I have a 3.78 GPA. Can I get into an Ivy? If so, what will I need to get into an Ivy.
I am a freshman and next year I take 4 advanced honors classes and AP HumGeo
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Since you have 2.5 years to prepare for applying to Ivys, the answer is yes, if you focus and grind.
I'm going to cut to chase and tell you what worked for me and it's not necessarily what other people will say so bear that in mind.
Academic Rigor - At a minimum take 4 years math through Calculus, 4 years English with AP Lang /AP Lit, 3-4 years history with US Hist./Euro Hist, 4-5 years of a foreign language preferably ending with an AP language, 3-4 years of Science with 2 lab sciences. Whether you take 6 or 12 APs doesn't matter, just get As in them and score an average of 4+ on them. I took 9. Take dual enrollment classes if available (I took 24 credits) and take college classes over the summers (I took 6 credits). The idea that there is a loophole that you can take advantage of by not taking challenging courses because your HS doesn't offer them to me is a fallacy. You have to make time and effort to find a way to learn outside of the classroom.
Grades - Make your 3.78 your baseline grades and then each year try to improve your UWGPA, so while you aim for a 4.0, it's perfectly fine if you end up with a 3.85 next year, 3.94 the following year. Show an upward slope in your grades and that will show that you are adjusting well to an increased course load of more difficult classes. You want to end up with a final UWGPA in the 3.90-4.00 range. Your weighted GPA really doesn't factor in since every school calculates it differently.
Test Scores - The whole Test-optional thing is only a half-truth. The truth is that unless you have enough awesome things to share in your application file, it's hard to get into Ivys without test scores IMO. We shall soon see in the future common data sets what percentages of admits submitted test scores to Ivys. I'm guessing it is going to be between 50% and 75% this cycle even though they were all test-optional. If they were all test blind, then an equitable level playing field would have been established for all income, gender, race, demographic groups. So I would grind on the PSAT and aim for a 98-99% test score and grind on the ACT or SAT depending on which test format suits your learning and testing style.
ECs- Aim for a few really good ECs that show leadership and evidence of community service and volunteerism. Don't be a dabbler. Find 1 or 2 things that you are really good at and make it your narrative. I would shy away from joining 10 clubs or student government only to put that on your resume if you are not the President of these clubs. If you are good at sports aim to be the team captain of your varsity team. If you are a good writer, aim to be the editor-in-chief of your school newspaper. How you spend your free time is important to Ivys so make it count.
Essays- IMO nothing can showcase your personality, your thought process, your voice, and your personal narrative better than your personal and supplemental essays. The essays are akin to a written audition for a leading role in a play. You have short and long answers and sometimes you can pick your own prompt to show your talents off. A great essay will set you apart from the pack. A good essay will get you lost in the shuffle. A forged, fake or poorly written one will get your application earmarked for the trash bin. You can't pretend to be a good writer. It takes time like being a good baker or chef. So to everyone that reads this, if you think you can be clever on the fly, or pull a rabbit out of the hat, you can't. Take the hardest English courses you can to help you become a better writer. Write as much as possible. The more you write, the more uncomfortable you will be with thinking you know everything, you don't. You might be a genius at Math or STEM but if you can't write, certain Ivys will not care about you winning this or that competition.
Recommendations - In order to get the most advantageous recommendation from your Principal, Counselors, or Teachers you have to prove yourself at school and in the classroom. You don't want a good recommendation. You want the best recommendation from someone that respects you and will advocate for you being in the most competitive environment possible. You want them to cite examples of how different you are from the average student in the class. You want them to talk about things you do or say that show that you are a superior high achieving intelligent student, the best they've ever encountered in their teaching careers. To do that you have to actively engage with your teachers and establish a track record with them.
Distractions - Unless you are as rich as a Rockefeller, as talented as Michael Jordan, or as gifted as a perfect SAT/ACT scoring prodigy, 99% of all applicants have to work their tuchas' off to get into an Ivy. Therefore I highly recommend doing the following if you can afford to.
