1 05, 2017

Top 5 Books To Read Before Applying to An Ivy League College

By | 2017-05-01T00:53:58+00:00 May 1st, 2017|Brown, College Admissions, Columbia, Common App, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Ivy League, Yale|0 Comments

Did well in high school?  Check.  Strongly involved in your extracurriculars?  Check.  Aced your AP exams, and scored pretty high on your SAT’s?  Double check.

More than likely if you fit the above, you probably have at least some aspiration to go to an Ivy League college.  Maybe you’re not sure if you’ll get in, but you have the hope.  The dream.  If only you could maximize your chances.  Do whatever you could do to just push your Ivy League college application just a little bit over the edge.

But where is this secret knowledge?  What is this secret insider information? How can you find out EXACTLY what else you can possibly do, when you turn on your computer and sit down this year to apply to your list of schools.

Read.  That’s my answer, to parents and students alike.  Find out. Research the information.

The following books are the top 5 books in their field which give you many, many examples of what a successful Harvard, Yale and Stanford college application essay actually looks like — and there are lots of examples from which to access and learn.

The important thing to remember though, is that while I do recommend reading these books, in the end, you need to read and then DIVERT from what you just read.  In other words, you need to be unique in your own approach.  An individual in terms of what YOU decide to talk about in your essay and reveal.

Believe me, the admissions officers at each of these schools are aware that these books are out there, and are familiar with the essays they contain. You must make yours DIFFERENT, both in structure and certainly content, but understanding what exactly makes a strong (successful) essay, can be a very powerful first step towards your Ivy League college application success!

So, with no more delay, the following are the top 5 books I recommend all rising college seniors read, or at least flip through, as they begin their college application process this summer.

Click on the books themselves for the larger links. And, the winners of this year’s recommended Ivy League College Admissions books are:

Book #1:

Book #2:

Book #3:

Book #4:

And, Book #5:

Remember, these books are just a jumping off place.  A starting spot.  In the end, you need to find what exactly makes you stand out on your own, and what makes YOU unusual and unique.  Try to think about what makes a college admissions officer want to say, “Wow, this student BELONGS here, and I would hate to lose him or her to another rival Ivy League school.”

 See, each school wants the next generation’s leaders and visionaries to be associated with their university. So, take my advice, read some books, and let that future be you.
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I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer and a Harvard grad, and currently run the Ivy League college admissions firm: IVY LEAGUE ESSAY @ www.CollegeIvyLeague.com.  Contact me today for a free Ivy League evaluation and get into the school of your dreams!
23 06, 2016

How to Prepare For An Ivy League College Education

By | 2017-04-19T12:38:04+00:00 June 23rd, 2016|Brown, college, College Admissions, Columbia, Common App, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Ivy League, Ivy League Advice, Ivy League College, MIT, Princeton, UPenn, Yale|0 Comments

If you have always dreamed of having your son or daughter graduate from an Ivy League college — which, to define the term, are the eight schools that make up the Ivy League and including: Harvard, Princeton, Yale (the “Big Three”), as well as Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania —  there are many thing you can do that will help your teen succeed in the Ivy League college admissions and college application process.

#1.  Make sure they take as many AP courses as possible:  College admissions officers, especially Ivy League college admissions officers want to see that your student is not only challenging themselves by taking the most challenging courses possible at their particular school, but they want to see that they are ALREADY fully immersed in college-level classes, before they even get to college. So, if your student’s high school DOESN’T offer any AP course work, make sure they get it somewhere else (like enrolling in a community college at night).

This shows that they will be able to handle the work-load once they get in to a highly competitive school.  It shows they have the intellect and can take the pressure, and that kind of proof is what makes admissions officers happy, and lets your high school student actually pass the test and get in!

#2: Make sure they have extracurricular activities that are interesting and different:  By different, this means something more unique than piano, violin, or swimming.  Oh no!  What if you’re saying, “but my kid is taking piano, violin and swimming!”

These activities are fine if they’re either a musical prodigy, or an Olympic medalist, but in case they’re not, try…just try…to branch out and have the, expand into other activities that will make them stand out more than their friends and become even more unique to college admissions officers – again, especially Ivy League college admissions officers.

Schools like to diversify their class, and they like students who have done, or are doing, incredibly interesting things.  So, branch out.  Do something different – on top of the regular “smart kid” activities like classical music or Model UN.  You don’t want to just do what every other smart kid does: ESPECIALLY for the Ivy League!

