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How to succeed with your Ivy League Application?



Ivy League schools are an exclusive set of eight universities that have been in existence since the early 1930s in America. These schools are:

  • Harvard University (Massachusetts)
  • Yale University (Connecticut)
  • Princeton University (New Jersey)
  • Columbia University (New York)
  • Brown University (Rhode Island)
  • Dartmouth College (New Hampshire)
  • University of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania)
  • Cornell University (New York)

These schools are highly selective in their admission process, with acceptance rates as low as 3.42%. This means that out of 42,749 applicants, only 1665 students are actually accepted into the program, so the competition is intense and fierce.

While academics are paramount, a successful Ivy League application must also have impressive extracurricular accomplishments on record to make the final cut. It is a fact that nearly 25% of a positive admission outcome hinges on the applicant’s extracurricular activities for this exclusive set of schools.

Eyeing your Extracurricular Profile through the Ivy Oculus

There’s a misconception that all extracurricular activities are assessed with the same yardstick, a misnomer at best. Ivy schools have select criteria that clearly distinguish between these engagements, measurable by impact, range, and the level of distinction.

  • 1st – National and international ranked merit
  • 2nd – State Level merit
  • 3rd – Community and Group level merit
  • 4th – Participatory

So typically, having the right balance of this mix, with the most minor contribution of the last two categories, makes for a solid extracurricular profile. Most students who make it to the admission list of the Ivy Leagues report that a balanced mix of extracurriculars, with the least contribution from the last category, contributes to a winning profile.

Extracurriculars – Making them Count

The extracurricular activities often define the soft areas of the candidate, the personality, areas of interest, ability to initiate and sustain an activity, create impact in one’s area of interest, and expansion of one’s sphere of influence. The extracurricular activities are mainly undertaken to build one’s personality and network beyond the academic prescriptions.
The extracurricular activities can be prioritized based on the importance of the skill demonstrated through the engagement.

#1 Leadership

The ability of a student to helm projects, take ideas forward, and build support networks, with teams and through peer support, to create meaningful impact is actually a great extracurricular to feature in one’s Ivy application. In this order, the leadership experience must be sustained and have a measurable impact on the community, society, state and nation, and the world. The wider the impact of one’s activity, the greater the sway of influence one holds in the Ivy application, the operative word being ‘pervasive impact.’ Initiatives, such as starting a nonprofit, running a fundraiser, or spearheading a program within a charity fall, are widely associated with this quality.

#2 Prodigious Ability

Ivy League schools are interested in students with one or more highly-developed passions, demonstrating a clearly-defined pathway and a track record of success. One can be gifted in Mathematics, playing an instrument, or even possess an uncanny ability to sing with mathematical precision. Such students find themselves uniquely positioned to make the most of the offerings at an Ivy League school, and thus, these students are actively sought and engaged by the applicant pool.

#3 Diverse, Eclectic Interests

Well-rounded students can be the bane of the Ivy Leagues if they really did want to stick to a personality type or a strict prescription, which they do not, by the way. Ivy League universities appreciate the views of one who is both flexible yet unyielding, a body who knows their mind and sticks to it. For example, the case of Bill Gates, who is renowned for having a razor-sharp acumen and reputed to be a deft negotiator with an eye on the bottom line, always. Yet, Mr. Gates is committed to charity through his foundation, where he pledges support and funds to thousands of charities and burning causes across the globe. An astute, powerful businessman with a for-profit business who uses a chunk of the profits for his charity work is a solid example of diverse interests. If you can do one better, you can be assured of your admission to the Ivy of your choosing.

As a word of caution, it is also pertinent to note that nearly all colleges have different yet defined expectations when ascertaining their ‘ideal’ applicant in terms of attributes. Most notably, this year onwards, Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion have taken center stage at the Ivy League schools, especially those with top-tier business schools, like Harvard, Stanford, UPenn. In cinching the right mix of extracurriculars, it would be judicious to throw the correct light upon your profile to accentuate the attributes your chosen Ivy League varsity seeks for a perfect fit.

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