The Ivy League colleges have a long history of being ultra-selective, and many exceptionally-qualified candidates get turned from their doors. Why is that? Let’s take a look into Harvard’s admissions process and find out.
First, it is important to note that certain groups get preferential treatment in the admissions process. At Harvard, family members and friends of donors get flagged by the Office of Development for special consideration. While this flag doesn’t automatically mean that the student will be admitted, it does substantially tip the scale in the student’s favor.
Similarly, relatives of alumni, called legacies, have an advantage over non-legacies too. In fact, legacies are admitted at a 33% acceptance rate, a gigantic leap from the 5% acceptance rate experienced by non-legacies. Ultimately, about one in every seven Harvard students is a legacy.
The last group that has a significant edge over other applicants are athletes, particularly ones who play sports generally favored by the more affluent American population, like sailing, squash, fencing, and crew. Recruited athletes are accepted at an astonishingly high rate of 75%, but about 70% of these admitted athletes would not be considered qualified when compared to other applicants in the pool.
So what can you do to boost your chances of getting into an Ivy if you do not meet any of the above criteria?
Fortunately, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Harvard does not look only at academic scores, but instead assigns each application a personal and extra-curricular rating, as well as an academic one. Among this criteria, the academic rating has the least weight, because in reality, most applicants vying for spots at the top schools are academically qualified.
To stand out then, it is necessary to come across strong in the other two categories, the personal and extra-curricular areas. When writing your application, consider all of the aspects of what makes you YOU, and weave them together to create an effective narrative. Use the supplements to focus on an aspect of yourself that you didn’t reveal in the common app essay, and spin the whole picture. By the end of reading your application, admissions officers should be able to feel like they know the entire you!
To read more, check out this article, written by Jerome Karabel in The American Prospect.