Every year thousands of students dream of getting into the Ivy League. The competition is steep, with admission to ivy league schools going to a small percentage of all applicants. Those who get accepted are in for a life changing experience, along with the prestige their school name bears throughout their career- Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Princeton.
There's no easy way to get into the Ivy League, but there are definitely some ways to improve your chances for your college application being accepted by one of these schools.
You have to want it
There's no question about number one: your self-motivation needs to be extremely high to get you in the doors of one of these prestigious schools. This means years of hard work in high school, scoring well on standardized tests, and having drive to succeed at whatever you do.
In an interesting article called "Getting In," Malcolm Gladwell states that the Ivy schools look to admit students who have already succeeded, not students who still have a lot of 'potential.' So try to envision yourself as one of those people who you consider to be successful, even if it's still only a pie-in-the-sky dream to be that businessman, actor, sports star, or gifted scientist. If you envision yourself this way, you're more likely to behave like it and it will show in your application.
Meet a quota
The admissions committees have quotas to fill, and you may fit into one of them. If your hometown is far from the east coast, for instance, this can be a good thing. The Ivies like to have students from every state represented in the student body. If you're from Montana, now's your chance!
On the flip side, because of their prestige, the Ivy League recruits from all over the world. Local students tend to get favorable acceptance rates- there are quotas here too. If you live two miles away from Princeton, don't count yourself out just because your S.A.T. scores are below the average.
Face it- the Ivy League is known for its brains, not its brawn. So, if you're a high school athlete, you may have a better chance to get into the Ivies for your sports performance than for your test scores. The elite schools are always looking for ways to bolster their athletic programs, and are willing to drop admission requirements slightly for promising athletes.
It's always the outspoken kid in class that gets the attention. Likewise, people with large social networks tend to advance in society faster with all of their connections. Ivy League schools aren't blind to this fact, so they value students with social prowess. Don't list how many Facebook friends you have on your college application, but do highlight activities where you've been a driving force behind a project, or any notable group projects you've participated in.
Do things that break the mold. Test scores only say so much about you. Show your personality in a unique way on your application. What kind of great experiences have you had? Have you traveled to any exotic or out of the way destinations? This can be great admission essay material. Everyone has a unique story- don't sell yourself short. The Ivy League values your individuality almost as much as they do your test scores.
Try for a graduate school
Because of the competition, you probably figure it would be hard to get into an Ivy League undergraduate program. However, there's another opportunity if you didn't go to one for your bachelor's: graduate school.
The Ivies have excellent graduate programs, some of which are far easier to gain acceptance to, like Art, Architecture, Business, Music, Forestry, or Public Health. Fewer people apply to graduate school than undergraduate, which makes your chances much higher for getting in. And even without the B.A., an M.A. or equivalent from any Ivy League school will still carry as much prestige in your career as the undergraduate. The Ivies have that much brand name selling power.
Choose a larger Ivy school
Harvard is competitive for admission, but there are other Ivies with larger undergraduate student bodies, like Cornell or Penn. Applying to them gives you that much better chance of acceptance.
The less famous schools
Everyone knows Harvard and Yale, but what about Dartmouth, Brown, or Cornell? They are equally full members of the Ivy League, and bear great prestige on your resume. People who know your field will know the faculty at these schools, even if the average citizen has never heard of them. Don't count any of them out!
In the end, there's no guarantee you can get into your dream school. But don't just dream about the Ivy League universities- at least put in your application. You have nothing to lose!