How do I get into Stanford/Princeton/Yale/(insert other top school)?
September 2nd, 2014
You would not believe how many of my friends ask me this question, and you would not believe how many of my friends think they know the answer to this question.
The real answer is that there is no magic formula for being accepted into the country’s most prestigious schools. However, after researching a lot about students that get into these schools, here are a few simple Do’s and Don’t’s:
- Get extremely good grades all throughout high school. Most students that are accepted into these colleges are crazy high-achievers with nearly straight-A’s and several AP/IB classes. Easier said than done, right? Maybe it’s too late to fix your lousy freshman year grades. If that’s the case, then make sure to keep an upward trend on your achievement. Show that you are willing to put in the commitment in the years where it counts the most.
- Get high test scores. Very few students at these colleges achieved lower than an 1800 composite on all 3 parts of the SAT. Most have over a score of 2100. Although most of the knowledge used on these tests is acquired throughout your years of schooling, it does not hurt to take an SAT/ACT prep course or self-study for the test.
- Follow your passion in high school. And, by “follow your passion,” I mean do what you really love to do. Don’t join the robotics team at your school just because you think it will look good on your resume. Join the robotics team because you are honestly passionate about robotics! Joining clubs you aren’t interested in will leave you bored, unhappy, and miserable. Students that are accepted into top schools are students who put hundreds of hours into an activity that they really enjoyed doing.
- Write amazing essays. Essays are not only the place where colleges see how well you can express ideas; essays can fill in the gaps of your application. If you had a major hardship in your life that prevented you from getting good grades in high school, write about it! These schools aren’t just looking for “geniuses,” they’re now, more than ever, looking for real people who know how to fight for their goals and achieve in the face of adversity.
- Have your parents do everything for you. These schools are looking for self-motivated students that will do well when on their own in college.
- Join 200 clubs and organizations trying to “improve your resume.” Honestly, when these colleges see that you are in so many clubs, they don’t see anything that you have done, only that you have spread yourself too thin. If you think about it, if you dedicate yourself to dozens of clubs, how are you going to have time to make a serious impact with any of them? A much better route, not only for your college resume, but for your happiness in high school is to find your 1 or 2 things you are extremely passionate about, and do those to the fullest.
- Think that you have no shot. As stated before, colleges are looking for a diverse population of students, which means kids that come from every walk of life. Even if you think your grades aren’t up to par, the other areas of your life can help make up for the missing pieces. There is also no harm in applying to a school and seeing what happens. You may just be pleasantly surprised.
- Think that you are a shoe-in. No person is a shoe-in for the most prestigious schools. It’s important to understand that tens of thousands of high-achieving students apply to these schools and that your chances of getting in, regardless of who you are, are slim. I read a story of one girl who applied to only Ivy League colleges and was so scared when she was rejected by all except one. Luckily, she was accepted by one, but imagine if she hadn’t been? Don’t put yourself in that situation. Plan for anything to happen.
- Try to be somebody that you are not. Embrace yourself and show who you really are as a person. You are not going to succeed in trying to put up a facade to these colleges. Show your strengths in your application and know that who you are is good enough!
There will be more follow-up posts about this subject. Just remember, even if you don’t get into the Ivy League school of your dreams, it’s not the end of the world. These top schools are amazing places with amazing opportunities, but that does not mean you cannot find similar opportunities elsewhere.
If you are rejected by one of these schools, just remember that about 90% of the other applicants are in the exact same boat as you. Ninety percent! Think about how many amazing kids don’t go to Ivy Leagues, but still find success in life. It’s not the college that accepts you that defines you, it’s you that defines you; find a place where you will be able to succeed as yourself.