating your skills in conjunction with your passion is another Ivy league imperative. After all, passion by itself is easy. Anyone can have a passion for something. Remember, the Ivy League wants students who aren’t like most applicants.

ivy league student painting

Skills matter more than passion if you want to get into the Ivy League.

They want the exceptional.

Many have passion. Few, however, will devote the time and energy to turn their passion into marketable skills.

For example, what’s the difference between a reader and a writer?

Generally, writing requires more skill than reading. To illustrate, let’s say you’re a passionate fiction reader. Great! Reading is an incredibly beneficial habit.

Yet, it’s a passive habit. You grab a book, sit down, and read what someone else has written for you to consume. Writing is a different animal entirely. It’s active and intentional. Even bad writing cannot be called a passive exercise. Each word is a choice, and every sentence written, no matter how clumsy or eloquent, would never have existed if a writer didn’t intentionally choose to write them.

So, let’s say you developed some sharp writing skills. Perhaps you even start a blog about something you’re passionate about (perhaps about being an avid fiction reader). Maybe you’re a fiction writer and you write a novel and secure a publisher. Perhaps you’re good enough to win a city or statewide writing contest, maybe even a national competition.

Remember though, you don’t have to be a writer; you just have to be good at something. Or better yet, you just have to get good at something. And I don’t mean having natural talent, I mean the specific expertise that takes time to master.

Ask yourself these questions, and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Anyone can read a book, but how many students have written one?
  • Anyone can use a computer, but how many can code software?
  • Anyone can use a microscope, but how many have published microbiological research?
  • Anyone can watch a documentary, but how many have filmed and produced one?

Do you see how this might impress an admissions officer? Passions are good, but they become great when combined with skill. If your application possesses both, you’re inching closer to the Ivy League.

Impact: Ivy League Ingredient #3

The Ivy League recruits students who they believe will change or impact the world.

Remember, getting into Harvard or Princeton isn’t about what those colleges can do for you. The secret is explicitly communicating what you can do for those colleges. We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: The Ivy League recruits students who will change the world.

They’re considered the elite of US colleges. So, they want people who will represent their elite brands.

To attend an Ivy League University, you have to show the Ivy League that you’ll make an impact. So then, how can an Ivy League admissions team know if a student will make an impact?

Answer: Students who will change the world are most likely the students who have already made an impact of some kind.

Impact is the operative word here. You must make a difference. With that said, you don’t have to cure cancer or fix climate change (but go ahead if you’re able). But what if you did something impactful in your community?

Impacting your neighborhood, city, or even state is much easier than changing the world.

Impact Projects and “Specialist” Applicants

To boost your chances of getting into the Ivy League, your impact project must have these traits:

  • Demonstrate your passion outside of school
  • Utilize a unique set of skills
  • Make a positive impact in your community

Here are some examples of making an Ivy League impact project:

  • Creating your own fitness app
  • Organize local political rallies or peaceful protests
  • Creating a youtube channel or podcast that teaches people something
  • Make a documentary about a historic house in your city or neighborhood
  • Make art mural tutorials on a TikTok account

The bigger the difference you make, the bigger the boost on your application. To do this, identify your passion and develop the skills needed to follow it. Colleges understand that there are only so many hours in a day. As such, exceptional college applicants are not always equally good at everything. In fact, they rarely, if ever, are.

Again, colleges don’t want the well-rounded student anymore! They haven’t for ages. The Ivy League colleges want a class of specialists. Let’s take a look at what a “specialist” applicant might look like.

Applicant A:

  • Impressive research abilities
  • Several published articles featured in scientific journals
  • Struggles in English and French classes

The fact that this student struggles in certain classes will not greatly decrease their chances of acceptance. Especially if they demonstrate extraordinary focus and passion.

Applicant B:

  • A talented painter whose work has been featured in several gallery openings
  • Above average ACT score, but not a perfect scorer
  • Founded and teaches an art class at their local community center

Due to this student’s talent and recognition in the art world, they do not necessarily need a perfect ACT score to be considered a competitive applicant.

Keep these examples in mind as you make plans and manage your time. Try not to take on too many responsibilities. Rather, give yourself time, space, and permission to hyperfocus on something important to you.

Designing Your Own Impact Project

As you prepare for your senior year and college applications, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your key strengths and passions?
  • How can you spend more time and energy investing in your passion?
  • What are some goals or projects you could pursue to demonstrate your commitment to a subject, activity, or cause?
  • If you could make a difference, what would it look like?

Allow yourself to focus on your passions and set ambitious goals. College admissions officers are impressed by initiative, perseverance, and authenticity. The work you do should feel meaningful and worthwhile.

Yes, you are trying to impress college admissions committees, but instead, focus your attention on working powerfully and purposefully toward making a difference.

The Ivy League Takeaways

The Ivy League colleges want to educate students who will make a lasting impact. Ivy Leagues are less interested in admitting well-rounded students than they are in creating well-rounded student bodies. So, avoid trying to be a well-rounded student. Finally, the best way to convince Ivy League colleges that you have what it takes to make a difference is by actively taking strides towards actually making a difference.

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