I’m starting 9th Grade soon, so I still have 3 years until I graduate but I’m very eager to make the most out of the time I have left in High School. I would love to go to an Ivy League but my chances aren’t looking too good. What could I do over the next 4 years to hopefully make sure that I get into my dream school. I’ve taken on a lot of extra curricular activities as well as starting a school newspaper. I’ve also taken on an internship and I am starting my own awareness campaign. Next year I’m going to start taking a few free college courses to also help my application. I know that a lot of it will come down to my essay in 2 years but I’m trying to put in as much effort as I possibly can. A response would be much appreciated, thank you. :)
This answer is not only for you but for all 8th and 9th graders.
The Ivy League is legendary and great just like Oxford and Cambridge are in the UK. They are old, rich, and have unlimited amounts of resources. They exude clout and entitlement. Graduating from there is a leg up in the job interview process. There are many positives to going to prestigious colleges.
But they are not for everyone. And everyone should not have their target in trying to get into an Ivy League college.
Why do I say this? I say this because Ivy League colleges have expectations of each and every class of cohorts they are curating for shaping from the application pool. And whether you get in or not often has no bearing on your grades or test scores or ECs in some cases. More often than not getting in has more do to with fitment or the notion of whether your narrative is a good fit for them at that particular cycle.
In a perfect world, Ivys would be meritocratic. They are not.
in a perfect world, Ivys would give every person an equal opportunity and chance to get in. They do not.
They are run more like a Wall Street Investment bank than an institution of higher learning. And if you want to work at Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan Chase or Morgan Stanley, you have to spend a lot of time molding and modeling yourself on other people that were hired and ultimately became successful there.
If you go back nearly 400 years from when the first settlers came to America from England, you can trace that they brought with them the same ideals of higher education that began 800 to 1000 years ago at Cambridge and Oxford. By the time Jamestown was settled, wealthy entitled English, Scottish and Irish were college-prepping their young men to attend Oxbridge, St. Andrews, and Trinity College by sending them to private boarding schools like Eton, Harrow, and 100 others.
When Harvard was founded in 1636, it began with funds bestowed to the school by John Harvard who was Cambridge educated from Emmanuel College. Although he died 2 years later (lots of people died in their 30s 400 years ago), he instilled the same sorts of values that he was exposed to both at boarding school and Cambridge. Just like the 100 private day and boarding schools in the UK, the same sorts of schools started popping up and down the Eastern seaboard, although without the same sort of fanfare because most original American settlers were not the nobility, gentry, or from the same cut of cloth.
Nevertheless, there is an American parallel to private boarding schools that are a direct carryover from the UK. As more and more colleges were established like Dartmouth, Yale, and Columbia (Kings College) there were more private boarding schools running like Exeter, Andover, Deerfield, Georgetown Prep, and Milton Academy to name a few. And these schools were feeders and proxies for the Ivy League. Sort of the Ivy League on training wheels. Wealthy boys from all over New England and other states would be sent away after elementary or middle school and spend 4-6 years in a pre-Ivy environment. They would adhere to a dress code, an etiquette code, and a code of honor and live in dorms, eat in dining halls, play sports, do community service and volunteer, learn instruments, and arts, sing and learn in a Socratic (Harkness) style where 10 students sit around a table and have in-depth discussions about the topic. These were student-led versus lecture-style teaching. And some schools adopted tutorial-style learning where 2 students were assigned a tutor. Once a week they would meet with their tutor and present their case 1 on 1 to each other while the tutor took notes and graded them.
So forgive me for giving you a tiny history lesson but I think WAY TOO MANY naive middle schoolers in America have little practical knowledge of what an Ivy League school is and it's very sad to me because there are hundreds of thousands of students who apply to these 8 schools each year completely unprepared for the criteria they are looking for.
In 2022, Ivy League colleges and Elite Day and Boarding schools have a symbiotic relationship that is well and thriving and this is rooted in history. Maybe 100 years ago, 1/2 or 2/3rds of the graduating class at such schools were admitted to Ivys but things haven't drastically changed that much. Today about 30% of those who apply from Elite Top 10 boarding schools get into Ivys. Contrast this with 1% or less that get in from top public high schools even in the best zip codes in the US.
You might ask are top day and boarding school kids smarter? or more talented? or superior athletes? or better humans? Nope. But they have a leg up on everyone else because they have 4 years of experience being in a mock trial of the Ivy League. Or for that matter these days, a mock trial of top liberal arts colleges and other private colleges in the T50.
At Harvard for example, 33% of students enrolled are legacies, meaning that 1 or both parents attended Harvard. And then there is this broad category called ALDCs which stands for recruited "A" athletes, "L" legacies, "D"development candidates ($$$ donors), and "C" children of faculty. If you apply for ALDC enrollment at Harvard, the number might be 45%. And with affirmative action applied toward Black, LatinA, mixed races, and Indigenous persons, that might mean up to 20% of the class got in because Harvard gives a huge bump to marginalized persons. Sometimes a 10-15X bump over the average acceptance rate. In the Harvard lawsuit, if you are Black in the 1st and 2nd decile of academics/testing you have a 55% chance of getting admitted compared to a White/Asian person 7-15%.
So if you want to get into an Ivy, you have to game the system to your advantage. If you are a Hooked or Marginalized demographic, then definitely apply to Harvard and other Ivys even with lower GPAs and lower test scores because they will boost your opportunity. (Do this before AA is overturned by the Supreme Court). And the most effective straight-line way to get into an Ivy would be to attend a Top 10 Elite day or boarding school like Harvard-Westlake in LA or Choate, Hotchkiss, St.Pauls, Groton, and the ones I already mentioned.
Boarding schools kids are given preferential treatment even if their GPAs a lower and they have lower test scores because their curriculum is much harder, to begin with, and that counts for a lot.
You can watch 100 videos or read 100 articles on how to get into an Ivy League school but unless you fully comprehend that you are vastly disadvantaged before you make the decision to apply to one, most applicants are WAY too optimistic and as a result are devastated when they don't get in.
But the good news is that there are plenty of amazing and excellent colleges that will give you a fine education and amazing experiences making you highly desirable as a graduate once you enter the workforce or apply to grad school.
And you might not believe me so I suggest that you broaden your reach and visit them in person because they are all amazing schools.
These are some other alternatives to Ivys off the top of my head:
University of Richmond, Davidson, Denison, Swarthmore, Colgate, Union, Hamilton, Middlebury, Bates, Bowdoin, Pomona, Claremont, Scripps, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, Wellesley, Carleton, Colorado college, Macalaster, William and Mary, UVA, Georgetown, St.Lawrence, Vassar, Bennington, Trinity College, Connecticut college, Reed, Washington & Lee, Notre Dame, Boston College, Tufts, Rice, Emory, WashU, CMU, JHU, Wake Forest, Duke and Vanderbilt.
Please watch all the CollegeVine videos on YouTube with regards to getting into an Ivy. They will give you a great overview of the criteria. But it's up to you how you craft your narrative and package yourself so you can be competitive against those who already have a leg up on you.
There are some excellent answers here! One more tip I have is to consider working with a college applications advisor. They can help you with any step of the Ivy League application process, especially with the essay writing process. I myself would be happy to advise you, as would some of our advisors who are graduates of Ivy League schools. Hope this helps!
https://blog.collegevine.com/how-9th-graders-can-prepare-now-for-the-ivy-league/ (This is the most relevant post)
Some general guides:
Hope these help!
I see you are doing great, keep it, take some rigorous courses at your school, pursue your passion through some wow factors, practice for a standardized test, and don’t stress too much about it, enjoy your high school, but remember to still get some good grades!
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