Ivy League Dreams?

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Ivy League schools are well-known, highly sought after, and extremely difficult to get in to.

Yet, every year, thousands of applicants pour in to apply for Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, UPenn, Brown, Cornell, and Dartmouth. Hopeful applicants dream of attending one of these prestigious schools, aspiring to follow the paths of many U.S. Presidents, famous scholars, researchers, entrepreneurs, actors, and more.

The chances of getting into an Ivy League school are slim. It is easy to apply and be hopeful, but if you do aspire to attend one of these schools, it is best to start charting the course to your Ivy League success VERY (and we mean VERY) early on into your high school (and possibly even middle school) career.

There are plenty of things you need to do to get into an Ivy League school. A skeleton version of steps you’ll need to take can be found below. However, we recommend reading up on our detailed Ivy League material in order to gain a better understanding of what the process is really like.

  1. Excellent GPA. (Top 10 of your class)
  2. Even better SAT or ACT score (Yes, we mean nearly perfect or at least high up there)
  3. Phenomenal extracurriculars (Not just that you joined a book club or volunteered once or twice to tutor)
  4. Rocking letters of recommendation
  5. A little something extra (something that will make the admissions team remember you)

What can be considered a leadership position?

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Leadership positions and those opportunities can vary depending on where you live and which school you attend. Yet, the concept is similar.

Great leadership positions for your resume often involve those that are considered the top ranks: President, Captain, Director, etc. These can often make the biggest impact on how colleges see you. You can even be more specific depending on the role you handled as long as you can describe what you did during this role on your application and show the impact you made and the commitment you made to the role.

Other leadership positions could be cabinet positions: treasurer, secretary, liaison, ambassador, vice-president, etc.

Furthermore, you can have positions specific to certain organizations: Drum Major, Woodwind Captain, Debate Coach, Theater Dance Leader, etc.

A leadership position is essentially a title given to you/assigned to you for an action that you are responsible for doing. So as long as you have a name for it and you can effectively describe what you did in this role, you should be good to go!

Regular courses versus Honors versus AP… what’s the difference on my GPA?

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This can be a tricky scale to balance when it comes to building a resume. In personal experience, I chose to take a regular band class for all four years of high school that was horrendous for my GPA… yet, it provided me with a great resume builder particularly because I took the class for four years and excelled in it as a member of the top band and participated in band leadership/marching band. So, it depends on you.

AP courses trump Honors courses and Honors courses trump Regular. This is all dependent on your grades as well. So don’t assume a D in an AP class is better off than a B in an Honors course.

A lot of extracurriculars including band, theater, art, etc. may be regular courses for a period of time or for the entirety of your high school experience. What you should NOT do is take random regular elective courses once a year and assume that colleges will look well upon you. This won’t show commitment. Choose to take art for all four years, theater for all four, or band etc. Show that even though it was a regular class/elective, that you intended to be there because you were dedicated to it. NOT, because it was easy.

Core classes such as math, science, social studies, and English should be taken honors or AP if possible. If not, intend to show commitment to these regular classes.

 

How Do I Know What School to Go To?

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This is a question that’s certainly important when considering the topic of college. You should choose your school based on three major points: the academic level of the school, the financial aspect of attending the school, and more importantly, the school’s reputation/campus/overall likeability to you.

It is important to choose a school where you will have the best academic resources possible for your desired major. We wouldn’t recommend attending a school that specializes in Engineering for a student who really wants to study music. It simply wouldn’t make sense. Furthermore, you want your school to provide you with internship opportunities and connections that will help you find jobs and get into graduate programs for those who wish to continue their education even further.

Financing your education is also important because, without the money to attend, there is no way you can attend! Which schools will offer scholarships? Which schools have grants? Which schools can get you access to private scholarships? Consider the above in your decision.

Finally, the overall message of the school. If you have narrowed your options down and have two schools that are similar on financial and academic levels, you have to decide which school is the one you want to spend four years at. Do you want a big school or a small school? Are you inclined to attend sports games or would you much rather study in one of the campuses large libraries? The choice is simply yours.

I need extracurriculars, where should I start?

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This is difficult to answer because it all depends on your circumstances. The Student Counsel recommends a five-step process in determining what extracurricular activities will best reflect your interests and higher-education hopes.

  1. Determine what you would be interested in spending a LOT of time doing. For an extracurricular activity to be effective on your college resume, it has to carry a lot of weight with it. The activity you participate in will be all the more effective the more you spend time doing it. For example, volunteering twice a year at a local fundraiser won’t be as effective as volunteering three times a month for two years at a children’s hospital. Make sure you find an activity, project, or organization that you won’t dread spending time doing.
  2. Availability is key when it comes to an extracurricular activity. Depending on your circumstances, you may not be able to spend a lot of time on extracurricular activities. Make sure that when picking an extracurricular you will be able to easily get to and from the extracurricular and make time to truly be a part of the activity. Signing up for marching band and simultaneously having a part-time job with conflicting times won’t work out well for you. Plan out exactly what time you have for your activity, how you will get there, and how it will conflict with your other responsibilities.
  3. Leader or a Follower? This is a huge question to ask yourself when deciding what you want to be a part of. In most school activities that you choose to join or volunteer activities, you decide to partake in, you will be forced to initially be a follower because you are joining a previously founded organization. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can work your way up in the organization and make an impact by having a leadership position, etc. in the future. Yet, it isn’t YOUR creation. Think about having a variety of these activities on your resume. Be a creator and a follower. For more information on this, see our posts about creative extracurriculars and mainstream extracurriculars.
  4. Make the Best out of it. Whatever you do, don’t just join an organization for the sake of joining an organization. Please do what you can to immerse yourself in the inner workings of the organization. Make a difference. Build networks.
  5. Time. Now that you have joined an organization, ensure that you track the time you spent there in order to be accurate when applying for college applications. You have to ensure that you have devoted enough time to this that you can obtain a letter recommendation from this experience. A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t feel comfortable enough to ask for a letter of recommendation, you probably haven’t devoted enough time to the extracurricular activity.

Question: When should I start planning for my college applications?

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The answer is simple: as soon as you can! Whether it be from your freshman year to your senior year, we recommend that you begin the process of figuring out what you want your resume and academic record to look like well before you actually start filling out the application.

We recommend that you pinpoint certain extracurriculars, internships, and volunteer opportunities you want to commit to early on so that you can build a credible record for college applications. The key is to show your commitment and dedication to whatever activity you chose to be a part of.

As far as academic achievements, depending on your ability and comfort, try to take the most challenging classes available to you. Whatever class you take, whether it be AP, Honors, or regular, you should try and achieve the highest grades you can. Planning is key to having a great college application, so the earlier you start, the better your chances will be.