#3: Let them choose their own, real interests:  Really.  Don’t push your kid to go into Engineering or Finance as a potential major in college if they’re sincerely telling you they want to study Greek, or eventually get a Ph.D in Microbiology.  The college admissions officers want to know what REALLY interests your student, again, especially for the Ivy League, and what they don’t want to see is someone who’s been programmed by their parents to say something that simply sounds like the hot thing to study right now, or with the only purpose of setting your student up for a (perceived) well-paying job.

The Ivy League schools in particular like to admit students who want to study something DIFFERENT.  Remember, they employ a lot of professors, and they need to fill the Greek classes, too.  The Ivy League colleges often admit students who have a WIDE VARIETY OF INTERESTS, especially in the humanities.

These are also the students who might later go on to law school, or medical school, enter a policy program in foreign relations, and/or get their Ph.D.

The Ivy League colleges in particular like students who appreciate the value of a broad education — one that will leave them post-graduation with a full and solid understanding of today’s world.  In other worlds, the Ivy League colleges are more interested in graduating people who will always be “well-educated” by anyone’s standards, and that means being able to speak on a wide variety of interests and topics at some depth.

What they are NOT interested in, are people who are simply looking at college as a way to get a job.  They try to weed those “non-intellectuals” the “non-scholars” out.  Those students honestly are better served by going to a state school or one of the more highly competitive science or engineering schools like MIT.

#4: In summary, Ivy League colleges are for students who appreciate learning…about everything!  They are students who have a passion for new things and intellectual topics, and understand and are well-versed in a wide-variety of literary, artistic, political, and academic possibilities.

If you can encourage that mindset, your child has a chance to get in.  Strong essays, high grades, good SAT scores, glowing high school recommendations, and a impressive college interview will all help complete the college admissions package, but instilling in your student a desire to learn, and to convey that attitude about learning in everything and anything as they go forth…THAT’s what Ivy League admissions officers look for the most, and that is the “secret sauce” that will  help them get in!

[I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer and a Harvard graduate, and currently run the Ivy League college admissions consulting firm: www.IVY LEAGUE ESSAY.com  Contact me for a free consultation today, and get into the Ivy League college of your dreams! Email:  IvyLeagueEssayInfo@gmail.com ]

9 06, 2016

How to Improve Your Ivy League College Application

By | 2017-04-17T22:51:49+00:00 June 9th, 2016|Berkeley, Brown, College Admissions, Common App, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, Harvard, Ivy League, Ivy League Advice, Ivy League College, Michigan, MIT, NYU, Princeton, UCLA, UPenn, Yale|0 Comments

If you’re applying to an Ivy League college you already know that high grades, tons of AP classes, stellar SAT scores, unique extracurriculars, and fantastic teacher recs can all play a role in your application and acceptance to some of the most prestigious colleges in America.

The following are top ten tips though that you may not have thought of that when, combined with the standard qualifications above (i.e. stellar GPA, etc), can actually serve to help you get in!

  1. Social Media:  Schools check.  So, that said, you want to make sure that there is nothing crude or lewd on your facebook page and you’re not making extreme non-pc comments all over twitter.  It’s okay to show yourself having fun with your friends, and you certainly don’t have to show yourself as 100% scholarly and serious (it is a social outlet, after all), and you’re even allowed to have an opinion that maybe other people don’t necessarily agree with, but just keep in mind that the college admission officers are trying to get a sneak peak and quick overview of who you might be online. If you think your fb page shows you as an all around great person with dedicated intellectual and creative interests and great humanitarian projects under your belt (and on your page) then let them look.  It could help you.  More often than not though, it won’t.  Personally, I’d set my fb page to private right now to block anyone who isn’t a known friend. After all, why take the risk?
  2. Send your interviewer a thank you email: This is another tip that some might think of, and some won’t.  Sending a very BRIEF thank you, if you do in fact have your interviewer’s email address (some schools do not make this available) this is a sign of having good manners, which translates into a sign of strong upbringing and class.  The Ivy League especially is deciding whether you fit into their school culture, not only if you have the grades to succeed.  Sending a thank you (just 2-3 sentences at most- don’t go longer) can leave a positive impression in your interviewer’s eyes, and that translates to a positive feeling when they sit down to report on their interview with you, that can help to get you in!
  3. Mention legacy:  Do you have a family member who went to the school?  If not that that particular college, did they go to another college within the Ivy League.  If so, mention it.  Don’t feel like you’re bragging.  The Ivy League universities value “legacies” highly, so even though it’s usually a question on the application, mention it during your college interview, as well. The Ivy League in particular loves tradition and preserving and honoring family lines.  If your mom went to Columbia and your dad is a Harvard grad = mention it.  Believe me, it will help.
  4. Mention 1st Generation: As an alternative to the above, perhaps you’re the first one in your family to ever even go to college!  If this is you, don’t worry, MENTION IT – somewhere in your essays.  Again, this will only help you.
  5. Are you a twin? Yes, I know this one isn’t going to apply to most people, but it’s worth mentioning. The Ivy League in particular loves admitting twins who are equally ambitious and have the required credentials.  So, if you’re a twin – identically or fraternal – this should be everywhere in your college essays, and specifically at least mentioned in you Common App.   The colleges like anything and everything that makes you unique, and having a twin or sibling that is going to be in the same incoming calls puts you in that “special and unique” category, especially if you’re special and unique and can stand out in others areas, as well!

