10 Application Tips to Stand Out at Ivy League Colleges During the Admission Process


Admission to top colleges is becoming increasingly competitive. Colleges receive more applications each year than the last, but can only accept about the same number of students. Amid thousands of competitive applications, complete with near-perfect GPAs and test scores, it’s critical that students provide admissions committees with compelling and unique applications to stand out from the crowd. Most elite school admissions offices only have a few minutes to review applications in their initial consideration, so students should take advantage of the time they now have to create an application that will capture the colleges’ attention. These applications are an opportunity for students to authentically and effectively showcase their achievements and personalities and demonstrate to admissions officers that they are a valuable addition to their campus community.

Essays, activity list, letters of recommendation, deadlines – the application season includes a number of components that students should keep track of before submitting. Every student has to navigate many moving parts during the college admissions process, so it’s important that they follow a strategic plan throughout the fall and stay on track. While the best application strategy really varies from student to student, the following ten tips will be helpful to any senior who wants to put together a well-crafted application and navigate every part of their application process as effectively as possible.

1. Start early

Emerging seniors should start working on their applications as soon as they are available. The vast majority of schools published their prompts and requirements for 2022-2023 in early August, so seniors should now complete their college lists with families and counselors, keep track of each college’s application requirements, and write essays. Working on applications on the 11th hour creates both unnecessary stress and room for error.

2. Do thoughtful university research

Great results in the college process rely heavily on thoughtful college research and list building. Students should visit scholarships, browse school websites, view course offerings, sign up for virtual or in-person campus tours, and ask questions about the schools they are interested in. Most schools with supplements will ask questions like “Why our school?” and admissions officers can easily see which students are genuinely interested in attending their school and values ​​and goals that align with their institutional mission.Some schools also follow shown interest. That makes showing interest and asking questions about schools all the more important.

3. Choose recommendations wise

While teachers all want the best results for their students in the college application process, not all letters of recommendation are equally effective. A general letter will be much less effective than a very personal letter highlighting a student’s strengths and passions. The best recommendations come from teachers who have a detailed understanding of a student’s abilities and growth over time and who are enthusiastic about writing a letter. Seniors should ask their teachers for letters of recommendation at the beginning of this school year, if they have not already done so.

4. Take the time to write strong essays

The writing process can take longer than students expect, so it is imperative that students start working on these essays early. It’s also important for students to find friends, teachers, or mentors who can read through their writing to provide feedback on how they come across in their essays. Proofreading is essential both content and presentation matter for admissions officers.

5. Answer optional additional questions

One of the biggest challenges in writing strong college applications is that students need to show as much as possible about themselves and their achievements. Therefore, they should take every opportunity to describe different facets of their personality and their achievements. It is safe to say that optional questions asked in a supplemental essay section include: not really optional.

6. Submit Additional Materials

In addition to the previous tip, students should send additional materials if they have the opportunity (but should never submit additional essays or materials not requested or accepted by colleges). For example, if students have completed a lot of music or visual arts work, even if they have no intention of pursuing the arts in college or professionally, they can send videos of musical performances or a portfolio of their work. Some colleges allow one additional letter from an external recommender; students should think carefully about who can speak to a new side of their personalities and abilities. Frequently occurring additional recommendations are, for example, internship or work supervisors or sports coaches.

7. Emphasize uniqueness, leadership and impact

When writing their activity section and essays, students should discuss unique extracurricular extracurricular and volunteer activities, highlight and reflect on leadership roles, and clearly communicate their specific achievements and impact on their communities. It is essential that they show what is important to them, how they think and how their perspective and involvement – even in common activities – differs from that of hundreds of other applicants involved in similar activities.

8. Strategically submit test scores

In light of the COVID pandemic, many schools have chosen to adopt a test-optional policy, allowing students to choose whether to send SAT/ACT scores. Students should compare their scores to the historical statistics published by each of their prospective colleges, and submit their scores only if they are at or above the typical score ranges of admitted students.

9. Practice Interviews

An important part of many schools’ admissions processes is an interview, which is usually conducted by an alumnus of the school. Similar to a job interview, students should prepare in advance by practicing their answers to frequently asked questions and coming up with a few specific, thoughtful questions to ask their interviewer.

10. Be honest and sincere

No student is perfect, and every admissions officer is well aware of that. If a student has excessive grades in their academic record or extenuating circumstances, they must be honest and provide context in their application. Admissions officers are interested in students’ achievements and talent, but their character and ability to grow are just as important. Whether in their personal statements, additions, or interviews, students should strive to present themselves in a positive yet genuine light.

As the school year begins, being proactive, organized, and aware of these various application components will help seniors achieve the best possible results in their college processes. Good luck to all seniors and families in the 2022-2023 application cycle!