How to Get into Ivy League Schools

Columbia University Library with people on the foreground.

Flickr user Blue387

It is no easy feat to be accepted to the Ivy League and top-tier universities throughout the U.S. The Ivy League acceptance rates are very low compared to other schools. Just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean it’s not possible! So, how to get into ivy league schools? Well, thousands of students get accepted into elite universities each year, and you have a chance too. If you’re in high school, it’s time to start thinking about ways to increase your odds of getting accepted. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind while exploring your college options!

Even Top Students Get Turned Away

The admission rate for Stanford University and Princeton University hovers around 5%. It is not uncommon for a valedictorian to be rejected by prestigious schools. The valedictorian and their parents are always shocked when this occurs. How could a student with a perfect GPA, test scores, and overall academic excellence be rejected?

The answer is simple.

There are nearly 40,000 high schools across the country. That means 40,000 valedictorians. With only eight Ivy League universities, the number of valedictorians is more than three times the number of open slots. This means that these highly selective universities turn down students who are “perfect on paper” all the time. Being valedictorian is great, but it is not enough to warrant admission to the most selective colleges in the country.

Academics are the first hurdle to overcome in the college admissions process, but there are additional hurdles.

The Myth of the Well-Rounded Student

Countless parents and counselors advise their students to be well-rounded, in terms of their academics, participation in numerous sports and extracurricular activities, etc.

We suggest that you do the exact opposite.

Most students work hard on improving their weaknesses. They try to present an adequate skill level across all areas. As a result, they are mediocre at most things. The well-rounded strategy backfires in most cases because the student comes across to the admissions officers as average in all fields and does not shine in any one field.

Harvard and other top-tier schools are not average, so why would they accept an average student?

Find Your Focus

We advise that students work diligently on their strengths. Forget about striving to be well-rounded. We see “pointy” students gaining admission to the top universities in the country. They are exceptional in one, maybe two areas.

This strategy takes time to implement; it requires persistence and dedication to become a specialist in your field, and that is the exact reason why it is so extraordinary. The first time Tiger Woods picked up a golf club he was not a pro. Even Pablo Picasso had to start somewhere.

Your dream school wants to know that you are willing to put in consistent, sustained effort in your chosen field until you achieve the kind of success that makes you stand out among your peers. ‘Pointy’ students demonstrate that they have the direction, and the passion, and have laid the groundwork to do this. That is why they have preferred candidates for any university.

Colleges Want a Well-Rounded Class

Top universities seek specialists: individuals who are so driven by one aspect or one field that they are enthusiastic about devoting their entire time and attention to achieving outstanding results in that area.

By choosing different students with ambition, initiative, and demonstrated skills in different areas, the college builds a class that is well-rounded yet made up of ‘pointy’ students.

The most innovative companies in the world – such as Apple, Google, and Amazon – follow the same strategy. They hire “pointy” candidates.

The “pointy” students stand out, not just in college admissions, but in life! Besides being this type of student, here are other ways you can increase your chances of getting into an Ivy League School.

How to Get Into an Ivy League School: 5 Practical Steps

1. Start Early

A mistake we often see from students is they did not put in the effort throughout high school. Your GPA plays a huge role in your admissions application so working hard from the beginning will put you ahead. Otherwise, you’ll have to work twice as hard to get your GPA back up. 

2. Take Practice Tests

Prepare for the SAT and ACT as early as possible. Even if you understand the materials, getting used to the testing rules and environment is important. Especially if you’re not a good test-taker, you’ll want to get used to taking them. SAT or ACT scores need to be in a certain range for Ivy League schools. Take the real ACT and SATs to see if you can achieve a higher score to help your chances of getting into your dream school. The average SAT score for Brown University students is around 1440-1560 while the average ACT score is 33-35.

3. Be Authentic in Your Personal Statement

The Ivy League admissions officers at these top universities have read countless admissions essays and personal statements from students. Show authenticity in your personal statement instead of trying to “beef up” your story. This will help you in your interview when they ask you questions and you can answer with the whole and real truth. 

4. Practice Interviewing

Speaking with your dream school’s admissions counselors can be intimidating. Have your parents, teacher, or mentor do a mock interview with commonly asked questions to help you. When you’re more comfortable during your interview, you seem more confident in yourself and your academic performance. This will also help you be more conversational in your interview rather than robotic. 

5. Get Involved

Yes, we said students should be more “pointy” rather than well-rounded so picking a few skills early in your high school career will help you out. Get involved in activities you’re interested in and want to invest your time in for the next few years. Sharpen these skills to excel and show your dedication to your application. 

Overall, everyone knows how difficult it is to get into an Ivy League school. By following these tips, you’ll increase your chances of getting accepted. Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!

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