Those are just a few helpful tips that you might not find elsewhere regarding how to make your college applications, and especially your Ivy League college applications stand out even more.

Stay tuned in the coming days for even more!

[I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer and a Harvard graduate, and currently run the Ivy League Essay college admissions firm: www.IVY LEAGUE ESSAY.com  Check out my website or send me an email: IvyLeagueEssayInfo@gmail.com, and request a free consultation today!]

 

 

7 12, 2015

Do You Need to Know Your Major When Applying to College?

By | 2017-04-17T22:51:49+00:00 December 7th, 2015|Harvard, Ivy League Advice, Princeton, Yale|1 Comment

Harvard University snow

It’s a legitimate question: do you need to know what you want to major in before applying to college?  It’s a question many high school seniors have on their mind this time of year as college admission deadlines approach, especially if you’re a student applying to the most competitive Ivy League Colleges.

So, how strongly do you really need to know  what you want to major in and/or possibly do for a living while you’re still just a senior in high school?  After all, isn’t that what college is all about?  To expose oneself to all kinds of different academic fields, intellectual interests and possibilities.  What if you really don’t know what you might want to do for a living down the road, or even next week?  In other words, what if you’re working on your college admission essays and applications, and you really have no idea what you might be interested in at all.  You’re an excellent student, you have strong grades, strong test scores, great extracurriculars, your teachers love you, and you express yourself well in writing (via your college admission essays) so…is not knowing your potential major really going to be a problem?

My answer is this:  yes. Colleges like to see some kind of direction, again  especially when talking about the more competitive programs like the Ivy League.  The strongest college applicants are those who know what they’re interested in and the path they want to pursue – think of someone who has known they wanted to be a doctor since they were five, a classical musician who has been practicing their whole life, or a high school student who has always been actively building things and working on the latest technology, knowing she has always wanted to be an engineer.

Everyone understands that interests change and people grow intellectually, especially young people when exposed to all the new ideas on experiences their first college year, but when talking about straight college admissions facts and advice, I will say that the stronger college applicants have both a passion that’s reflected in their academic pursuits and interests, and an intense drive that – even if it changes – at least points them in a very  focused direction, so they can speak with conviction in their college applications and interviews and at least start make a case for what they *might* want to do even if it changes down the road.

It is always better to present yourself as someone who has focus and drive and confidence than someone who is all over the place and unsure of who they are and where they’re going, at least at this moment in time.  You come across much stronger if you pick something and build your essays and interests around that idea.  It really shows a level of confidence, and confidence is what college admissions officers like.

Once you have your major, make sure it fits with the rest of your application.  Do your extracurriculars fit with your interest?  Does your summer work experience?  What about your achievements and awards?  The strong college applications are those which present a strong and unified story.

 Again, college admissions officers know that many students  don’t know what they want to do, but even if you’re undecided, your strongest bet is to pick something even if you change you mind down the road.

[I’m a former Harvard interviewer and a Harvard graduate, and currently run the New York based Ivy League College admissions firm: www.IvyLeagueEssay.com  Contact me today for a free initial consultation and get into the school of your dreams! Phone: (646) 276-7042 Email: IvyLeagueessayInfo@gmail.com ]

10 11, 2015

Your Ivy League College Admissions Interview: How to Prepare & What to Expect

By | 2017-04-17T22:51:49+00:00 November 10th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Harvard Library

It’s incredibly nerve-wracking to have to go into a room and have a stranger decide your future.  If you’re also a top student (like I was), it’s even more nerve-wracking to not know if you’re really going to get to go to a top-tier, super-elite school like Harvard, Princeton, MIT or Yale and have your future and career almost completely laid out for you, or if you really even have the slightest chance of getting in at all.

