The Ivy League is an athletic union of American educational institutes based in the northeastern United States, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia University. Many people mistakenly believe that MIT and Stanford are members of this union. Although we refer to these institutes in this article, they are not.
There are a number of factors that will determine your acceptance to the Ivy League or other elite institutes. Here we will discuss the best approach. Let’s start with your GPA.
Of course, your GPA is a cornerstone of your application. But is your app a house of cards without it? Not necessarily. Why are some students with a GPA of 4.0 rejected, while others with a GPA of less than 3 are accepted? Because the value of the courses you took are often equal in value to your result. Because your application must demonstrate an extracurricular pedigree.
Your record at the school should show academic rigor, don’t opt for the easiest courses. A prescribed high school pathway featuring 4 years of the core subjects, English, mathematics and science, is best complemented by 4 years devoted to history and learning a foreign language.
That brings us to Extra-Curriculars.
Those damn extracurriculars
Meet John. John has a 2.7 GPA and equally average SAT scores. Although John was never the best student, he excelled in sports, serving as captain of his baseball, basketball, and soccer teams, winning awards for his athletic ability. It is these strengths that secured his place at Harvard. Meanwhile, many thousands of students are turned away each year with outstanding academic achievement.
The stories of a sub-3 GPA who graduated from Harvard are the exception, but there is a moral to this story. If two students are equal academically, colleges, like employers, will go for the candidate who has held leadership roles or shown an extracurricular peak. Without these features, your app will be lost.
Unfortunately, you will have to consider the cost to attend the school of your dreams. Fortunately, however, the world’s most prestigious schools often have the largest financial aid endowments. Consider Harvard, which has a financial aid budget of $172,000,000. This aid is reserved for students whose parents earn less than $60,000 per year. The net result means that the cost of attending actually equals or exceeds 90% of other colleges. Before you prepare your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application, you’ll need to know where you stand.
What about the Reach schools?
Universities with low admission rates, including Harvard and Yale, are considered ‘Reach Schools’. A ‘Match School’ is one that has a high probability of acceptance. Identifying catch-up schools and compatible schools is smart advanced planning.
Perhaps your heart is set on attending Yale. You may dream of being published in the Yale Law Review before you run for Congress. Students negotiate a path to their dreams each year. Likewise, there are students who don’t make it to their dream school without Plan B. Identify other institutes with a respected track record of graduating the best minds in their field.
When creating a shortlist of schools, it’s wise to assess the graduate success students are likely to experience. Let’s take MIT. While the US economy is struggling and jobs are scarce, MIT is bucking the trend. Studies show that only 20% of students find employment upon graduation. However, MIT students are doing better than the national average and on-campus hiring is still prevalent.
However, the idea that your graduate success depends purely on your education is wrong. History is made up of those who defy the rules and define their own path. Whether they’re a Harvard reject, Warren Buffet, or a Princeton reject, Ted Turner. So you don’t need to graduate from the Ivy League to be successful… But it helps.