College application season is approaching, which means thousands of students will soon be fighting for the few coveted seats at the nation’s most selective colleges, the eight Ivies.
While many students think scoring an acceptance revolves around boasting the highest GPA, hours of community service and a winding list of extracurricular activities, the truth is,
it takes a lot more than that. We spoke with admissions counselor, Danny Ruderman for the recipe to Ivy League success.
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Think beyond numbers
When it comes to getting into an Ivy League, “the numbers just aren’t enough,” says Ruderman. After all, “Admissions officers are going to thumb through 25,000 students with perfect A’s and really great test scores.” The last thing they want to see is another applicant with nothing but top-notch grades. What they’re more interested in is what you’ve done to follow your passions outside of the classroom. “They want to see that you pursue certain projects on your own and that you’re a go-getter.” So if you like to write screenplays in your spare time, or enjoy
coding and creating video games, explain those passion projects, says the expert. Anything you can do to demonstrate that you have an authentic interest in a niche activity will help you stand out from the piles of generic applications touting record-setting GPAs.
Don’t be afraid to talk about challenges
A lot of kids think giving off an air of flawlessness will help them get into college. “They think that their essays are supposed to say, ‘I am the perfect student, I have never experienced anything bad and I will rock it if I get into your school,’” explains Ruderman. Except that’s not true. In fact, explaining how you overcame a major challenge can be very beneficial. “If you struggled with a learning disability, but you achieved in school anyway, or you had a family tragedy that resulted in your grades dipping during your sophomore year and then you rebounded and became even stronger — tell that story,” says the college expert. Admissions officers want to see character, “and nothing reveals character more than conflict.”
Go big with supplemental material
The standard college application can only reveal so much. That’s why it’s important that students jump on any chance they get to submit supplemental material. “But that doesn’t mean sending over a video introducing yourself and saying ‘I’m awesome,’” explains Ruderman. Admissions officers want to see clear examples of your skills. If you’re someone who’s obsessed with storytelling, try turning in the first chapter of your working novel, says the expert. You can even send over a video of you performing in a school play if you’ve got a knack for theater. At the end of the day, he explains, it’s all about highlighting your individuality.