Most students know they need to achieve superb grades and score well on standardized tests to get into Ivy League Schools.
But what else do Ivy Leagues look for in prospective, qualified students? What can high school students do now to make their applications more competitive?
This article will focus on tips outside of grades and test scores to help you prepare yourself to create a winning application to Ivy League colleges and universities.
While Ivy League schools do not necessarily require that you take specific courses, admissions officers do want to see two qualities in your high school courses: 1) consistency and 2) challenge.
As James W. Lewis suggests in his book College Admission--How to Get Into Your Dream School: Real Students, Real Stories, crafting a four-year plan as a high school student will help you map out your high school experience to become the strongest possible candidate for the school of your choice.
If you choose to create a four-year plan, you can make consistent and challenging courses a priority and discover what you find most fun and interesting about learning.
Consider taking courses in English, mathematics, social science, laboratory science, and a foreign language all four years of high school. This will show Ivy League admissions officers that you have baseline knowledge in all these courses and that you are committed to your education.
Along with taking consistent courses, you should also show on your transcript that you have consistently challenged yourself by taking progressively more difficult courses throughout high school.
For example, if you take Honors English for a couple years, consider taking AP English next. In general, taking challenging AP and IB courses in areas that interest you most will help demonstrate your desire to continue learning at a higher and higher level.
Your courses in high school should reveal your interests as a student. This means you do not necessarily have to take all AP and IB courses, but you should definitely take the most challenging courses available to you in areas of study you are most interested in pursuing.
Meanwhile, your electives should also showcase your interests and passions, which will likely coincide with your admissions essay.
Ivy League Schools look for well-written admissions essays that reveal a student’s particular interests, demonstrate a clear desire to study at a specific college or university, and are interesting to read.
Though you definitely do not need to start writing your essay years in advance, you can cultivate all the qualities and experiences you will write about by taking certain steps throughout your high school career.
Ivy League Schools look for students who demonstrate passion in a specific area and have remained committed to that subject throughout high school.
If you love drama, for example, continue taking drama classes, participate in community theatre, and teach children’s improvisation courses. Show consistency with high school sports. Demonstrate your love of singing by joining your school’s traveling choir.
Whatever your passion is, pursue it to the fullest, and your dream school’s admissions officers will surely take note.
All schools, but especially Ivy League schools, look for applicants who show a clear and specific interest in what those schools offer from research opportunities and classes to volunteer and study abroad programs.
Make sure you do your research about your dream school, both online and in person if you can. Take college and university tours to gain more information about your dream school and why you want to go there.
By knowing exactly which programs, courses, and professors excite you and what elements of the campus you love most, your admissions essay will have extra magic and really show your dream school why you are an ideal candidate.
Beyond the writing you complete in high school, you can also practice your writing skills by taking extra writing courses, keeping a journal, or writing for fun.
Read books by authors with writing styles you love, and experiment with your unique writing voice.
By the time you write your admissions essay, you will have cultivated your writing abilities and will surely impress admissions officers!
Taking the time to cultivate positive habits will not only help you look better to Ivy League schools by resulting in high grades and test scores but will also help prepare you for your time as a college student and professional.
It’s never too early to start developing positive habits in all areas of your life. With your dream Ivy League school in mind, you can focus on the skills you’ll need to succeed.
For instance, instead of waiting until the night before to study for a test, take notes throughout a class and review them often. You will not have to study as hard; instead, you will study more often and feel more ready for a test or assignment when it comes. This will prepare you for life as a college student and help make your high school experience less stressful.
Though high school is often very structured, start thinking about how you manage your time. Do you keep a calendar of upcoming assignments and events, or do you rely on your parents to help you?
Take note of how you spend your time each day and decide how you can make better use of it. This will help you prepare for college and also likely earn higher grades and have more time for extracurricular activities.
Finally, part of being a well-rounded candidate for an Ivy League school is knowing when to take time to relax and enjoy yourself.
Rather than working on your studies nonstop or packing your schedule with too many activities, take time to meet new friends and enjoy your time in high school. Balance is key.
Remember, all your life experiences will add to your unique application to an Ivy League school, and you will be a much happier student if you remember to maintain some balance.
Since 2002, NSHSS has supported young academics on their journey to college and beyond as they prepare to become the leaders of tomorrow. The mission behind NSHSS is to recognize academic excellence and honor high-achieving students, providing them with the resources and network to excel in college, career and community. In doing so, NSHSS connects members with global events, scholarships, college fairs, internships, career and leadership programs, partner discounts, and more. Discover what makes NSHSS worth it to student members and how you can get involved.
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