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How can I work on standing out on Ivy League applications?


I am a sophomore and I have a 4.4 GPA and a 1320 SAT (I am going to take it again after studying more). I have gotten straight A's throughout high school and I am taking the hardest classes offered at my school -- APs.

For my extracurriculars, I am in mock trial, HOSA, and key club. I am the cofounder/secretary of HOSA. I have not won any competitions but I have over 500 hours of service hours. I also volunteer at a hospital and I am on the cheer team. A problem with my school is that it is small and people are not interested in joining clubs, so creating clubs are very hard and we have no competition teams.

I don't have many leadership positions and competitions/achievements to help me stand out on ivy league applications right now. How can I change that? Are there any opportunities that I should look out for, that I could do individually (since no one is interested to work as a team in my school)? Also, is there anything else that Ivy League admissions looks for?


2 answers

answered on

Your grades and extracurriculars are great! However, something a lot of colleges look for is a "spike," or a specific subject or area that you have shown significant interest in. For example, a student with a computer science spike might have taken many programming classes, designed an app, or created a website. Similarly, I would suggest finding an area of interest and pursuing that to your fullest ability. You seem to have an interest in public service and medicine, so maybe you could start a non-profit or take online courses about anatomy, biology, etc. Also, you don't need to be a leader in a bunch of clubs or activities; showing that you put a lot of time into one or two extracurriculars and obtained a leadership position there is more than enough. As of now, you are a very well-rounded student; just work to develop a spike and you will be an extremely competitive applicant.

As for what Ivy Leagues look for... well, I'm not sure anyone knows for sure. They do want to see that you've challenged yourself and pursued your interests. Just do what you enjoy, keep studying, and you'll do very well.

Hope this helped!

answered on

The best way to stand out for an Ivy League school is to, well, not focus on "getting into an Ivy League school." It's not really a mystery; Ivies, and most top universities, look for students who are intrinsically motivated and passionate about *something.* Whatever that something is does not particularly matter—it could be woodworking, writing, designing video games, flying planes, really any kind of interest or hobby or passion that sets that person apart from other people who are similarly academically strong.

Try to figure out what you care about—like @akashi23 said, it sounds like that could definitely be medicine, public service, or some combination of the two—and continue pursuing it. Volunteer, continue your involvement in your clubs, but also learn about it on your own time. Find people you can learn from and volunteer with. Then, when it comes time to apply to these places, you'll have something you really care about and have developed your interests in that you can write your essays about. That's how you stand out; show that you care about something.