-Don't get caught up with the whole I need a car thing in HS. Cars cost a lot of money and time. They often require you to work hard to buy the car if your parents don't help and even if they pay for 1/2 the car, you still need to pay for insurance, repairs, gas and oil changes, car washes. Yes, it's cool to have your own car and drive to school and take your friends to Starbuck or weekend trips, etc, but they take up a ton of time. The time you don't have if you want to get into an Ivy.
-The same goes for part-time jobs or side gigs. Unless your family needs you to work to help pay for food on the table, it would be better to use those 10-20 hours a week in HS to grind on SAT/ACT prep or get As on your AP classes. Yes, feeling independent is important and having money to spend also important, but you are trying to get into an Ivy, some with 3% acceptance rates. Do you really think it matters if you have the latest Supreme Tee or Nike Off White dunks if you can't get into an Ivy? If a billionaire will pay up to 50 million to get their kid through the legal back door, then you have to understand that you have to make some sort of material sacrifice if you are going through the front door like the other 99% of applicants.
-The same goes for being the most popular kid in school. Keep your closest friends close and lose the ones that are not going to matter after high school. Being super social and dating takes a lot of time and effort. So I totally understand the whole rite of passage thing and going to prom, dances and first kisses, etc. but let's be serious for a moment. You are going to meet a lot of people in your life and will most likely have more in common with the people you meet in college than in HS. So have fun but don't get too committed to a relationship in HS.
-And try your best to self-care, exercise and eat well and get enough sleep. I survived 4 years of HS on 5-6 hours of sleep because I was super busy all the time and wanted to do everything from Varsity sports, to newspapers, student Govt, community activism, sit on multiple boards, and write poetry, and do my artwork. In hindsight, I'm not sure I would know how to get more sleep, but I nevertheless recommend it. COVID-19 affected the world and each and every one of us differently, so do your best to manage your mental health. Seek advice, therapy, meds if you need it. Whatever you do, don't try to self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, tobacco products, vape pens, etc. And if you develop other illnesses like eating disorders etc., tell your friends and ask for help. When 97% of applicants will get rejected from some of the Ivys, you have to be at your best during HS. You can't be all things to all people so you have to decide what you are willing to give up if you want to be a contender.
Hope that helps you with your admissions journey.
There are many parts to a college application. A 3.78 is a good gpa. It is below average for an Ivy, but not so low that it would ruin your chance of getting in, as long as the rest of your application is good. The good news is that you are a freshman, so you have plenty of time to improve your gpa, as well as strengthen the other parts of your application.
Remember to focus on grades, extracurriculars, and forming strong connections with your teachers (you won’t regret it when the time comes to ask for letters of recommendation). Also focus on SAT or ACT scores. They are not required by many colleges right now, but they can demonstrate your academic strengths if your gpa does not.
The most important thing is to be yourself. The college admissions people are looking for more than just a number. Having a great gpa is good, as it shows your academic preparedness, but for an Ivy League college a good gpa is just the initial filter in admissions. Dedicate time and effort to doing the things you love, and take the extra step to demonstrate your potential for success. For example, if you love STEM classes then try to find a research internship. If you love writing, then try to publish a short story or poem on a newspaper or website. Doing things like this, taking the extra step with what you are passionate about, is a lot less common than an amazing gpa. These are the things that are going to resonate with the person reading your admission. Leave the person reviewing your application with something memorable, because when it comes to Ivy League admissions the worst thing to be is forgettable.
The bottom line: A 3.78 is not the best, but it is not the end of the world. It is not too late to raise it, and if the time comes when it is too late then you can always make up for it in other parts of your application.
I recommend checking out the attached post about how to get into Harvard (and other similarly competitive schools). It was written by a Harvard alum, and does a great, much more comprehensive job explaining what I am trying to say.
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