How to Get Into Ivy League Colleges

4 Tips To Increase Your Chances of Admission…

If your child is aiming for the Ivy Leagues, then you understand just how fierce the competition is (particularly with a rising admissions pool).

But you should also know this… There’s more to building a good student population than 4.0 GPAs and near-perfect SAT / ACT scores.

Elite colleges like Harvard and the other Ivy Leagues like to mix their students up, to a certain extent. That provides a certain amount of flexibility – and a chance to stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of admittance.

Here’s how best to set yourself up for admission to the Ivy Leagues. There are no guarantees at this level, of course. But if you prepare correctly, your chances will increase exponentially.

Getting Into the Ivy Leagues

  • Start Early: You can’t slack in the early years of high school and expect to make it up in the latter half. Too many applicants have a consistent, outstanding track record. To compete, you need the same.
  • GPA: As a general rule, if your child has a GPA below 3, the Ivy Leagues will be out of reach, save in certain cases of unusual circumstances or exceptional talent elsewhere. Generally, to be a strong candidate, you’ll want a GPA of 3.75 or higher.
  • SAT / ACT: Generally, you’ll want to be in the 90th percentile or higher. For the SAT, that means a score of around 1950 (1330 on the old scale), or an ACT score of 29.

Keep in mind, an SAT score of 1800, or even 1500, can be overcome, but it’s a higher hurdle. However, a low score isn’t the end of the story – you can retake the test as often as you like.

4 Tips To Stand Out In The Ivy Leagues’ Admissions Offices

  • Extracurricular Activities: Ivy League institutions look for exceptional students – and that often will emerge in venues outside the classroom.

If your child is a leader in one or more activities – editor of the school paper, say, or captain of a sports team, or a lead actor in plays – that’s a major asset.

Leadership is especially key. Elite schools want to develop the leaders of tomorrow – which often means they look for those leading in their current activities.

Not only does that show skills beyond studies – it also gives your child a chance to participate in Admissions Office Roulette. You see, all admissions offices are looking to balance out their incoming students with each other – and with the existing population. If the college band is losing a tuba player and there aren’t many on campus – a tuba player can jump to the head of the line.

It’s impossible to predict what talents they’ll be looking for, but the more you can highlight, the better your chances of hitting one.

  • Unusual Experiences: The Ivy Leagues generally want a diverse student body. That doesn’t just mean the admissions office will try to balance races and regional diversity – it also will try to grab students with unusual backgrounds. If your child had an unusual challenge or responsibility, bring that to the attention of the admissions office. The richer your child’s history appears, the better his or her chances.
  • The Essay: Here’s your best chance to highlight what makes you unique. Of course, it’s a balancing act – every other applicant is trying to appear unique as well, and that sometimes leads to similar essays.

Whatever the topic, the story should be told in his or her own, distinct voice. And be careful not to be overly formal – with your grades and test scores, the admissions office already has a good hunch you can write in an academic setting.

Write with personality. Write with emotion. Have your child read his or her essay to trusted teachers, friends, and relatives.

  • The Interview This step usually won’t leapfrog an applicant over other candidates – but it can provide an important tiebreaker. And, with so many qualified applicants, this tiebreaker is more important at elite schools than elsewhere.

Until next time,

Scott Weingold

Related Articles:

How to Prepare for College Interviews

College Admissions Essay Help

Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.