a year ago
Admissions Advice

Just how much do ivys care about the type of extracurriculars I have?

So I noticed on social media that all the kids applying to ivys (and getting accepted) have these crazy extracurriculars like multiple national level competitions they participated in. Some started their non-profit and some are doing literal research in labs. What would the ivys think of your average straight A with a 4.0 and a good SAT score student that has like one or two national level extracurriculars, maybe wrote a research paper, and then the rest are things like volunteering and having leadership positions in clubs like NHS? It just seems that the standard is people doing crazy things because they had the opportunity to do so. I feel like that everyone trying to get in the Ivys would most definitely do crazy ecs except the opportunity for something like that is almost non existent in our environment. Do we have a chance?


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Accepted Answer
a year ago[edited]

Short answer: A LOT!!!!

Long Answer:

The answer you are looking for lies in the numbers. There are only 15,000 spaces available for 415,000 Ivy applicants each year. So there are about 27000 American high schools and about 20% of Ivy applicants come from Int'l schools for about 2250 seats which is another 10,000 high schools being represented conservatively. What this tells you is that there are at least 37,000 Valedictorians ranked #1 in their school that apply to Ivys and similar schools and another 37000 Salutorians ranked #2 that apply.

So 74,000 straight A students with significantly weighted GPAs apply. At least 59,000 of these cream-of-the-crop students with magnificent grades and test scores get rejected. It's more like 70,000 get rejected because schools like Havard, Yale, and Princeton reject about 75%-80% of Valedictorians each year.

Since Ivy colleges do not use purely meritocratic admissions policies, this allows them to make institutional priority admissions for hooked applicants like ALDCs and those BIPOC/marginalized/low-income/first-generation applicants. When you consider applicants who are legacies, recruited athletes, faculty children, development candidates (children of donors), dean's list VIP applicants, black, LatinA, indigenous or marginalized (disabled/LGBTQIA), low-income or first-gen applicants or those with multiple hooks (someone can be Black, Queer, Low-income, First Gen, Recruited Athlete for example which is 5 hooks), then an Ivy like Harvard might only have 1000 seats not 1650 to fill with non-hooked applicants.

The takeaway is that having a 4.0 GPA, good course rigor, good ECs, and good work experience are great things to have, but do not make you a "stand out" exceptional candidate at these schools but rather a common commodity. If admission officers were foodies, they would comment that you are just a hamburger to them. What they are looking for is grade A5 Kobe ribeye.

And this is why you need to move outside your comfort zone and work on ECs that are unique and impactful and have interesting life and work experiences that are memorable to the reader. There are 27,000 NHS Presidents in the US and more than 100,000 leadership roles at NHS so being involved with NHS is not impressive to Ivy application readers. But if you are the #6 rock climber in the US, that's interesting. There are 15,000 National Merit finalists because of high SAT test scores. That's not impressive to an Ivy application reader. Winning the US Presidential Scholars Award 161 out of 3.6 million is impressive. And many US Pres. Scholars do find themselves being accepted to colleges like Harvard and other Ivys.

A recent tiktok college influencer/coach said "do the things that you love to do and not the things that seem impressive that everyone else is doing." I agree with this. So if you love knitting, knit something remarkable. If you love cooking, try applying Physics to your recipes to create something unique and memorable. If you love poetry, write some killer poems. But do not think of ECs and community services as "checking off the boxes". If you volunteer 500 hours at this or that charity, that might not be very impressive as using your time and energy effectively to make a big impact for a cause like helping a single human being.

Good luck in your admissions journey and remember that there are literally hundreds of colleges that are excellent places to go for an education. Ivys are not for everyone and many people are disappointed when they get to attend one because culturally it's foreign to them. It's like joining a private Polo or Golf club. If you don't want to play Polo or Golf or socialize with the sorts of people that belong to such 250-387-year-old clubs, you may feel isolated and lonely. Therefore, it's always very important to pick a set of colleges that are great fits for your personality, lifestyle, and comfort level.

What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
+ add school
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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