6 days ago
Admissions Advice

Academic Advising Inquiry

Hi, I'm currently a junior and I'm planning to apply to ivy league schools, but I currently have a 1460 SAT, and by the end of high school I will of taken 8 AP's and 4 DE's, which constitutes to 12 college courses. My school offers around 21 AP's total though, and I feel like I may not have had an extremely rigorous schedule this year with only 3 AP's and 1 DE. I'm taking 4 AP's and 3 DE's next year though.

I'd say my extracurriculars are VERY significant and have made huge impact on my community. But is there anything more I DESPERATELY need to do for my academics to show colleges I'm worthy intellectually?

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Accepted Answer
6 days ago[edited]

I'm sorry you feel you need to ask this question out of DESPERATION. It's actually a tragedy of sorts to me that you and so many high schoolers are gunning for the Ivy League, like if you don't get in, you are going straight to a life of "have nots", a life of compromise, a less worthy existence.

I'm here to help you snap out of this construct and framework you and another couple hundred thousand kids have created for yourself.

My Ivy journey. First, I have a supportive engaged father who put me on a path to get into a great school right after middle school. We had a 4 year plan, and stuck to it. So I did the right ECs, the right coursework, the right Varsity sport, the right leadership and community service and spent my entire public HS career on grabbing the brass ring. And it worked. But I was mentally, physically and emotionally drained plus with COVID 19 I was unsure about online classes so last year I took a gap year. During summer vacation after sophomore year, I went on number college campus trips and visited about 20-25 campuses in person. Not just Ivys, but Elites, Liberal arts colleges, and some womens colleges. I saw the whole gambit of opportunity in person. The advise my dad gave me which I'll impart to you is this. All these schools regardless of rank, prestige and clout will give you an excellent education. You are an excellent human being before and will be one in the future. None of these schools will make you into a better person, a smarter person, a kinder person, or more compassionate person. That is why you should pick the schools where you think you will enjoy your 4 years, a place that is easy on your eyes and your soul versus feeling you need to be somewhere because it's impressive. When I went to Harvard, I liked the campus the least because it looked like a tourist destination with tour buses of Chinese, Europeans, Latin Americans all lined up to rub John Harvards well "pee'd on" foot. It didn't feel like home as much as public park. I knew after sitting through the orientation programs we signed up for that I wasn't even going to apply there because I didn't think I would be happy there as person.

So lesson 1 I'm sharing is pick a list of colleges that you've visited and actually think you would enjoy being there as a student. I can't stress this enough.

Lesson 2 is something that I'm going to have you do more research on to confirm the following advise. I think you should review more CV vlogs and streams about what it takes to get into an Ivy League college and also read up on the past Harvard lawsuits where they fully disclose the scoring rubric across 6 main catagories and use like 230 criteria data points. Also look at all the Common Data Sets and press releases to study what criteria is most important to these schools because they vary from school to school.

Right now you are not in the sweet spot for test scores at all. If you are going to submit a test score and you are not BIPOC (underserved race) or from a marginalized background (low income/first gen), you better have a 1530 SAT minimum and a safer bet will be a 1550/1560 at all 8 Ivys. The lower 25% scores take into account recruited athletes (of which Ivys accept a lot of), legacies, children of faculty and development candidates (or uber rich donors like your Jared Kushner types). It would be wise to grind this summer and get your SAT score up. And if you are stuck in the mud there, then switch to the ACT and see if you can get a 35+ on your ACT and submit that.

Regarding course rigor, you are going to be light because most successful admits have taken the majority of APs prior to senior year, conserving their last year to college recommendations, tweak their application narrative and write their college essays rather than rack up a bunch of APs, for which no college will see the test scores anyway. You won't find out of the results of your APs tests until mid summer so unless you get straight 5s and signed up for 3 AP tests this May, the totality of your APs puts you behind of many other peers at applying to the same schools. Therefore, besides working on your test scores, I would sign up for 2 college courses either in person or online this summer to improve the perception of your course rigor and your lack of intellectual vitality/curiousity as compared to other applicants, many of whom have attend rigorous College sponsored summer programs, or taking MOOCs or enrolled in college courses well before senior year. I had 9APs with a test avg. of 4.5, and 30 college credits with an A average prior to applying and felt my narrative was not as strong as other people who had 12-15 APs or a 42-45 IB score.

My 3 lesson to impart is to accept this fact before you apply. Wherever you go is just a pathway to get to where you want to be. That doorway might be an Ivy or not. But it will lead you a great education if you forgive yourself for thinking that a college will define you. 95% of applicants fail to get admitted to an Ivy. And of those 20000 who get admitted only about 15000 (out of 4,000,000 HS seniors) matriculate in to Ivys (yield rate avg is about 73%). If you ultimately want to be the President of the United States, getting in to an Ivy will not prevent that. Barrack Obama went to Occidental College for 2 years before transferring to Columbia and that was at a time when Oxy had a acceptance rate of 75% (I kid you not) and Columbia was 40%, not 3.73%.

So this is a unbelievably difficult time for most high school students because even if their parents went to Ivys, in today's climate, they wouldn't stand a chance with their 1200 SAT score and EC narrative. This generation has it the hardest. And don't get swayed by YouTube college reaction videos. Only 5% of Ivy applicants, the ones that get in make these videos. And for some reason I can't figure out, it seems this year 90% of Ivy acceptance videos are submitted from Chinese kids, not so much other East Asians so I've watched 100s and everyone is crying, the whole family is crying like they won the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket. But this admission is going to cost $350,000 minimum for 4 years and they have no idea of the future pain and suffering and mental, physical and emotional stress they will endure. I go to Deerfield Academy as PG student and many of my peers got into Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, and all the other elites and top liberal arts colleges. No one from DA or Exeter or Choate or Andover makes these youtube videos. Why? There is no point of flexing when everyone important in your life already knows how hard it it is to get into these schools. For that, I'm grateful that they are not rubbing it in other peoples spaces and faces. I'm genuinely happy when I see a wholesome low income kid get into to great school and want to share that as inspiration but honestly most of these youtube success stories come from kids with Tiger Moms and Tiger Dads who dole out love as a function of grades/honors and accomplishments so I'm not happy for those kids. They might feel good right now but this kind of unhealthy pressure will be with them through Grad School and their PhD programs. Lets hope they find themselves and find some joy outside of school.

This is why I'm taking the time to write not only to you but the other hundreds of kids reading this post to be realistic about your college list. If you want to apply to Ivys, go ahead, but have a list of schools that you will be happy to attend and thrive at if the stars and planets don't align in your direction during the selection process. If Brown is looking for a goalie water polo player or a Bassoonist or a Cheerleder, well what does that have to do with how smart you are? It doesn't. It just means that they had certain slots to fill, and they were always going to give those slots to cohorts that filled them well versus picking someone purely on meritocratic standards. Yes, test scores and grades and course rigor and ECS and essays matter but no one is a mind reader so you can't take it personal if you don't get selected to fulfill a slot at these colleges.

Good luck.


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