What does it take to enter an Ivy League? Admission is more competitive than ever

Last week, every school in the Ivy League released their early action and early decision results. As expected, the acceptance rates were incredibly low. At Yale, for example, 800 students out of a pool of 7,288 were offered admission, while 31% of early applicants were deferred and 57% were rejected, according to the Yale Daily News.

In Yale’s case, the 2021 early action candidate pool was the second largest in its history, following a record 7,939 candidates last year when it adopted a optional testing policy due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most students think that applying early is a sure-fire way to increase their chances of admission.

But that doesn’t necessarily equate to higher chances of admission. If a student has below average grades or test scores for their planned school, they should not fall into the trap that applying early will help undo a lower profile. In fact, they will most likely stand out less in the first round, as this is usually a more qualified pool of candidates than the regular decision round.

Highly qualified applicants are turned down by the thousands every year at top schools. If students with high GPAs and perfect test scores are rejected, what exactly are Ivy League schools looking for?

Photo credit: Roberta Seiler

The answer is anything but simple. To get your foot in the door of the best schools, GPAs and competitive test scores are the “foundation” of a solid application. But the less concrete and more qualitative aspects of an application – what a candidate has done outside of school – often makes the difference between acceptance and rejection.

Extracurricular Profiles are made up of qualitative elements including intellectual curiosity and exploration, genuine and demonstrated passions, community leadership, and how a student has made the most of the resources at their disposal. Has a student demonstrated genuine passion for a topic or cause? Did they spend the time and energy creating something impactful out of their passions? Have they made a difference in their communities? These are the questions admissions officers at top schools ask themselves when screening thousands of qualified applicants.

To give a better idea of ​​what exactly a successful application looks like, here are three examples of students who have worked successfully with Leadership education, an elite college consultancy firm based in New York and Miami, to gain admission into the school of their dreams. Names and details have been changed to protect student privacy.

The focus on extracurricular development has resulted in Command Education having a 100% admission rate for all of its first applicants to Harvard this year.

  1. Michelle came to Leadership education in second year at a large private school in Connecticut. She was an academically competitive student with a rigorous course load, but had a few B’s on her transcript. She also played on her school’s lacrosse team and had several volunteer experiences in her hometown. Her academic interests were in history and politics, and she wanted help to develop and extend those interests outside of school. With the guidance of her Command Education mentor, and after much thought and personal experience with the issue, Michelle decided to dedicate herself to the Syrian refugee crisis. She developed a non-profit organization that raised funds to support the dreams of refugees who had fled their countries of origin, using the funds to support several refugee families. She continued to develop her project throughout her junior and senior years and even produced a short film on the refugee issue in the summer before her senior year. She was eventually admitted to the school of her dreams, Yale University.
  2. Arjun was an international student who started working with Leadership education in his first year of internship. He was an excellent student, at the top of his class, with a GPA of 4.0 and a passion for business and finance. His dream schools were Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania or NYU Stern. With his mentor, he began by thinking about ways to make an impact on his community through his passion for finance. After some thought, Arjun decided to start a financial literacy project to educate young people about the importance of understanding how to manage money. Her project ended up partnering with dozens of schools across the country and helped educate hundreds of students about financial literacy. Academically, Arjun continued to achieve top grades in his high school and eventually graduated as a valedictorian. He received early admission to Wharton.
  3. Maggie was in her freshman year at competitive school in Los Angeles when she started working with Leadership education. She loved to surf, was interested in marine biology and was passionate about environmental awareness. With the guidance of her mentor, she started an organization dedicated to educating adolescents about climate change and environmental damage, and organized events in her community such as beach cleanups. She was ultimately able to expand her organization to five chapters nationwide, culminating in a promotional video featuring members of her organization encouraging teens around the world to take action. Last year, she was admitted to Early Decision at Brown University.

Although they all had very different profiles, the students above all demonstrated convincing “qualitative” components in their applications. More importantly, none of these students participated in activities that did not interest them. They all joined clubs they loved and started projects on topics they were passionate about, rather than focusing on activities they thought admissions officers would like. This is the main differentiator between successful and unsuccessful applications to top schools – Ivy League admissions officers have fine-tuned radars for spoofed or inauthentic profiles. The best way to ensure that an application does not get flagged is simple: Students should devote their time and energy to the topics that are of real interest to them. It takes a lot of work to build a successful project and have a real impact on a community. To carry out these efforts successfully, students must be genuinely passionate and care about the work they are doing. Add to that strong GPA and test scores, and students can dramatically increase their chances of seeing that “Congratulations!” »Sought after. on their admission decision.

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