When I was a junior in high school, I remember watching the newly released movie The Social Network, which tells the rise of Mark Zuckerberg and his brain child - Facebook. During the clips of his college years in the brick yards of Harvard College, I became enthralled with an idea - what if I could get into those spaces with those same influential people like Zuckerberg? Why not shoot for those same crazy opportunities? Why not me?
To be honest, at the time I didn't even know what the “Ivy League” was. Now looking back having graduated about a year ago from Penn (or UPenn as some people also refer to it), I have a lot more perspective on those Ivy League dreams I once had. Here are some Ivy League myths worth debunking:
1. The Ivy League is impossible to get into.
Obviously not. For many of the schools, there is a below 10% acceptance rate. If you want to increase your chances of getting that coveted acceptance letter, trying applying Early Action or Early Decision. Usually early admits have acceptance rates closer to 20%. For the Class of 2019, schools like Columbia, Cornell, and Dartmouth filled 40% or more of their classes with early admits.
2. You need to have perfect grades to get into the Ivy League.
Though there are plenty of seemingly perfect fish in the Ivy sea, not everyone who gets there is a perfect student. Ivy League admissions officers do care about your grades, but as a more holistic view of all your accomplishments. I myself was accepted to some schools with an SAT well below 2400.That being said, you can get your acceptance letter without having academic perfection. (But still aim for it...)
3. If you're smart, it should be easy to get accepted.
Every year Ivy League admissions shock a number of overly-qualified students that are certain of their acceptances. Why? Because there are just too few spots for all the students who apply! Once you are sure your grades, personal statements, extracurricular activities, and resume are flawless, you just need one more thing: good luck!
4. Everyone is super competitive there.
The academic culture at every school is different. Certainly, Ivy League students will be highly motivated and active in their classes. But truth be told: not everyone will be competitive (whew! what a relief). In fact some of the most relatable and down-to-earth people I know, I met in college. You'll meet people from all across the personality spectrum. So relax!
5. The best schools are in the Ivy League.
Not at all! One can find a quality education at a number of non-Ivy schools including MIT, Duke, Berkeley, NYU, Caltech, UCLA, Emory, Rice, etc. Depending on the ranking, most of these schools top the list around the world and outshine many Ivy League competitors in any given year.
6. All Ivy League professors are the best in their fields.
While at Penn, I took courses with professors who inspired others and some who only tired others. Most of your courses will be taught by the crème de la crème, but some will be taught by graduate students who are working as teaching assistants. Yet, sometimes these same grad students will change your whole academic career in ways that some of your other professors would not. Regardless of whether you are learning form a professor or graduate student, your teachers want to see you grow and challenged intellectually. Because of your small class sizes, they will become your future colleagues and, sometimes, your friends for years to come.
7. All Ivy League courses are hard.
Yes, this is somewhat true. Yet, so is any course you take at most colleges! After you graduate high school, your course load will pick up tremendously and you will have more independence with more academic responsibility. Luckily, you will not have to go it alone and be able to struggle alongside your classmates. After a semester or two, you will already be better adapted to college-level rigor. That's something that's true regardless or not if you attend an Ivy League school. (But there will also be some easier courses. They exist. Trust me.)
8. You need to be rich to afford an Ivy League school.
The marble halls of the Ivy League are filled with students of all income backgrounds: from the world's economic elites to those without a penny to their name. Most Ivy League universities adopt a need-based financial aid policy and not a merit-based one (because everyone is overqualified!) It's always a good idea to pursue external scholarships to supplement and prepare for costs at your future university, and for those without aid or preparation an Ivy League diploma can cost a pretty penny.
9. Stanford is in the Ivy League, right?
Actually, it's not! The Ivy League is historically a sports league comprising of eight universities on the East Coast, almost all of which are colonial colleges that predate the founding of the United States: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale. Want more information on colleges or application consulting? Reach out to the Hillview Prep team at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can work together to help you get into your dream school.