No matter what age you are, your educational background, or your money situation, obtaining a quality education shouldn’t be such a hassle. While friends, family, or the media may attempt to say that perhaps your goals are too lofty, or that you should focus on a goal that is more practical, it is not impossible to get into an ivy league school. You just have to have a specific strategy tailored toward yourself in order to brand yourself in the best way possible to make that dream a reality. Below, I’ve listed some ways to get you thinking about what strategy would work best for your unique situation.
Scenario One: High School Student
One advantage of being a high school student is being accustomed to modern day testing. Knowing that college is the end goal, preferably, an elite college, it is important to attempt to take quality classes and start preparing in freshman year for acceptance into a good university.
It is important to take SAT preparation courses in and outside of school, especially focusing on weaker subjects. A less popular exam is the ACT, but this test covers more subject areas and also covers more material meant to be taught in high school. Taking both is beneficial in analyzing ones strengths and weaknesses and determining which scores are more beneficial to send to universities.
For high school electives, focus on college preparatory curriculum and Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Taking these classes shows a talent for the subject area, at the end of which an exam is administered for college credit.
Keeping a high GPA (Grade Point Average) is very important, as well as joining a few school clubs or sports. It is important to show a passion for a topic or an activity.
During the summers, study independently for College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams. Each exam allows a student to test out of a college course for a fraction of the cost. Taking several can prove to a panel of admissions counselors how serious a candidate is for gaining admission, and their ability to do the hard work associated with college.
Homeschooled students can use the same strategy.
Scenario Two: College Student
Everyone talks about getting into an elite university in high school and those types of discussions typically wane when undergraduate school starts. Many people forget that they can transfer into a better university or get into a quality graduate school during or after their undergraduate years.
For example, let’s say your high school years weren’t the best grade wise, and tests scores were average. It is still possible to get into an elite university. Understand, an undergraduate career means that you’re starting over. What you did in high school no longer matters, and high school activities should not be listed on any resumes. The strategy isn’t to shift focus, but to attempt to gain entry another way. One strategy is to transfer into an elite school from a lesser-known university. Ideally, focus on getting the best grades possible, engage in multiple on-campus activities, and on building work-experience.
On-campus jobs are a good starting point, with the end-goal of transferring in for Junior and Senior year. If that doesn’t work, finishing one’s undergraduate degree with invaluable activities, work experience, and a high GPA will be important. The next best bet is to attempt to get into a graduate degree program at an elite school.
Scenario Three: Non-Traditional Adult
The Non-Traditional Adult student can be a variety of things: a career student, someone with a bachelor’s degree looking for a master’s, someone with a family looking to increase their knowledge in a field, etc.
For the Non-traditional adult without a degree, it’s important to gain the undergraduate degree first, and then aim for an ivy league graduate school. It is less likely for a school to accept someone for a bachelor’s program if they have been out of high school for a while. They cannot typically base admission on those old scores from 10-15 years ago. By taking CLEP tests, a student can lessen their time obtaining a bachelors degree.
For the non-traditional adult with a degree looking for advanced options, timing can be an issue as family and work must take priority. By now, a solid work history and resume has been established. Try to find online degrees at elite schools. Harvard Extension School has great programs for online undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Strategies for All Groups:
When applying to an elite university, the schools not only take into account grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities, but also a personal essay and letters of recommendation. That’s why it is so important to get to know your profession and attempt to establish a friendship with those you admire. The personal essay can also help to take an average application and turn it into a “yes” application, so be sure to share an amazing story with the admissions department at the schools. Also review and/or purchase books depicting essays and application stats of people who applied to the schools you’re interested in before you. Learn what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to getting in.
Students of all ages, whether they haven’t been in school for over ten years, or are just starting college, can benefit from CLEP tests to show schools how they can do rigorous college work, so take as many as you can.
Do not discount online options. Some elite schools, such as Cornell University, offer online certificates at a lower cost than one semester of tuition. These are great add-ons to every resume, not just because of the name and prestige of the school, but because of what you have learned.
Your library is your best friend. Whether it is your local library or school library, all the sources you’ll ever need on any topic will be available there. Use that resource as much as possible. It will be worth it.
Ultimately, have faith in yourself and happy studying!