7 months ago
Admissions Advice

I have a 4.0 but only 24 ACT score: will Ivy leagues notice me?

I'm looking to apply to ivy league schools, but I am a bit scared regarding my ACT score and not having enough extracurriculars. I am also currently a Junior in high school. I am a member of the Student Council and have been the past two years. I have also played three sports, a member of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), and the National Honors Society (NHS). Will I stand out? What are some things that I can do that will help? Is it too late?

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Accepted Answer
7 months ago

I was reading your post, the respondent's recommendations, and your comments and I have some advice.

Yes, your 4.0 GPA is great but in the context of course rigor which is something all Ivy League schools look for, it will not pass muster with most Ivy admits because they have taken the hardest courses like AP, IB, dual-enrollment, online college courses and in some cases independent research. I read that you have not taken any AP or IB courses so it will be a challenge to convince admissions officers that you can successfully compete and thrive in that kind of environment. Although all Ivys are test-optional this cycle and next, keep close attention to the stats that will come out after 4/6/21 because those will be the new benchmark for next year as well.

I would guesstimate that most successful admits having the following this year at Ivy's:

-Submitted 98%-99%+ SAT or ACT test scores (1450+, 33+)

-Have taken on average 6-8 AP or IB courses and have submitted average AP scores of 4+ or the IB equivalent.

-Have taken 1 or more dual-enrollment courses at their community college and some have taken online advanced STEM college courses.

-Have shown evidence of intellectual curiosity or in their own ECs which may include winning science fairs, competitions, submitting research papers, or interning for a professional.

-And a good amount of them have SAT II subject tests to report as well since many admit have been grinding on tests since 10th grade.

With regards to ECs, most successful admits have 1 or more remarkable "spikes" or talents. This can be either STEM, athletic, artistic or musical, or community service-based. Ivy's typically like leaders, not followers so when it comes to school activities, the most highly coveted leadership roles are the following:

-Team captain of a Varsity Sport

-Editor of the Newspaper

-Student Body President

-1st chair in Orchestra/Band

Lesser Leadership roles are

-President/Senior Leadership of a Club or Affinity Group

-Officer in Student Government

-Team leader in a volunteering /community Service Activity.

When it comes to non-school leadership Ivy's like to see that you are a Board Member of some city organization like the District School Board, City Hall, Town Library.

I think all the previous suggestions are great for HS students that just want to get into Top 50 School. In this cycle you will see that admit rates at Ivy's will be way down and the applicants that got in had a very deep and broad file that got them noticed. You have time to work on these things if you want to go to an Ivy League school but keep in mind that the 'check boxes' are much more complicated and require a serious commitment and strategy to execute.

I wish you all the best.

7 months ago[edited]


To be completely honest with you, while you may be an incredible student, Ivy Leagues value standardized test scores so much they may not pay much interest to your application at the moment. BUT! That would only be the case if you applied now. You said you are a Junior, meaning you have almost a year before you will have to apply to colleges. While it is a bit of a tight timeline, you definitely have time to make your application stand out.

Below, I'll list some suggestions and steps that I would personally take in your shoes, therefore should be taken with a grain of salt. (I do not know your interests, planned major, demographics, etc.):

Test scores:

- Don't worry about your test score!! You are part of the class of 2022, correct? Ivy Leagues are going test optional up until the class of 2022 applications! This means that, while you can submit a standardized test score (ACT or SAT), you will not be required to and they will not put it against you should you not decide to submit a test score. Given this, I would not retake the test (ACT or SAT) as it will not make a difference. You can do some research about this change to get the full idea of what will be going on! :)

Extracurriculars: Since standardized tests will not be factored into your application, this means colleges will pay more attention to your extracurriculars, GPA, letters of rec., etc.

- To put it plainly, in order to get into Ivy League schools, your extracurriculars have to be unrealistically amazing. While I definitely think you are on the right track, I would switch up some extracurriculars...

- FBLA: Try to become president or at least hold some sort of leadership position. If you cannot do this (which is perfectly fine!), I would use FBLA as a lower tier extracurricular on your application. That is, unless it was very important to you, then put it higher on the list (top 10 extracurriculars).

- NHS: Same with FBLA, try to become president or hold some leadership position.

- Sports: Unless you are a recruited athlete, if you are doing these sports in hopes they would look good in a college application, I would drop these. However, if you really enjoy these activities, keep doing them! Just know that they won't make that much of a difference in your application and your time could be better spent elsewhere.

- Student council: This is great! I would keep it on your list. (maybe mention things you did on your application).


- Now, it is difficult suggesting you some extracurricular ideas as I do not know any of your interests, but, based on large areas of study, I can give you a couple ideas:

- Art: 1. Enter into national art competitions! Example: Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. 2. Host an ONLINE art walk/gallery. 3. Create a business selling paintings or other art mediums where profits go to a charity of your choice.

- Science: 1. Try to get into an online research program (for example, at a well-known university). 2. Conduct your own research project! (this looks really good). 3. Get your own research PUBLISHED.

- Business: 1. Become a member of a DECA club (if your school has it) and try to win an award. 2. Create your own online business (this would look incredible). 3. Create a business start up club? Something along those lines. 4. Enter into some national business competitions. 5. Apply for some summer business internships.

- Writing/Journaling: 1. Write and sell a book. 2. Create a blog. 3. Create or become a member of your school's news group! 4. Enter into writing competitions (the Scholastic Art & Writing is a good choice).

Others: 1. Create a YouTube channel. 2. Create a club (or student interest group) in your school. 3. Volunteer (this may be hard in COVID, but you can maybe volunteer at COVID vaccine distribution areas). 4. Raise money for a charity (example: for those who have been struggling during covid, education, animals, global warming, etc.)


- Your GPA is golden (assuming it is unweighted). Congrats! However, I am hoping you have taken (if your school offers them) AP, IB, or Honors courses. For Ivy Leagues, lets say your school offers 20-25 AP classes, it would be smart to take around 8-10. Taking advanced courses is extremely important on your application. I wish I had more information on classes you took so I could give you a more straightforward answer, but let me know if I can help in any way.

- If you have not taken any higher level classes, sign up for as many as you think you can handle in Senior year and take a couple during the summer.

- ALSO! Make sure you have taken at least 4 years of a language. Most Ivy Leagues highly recommend (a nice way of saying require) 4 years or more.


- Make sure you can get good letters of recommendation! Build strong bonds with your teachers, especially those teaching classes that might connect with your desired major.

- Think about the essays you might want to write for the colleges you apply to. Do some research!

- Make sure you are aware of ALL deadlines for the colleges you are applying to.

I hope this helped. One thing I also want to say is that you do not need an Ivy League school to be successful. You are going to do great in the world for just being yourself, not for just having the name of a great school on your resume. You got this! Good luck!

(let me know if I can be of any help or if you would like me to answer some questions)


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