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Want to Get Into an Ivy League School? – Part 1

Fri, Feb 17, 2012 @ 11:40 AM

Why Do You Want to Get Into an Ivy League School?

Ivy LeagueAt IvyWise, we sometimes answer calls from parents who say, “I want my son to get into Harvard,” or “My daughter wants to go to Yale.” Here at IvyWise, the question is not whether Harvard and Yale (and Columbia, Penn, Dartmouth, Brown, Cornell, and Princeton) provide great academic and extracurricular opportunities, but rather whether they are the right school for a particular student.

Before our students add any school to their college list we ask, “Why this school?” Students should be able to answer this question about all of the schools on their college list. And we’re not the only ones who want to know ­– many colleges, including five of the Ivy League colleges, have a variation of the “Why this college?” question on their application.

When counseling students during the application process, Dr. Kat has her students complete an "Imagining I'm There" exercise, picturing freshman year at a particular school. She asks them to consider the three Cs – Classroom, Campus, and Community. Ask yourself, what courses would I take and with which professors? Which organizations/activities would I join on campus? Which research and study abroad opportunities are of interest? Which school traditions do I want to maintain? How would I volunteer and get involved in the larger campus community? This information should be reflected in each college application.

When students first come to us, we ask them if there are any schools that they are already interested in. Occasionally, a student’s list will read: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Penn, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Brown. This is a red flag, and it usually means that the student hasn’t done proper research. These eight schools are inherently different, and therefore it doesn’t make sense that a student’s personality and goals would fit well at all of these distinct institutions.

Students – If you do the proper research – delving both into your prospective schools and yourself – you will see that many colleges fit your criteria, but also that some don’t. There are thousands of factors to consider when choosing which colleges to put on your final college application list. Do not be swayed by name recognition alone! Look off the beaten track and think outside the Ivy League box. Keep an open mind; there are literally hundreds of excellent schools you may never have heard of, which offer great opportunities to benefit your academic and social future.

There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing a college. It's a personal decision that should be based on the factors that are most meaningful to the student. Once a student gets to know a college through intensive research, visits and other experiences, then he or she can decide if that school will be a good fit academically, socially and financially, regardless of where it falls on a publication's ranking.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t apply to or even attend an Ivy League school if you think it is a great fit for you. But, students should understand that there are many schools where they can be happy and successful, not just eight. Ideally, students should have 10-15 first-choice colleges and should feel a bit disappointed if they don’t get into any of them, regardless of whether or not the school is in the Ivy League.

Stay tuned in the coming week as we take a look at what it means to be an “Ivy League” college, and our suggestions for creating a balanced college list.

We help students discover the schools that are a great academic and social fit for their unique personality and goals. Contact us today to learn more.

Sarah Shanahan

Written by Sarah Shanahan

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