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Articles / Applying to College / Ivy Chances for Freshman?

Ivy Chances for Freshman?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Feb. 9, 2015

Question: I am in 9th grade and have a GPA of 4.0, I’m in my school’s volleyball team and a member of a karate club. Furthermore I’m a volunteer at a local nursing home. Will I have a chance to get into Ivy League?

“The Dean” does not do admission “chances” and, even if I did, it’s way too early to assess yours. What I can tell you, however, is what Ivy admission officials often seek in their accepted applicants:

-Top grades in the most rigorous courses. Accepted Ivy candidates may even take classes at local colleges or over the summer after completing the most demanding courses at their own high schools and still seeking more challenge. If your transcript shows a special passion for some particular academic area, so much the better.

-Top SAT or ACT scores. Many admitted Ivy applicants have also taken multiple Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams and have earned the highest scores. These extra tests can help a student seem impressive but are by no means mandatory.

-Significant unique talents or accomplishments in extracurricular activities, particularly athletics (if the applicant is strong enough to be recruited by a coach at that college … if not, sports don’t matter a whole lot) or any activity that is unusual (and yours are not; they are very common). So if you are a truly promising volleyball player, this might be an Ivy “hook,” but do be aware (and most high school freshmen aren’t) that there is a quantum leap between being a good high school player and being a recruited college athlete, even at the lowest college level (and the Ivies are Division 1, which is the highestcollege level). So be realistic about your current abilities and your potential in volleyball, if you’re hoping it could boost your admission odds.

-Unusual background. If you come from an underrepresented minority background, if you are extremely poor (or extremely rich), if you live in an uncommon location, have overcome significant obstacles, or for some other reason have an unusual life story to tell (AND have the good grades and test scores to go with it), this will help you to stand out in a crowd.

Grades and test scores alone rarely lead to Ivy admission. The admission committees are looking for more because the vast majority of candidates are great students with great test results.

So, as a freshman, you have time to consider where you can best make your mark. You also need to broaden your horizons because, even if you have achieved in every area noted above, you will find that Ivy admission is extremely competitive and can seem random or even capricious. So, by the time you’re a senior, be sure you’ve explored a broad range of colleges, not just the Ivies, and found some that you can be truly enthusiastic about.

Good luck!


Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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