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.

 

It’s national ice cream month, but before you go chill with some frozen treats, we have an analogy for you. College admissions requires a strategy, and fortunately for you, we have it—just think of college applications like building an ice cream sundae.

First, you have to have your solid base—your cup. Just like how you can’t build a sundae without a cup, you can’t start your applications without knowing where you want to apply. This summer is the time for college tours for rising high school juniors and seniors. Curate a list of colleges that you want to tour based off of your priorities and qualifications. See our “Time to Tour” blog for tips on how to tour colleges, and make sure you take notes on features that stand out to incorporate in your “Why *Insert School Name” essays later!

Second, it’s time to start building your actual sundae (your application) with your base flavor. Vanilla? Chocolate? Cookies and cream? You choose! This is the essay portion of your applications, and it’s all about making your essay showcase what makes you special and different from other applicants. So what’s your flavor?

Third, you have your second scoop of ice cream—the supplemental essays. This scoop is your second favorite flavor, or the part of yourself that you want to show that is second most important to demonstrating the entire you! Be careful to choose topics that are complimentary to the rest of your essay, meaning that together, the written parts of your essay should weave a narrative about who you truly are.

Fourth, your toppings, the strategic resume portion! So far, your application has the main components, the common app and supplemental essays, but what about the parts of you that aren’t included in just those essays? Everyone is more than just two flavors, so this is your place to show your oreos, M&Ms, and marshmallows. 

Finally, the whipped cream and cherry on top are your letters of recommendation. The key to this step is to ask 2-3 sophomore or junior teachers if they would feel comfortable writing you a STRONG letter of recommendation. Make sure you give them a date that is earlier than you actually need them, and ask early so that they don’t need to rush yours or make it seem generic.

Touring colleges can be tricky, but the summer is the perfect time to hit the road and start touring. We asked a college student her advice for how to best tour colleges, and here are her top three tips!

1) Add college tours onto family vacations to make them more fun. For example, if you are visiting Boston, check out Tufts and Boston University at the beginning of vacation, and Harvard and Boston College at the end. This will spread out the tours, and make them seem like less of a chore.
2) Don’t tour more than 2 colleges in a day. They all start to blend together, and it can get stressful!
3) Ask questions that you can’t find the answers to online. For example, try “What is the typical student like here?” and “What do students like to do on weekends?” These kinds of questions will help you determine what school may be the best fit.

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. With the growing movement for Juneteenth to become a federal holiday, many colleges across the country are beginning to recognize its importance and celebrate it accordingly. For example, Johns Hopkins has promised to celebrate the holiday annually, and they are cancelling classes and other events on campus on June 18th (June 19th is a Saturday). The 18th will be a paid day for faculty and staff to allow all students and employees to observe the holiday.

In some places, states have made Juneteenth an official state holiday, like in Virginia. UVA has followed suit, and the university will be closed on June 18th as well. UVA’s Division for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is also sharing resources and encouraging students and faculty to take advantage of the holiday to educate themselves with articles, podcasts, videos, etc.

These are just two examples of how colleges in America are increasingly adapting to the times and recognizing the importance of Juneteenth. If you are interested in learning more about other colleges and their initiatives, their websites and student-run newspapers are a great place to start!

 

Research shows that completion of the first year of college makes you much more likely to graduate college three years later. Here are some tips to starting strong:

 

  1. Go to college for a reason! College is expensive, so if you don’t have a clear end goal, there is no point in accumulating debt without a degree in sight. Talk to your high school counselor and make sure that college is the right decision for you.
  2. Take the time to register for classes that interest you and fulfill your requirements. When building your schedule, make sure that you choose an appropriate combination of classes that are challenging, but not impossible. For example, if you sign up for a hard calculus class, also sign up for a dance class to ease your way into college.
  3. Study hard the first semester. This semester will dictate your baseline GPA, and the better you do the first semester, the better you will do the rest of your time in college.
  4. Talk with professors and connect. Whether through office hours, or just a friendly email, these connections are crucial, and may lead to internships, research opportunities, and jobs. Just as importantly, professors may turn into lifelong mentors.
  5. Don’t go home too often. If you want to make strong friendships, it is important to be on campus over the weekends to cultivate those relationships. Going home only makes coming back to campus harder, but the longer you stay on campus before going home, the better you will adjust and the less homesick you will be.

 

This Earth Day, we bring you an overview of environmentally-related college offerings. 

 

If you are interested in the environment, many schools have environmental science or environmental studies majors/minors. What is the difference between these two fields? Environmental science is often focused on preserving nature and Earth’s resources, whereas environmental studies looks at the interactions between environment, policy, economics, etc. The courses you can take to fulfill the environmental studies requirements are often interdisciplinary, which helps to build your critical thinking skills. For example, Hobart and William Smith College offers many cool courses in environmental studies, like Intro to Environmental Law and Environmental Change in the Indigenous World.

 

In addition, many colleges have Eco Reps, who promote sustainability through projects and community programs. Tufts University’s Eco Reps sponsor programs like a widespread Zero Waste Week Challenge, during which students are encouraged to carry around all of the garbage they produce in a bag, in order to dissuade waste production. The Tufts Eco Reps also put out an Eat Local Sustainability Guide, to promote nearby restaurants that buy their produce locally.

 

Furthermore, some schools have green living spaces in which students can choose to live. Dickinson College has “The Treehouse,” in which sustainability-minded students may choose to live. The Treehouse takes food from the dining hall that would otherwise be thrown away, and all of their extra foodstuffs go into the compost. In addition, while the house has a washer, they hang-dry all of their clothing to save energy. 

 

If you are interested in the environment, check out your prospective schools’ websites, and see if you are interested in their related majors, clubs, housing, etc. 

 

 

In honor of Alcohol Awareness Month and 4/20, we are dedicating this blog to campus party culture. Whether you would like a school with a vibrant partying culture, or one with no big parties at all, there is definitely a school out there for you. No matter what list you consult, some of the biggest partying schools include the University of Wisconsin, Tulane University, University of Alabama, Syracuse University, and University of West Virginia. On the flip side, Fordham College, Pepperdine University, West Point, and Brigham Young University are generally recognized as some of the colleges with minimal to no partying. 

 

In addition, each school has its own policy on drugs and alcohol. For example, some campuses are “dry” campuses, meaning that even after students turn 21, they are not permitted to drink on campus. Other campuses are “wet,” meaning that once students turn 21, they may consume alcoholic beverages on campus. Depending on your comfort level, these are some factors you can look into to help narrow down your college decision. 

 

 

Happy National Stress Awareness Month! We know that the college admissions process can be stressful, but we are here to demystify the system and give you the information you need to make the right decision for you. They say a little stress is healthy, but if you aren’t someone who thrives under stressful conditions, then we recommend avoiding these schools with the most stressed students:

 

1- University of Pennsylvania

2- Massachusetts Institute of Technology

3- Cornell University

4- Northwestern University

5- Columbia University

6- Harvard University

7- Vanderbilt University

8- Washington University in St. Louis

9- Stanford University

10- California University of Technology

 

Note: This list was compiled from multiple sources that looked at the schools with the most stressed students. We combined the lists, based on how frequently different schools appeared, to form the list you see here.