That’s why I’ve laid out the top questions students often hear during their Ivy League college interviews. Even if you’re not applying to the Ivy League, this will work for any other competitive top to mid-tier college, too.

So, whether you’re applying to Harvard and Princeton, or Boston University and NYU, studying these questions will help you be more prepared in terms of what to expect from your college interview, and how to be more confident during the interview itself, because nothing will take you by surprise.

As an overview though, college admissions officers want to know that you have the maturity to speak clearly, that you can be comfortable even in a nerve-wracking situation, that you can look them in the eye, smile, chat, have a solid “adult” conversation on an adult level, and are clear in terms of who you are at this point in your life and where you want to go.  These questions will help you get there:

1. “So, what are you interested in studying in college?”

What college interviewers are looking for here, is an answer that reveals your academic and possible future professional plans and interests, but also shows uniqueness and a background (however slight it may be) related to your answer.

In other words, just saying you’re interested in pre-med is fine, but saying you’re interested in pre-med because you spent time interning over the summer at a make-shift hospital in India, or at an inner city hospital in Chicago, is better because it shows you have actual experience to back up your goals. .

The main thing that will get you bad marks here on this question?  Being too vague – that’s what this question is trying to screen for.  Your college interviewer wants to make sure that you have the focus and ambition needed to truly succeed in a top Ivy League college (and in life).  They want to make sure you’re someone who has a plan and has a direction…even if that direction later changes course.  Just show them that you have an initial thought-out plan.

 So, if they ask you this question, pick an academic subject and back it up, even if you end up changing your major 4 times once you’re in.  First, get in!

2. “What high school accomplishment are you most proud of?”

Here, your college admissions interviewer is trying to get a sense of what you value, as the accomplishment you are most proud of will not only show off your best strengths academically (or extracurricularly, as could be the case) but will show him/her what things and pursuits you actually  identify with, in your own life – and that gives them great information about YOU.

The main thing that will get you bad marks on your college interviewer’s report with this question? Not showing a real passion or energy behind your answer.  You can’t expect someone to be excited about what you’ve done in life, if you yourself aren’t that interested.

3. “Tell me about your family background? Where did you grow up?”

What the admission officer is looking for here, is a sense of trying to place you = what I call, trying to paint a picture of your home life in their mind.  Did you grow up in a big city, a suburb, a rural farm?  Were you home-schooled, or did you attend a highly competitive science magnet in your area?

They are trying to place you, but they are also trying to discern how you yourself feel about your background.  There’s no wrong answer here, except a one-word answer.  That will get you a bad mark on the interviewer’s report, and you don’t want that.  If someone asks you a question, expand and expound!

4. “What is an example of something difficult you’ve had to go through, or an important event perhaps that took place in your life in the last few years?”

Here, as with the question above, the admissions committee (through the college interviewer’s report that they will write about you)  is simply trying to get a sense of who you are, what you value, and what stands out in your mind.  They are simply trying to understand who you are as a person, and how you see yourself in relation to others.

The one thing that will get you bad marks on this question?  Not having a strong and solid answer.  It’s really not so much what you say with any of this, but how you say it.  Always speak with confidence and self-reflection = that’s what they really like.  Don’t be afraid to show them who you are as a thinker and a person.  The fastest thing to get you dinged on all of your questions is, again, a weak, one-word response!

5. “Why Harvard” or “Why Princeton?” or “Why Columbia?” or “Why Berkeley?”…

Most likely, you already wrote an admissions essay covering this question, so I strongly suggest you review all of your essays before going into your college interview.  Your answer “Why Harvard, or University of Pennsylvania, or Columbia, Brown, Duke, UCLA, MIT, or NYU?” (just to name a few), should focus on that particular school’s program, core curriculum, professors, classes and extracurriculars that are specific to your interests.

The focus should be academic at the core, but don’t be afraid to let your personality and true interest in a school’s outside extracurricular activities also shine through.  Do your homework and understand the differences between different programs and how they’re set up with their own unique flavor, especially when we’re talking about the Ivy League colleges and universities.

In the end, your college admissions interview should be conversational, interesting, educational and engaging!  In other words, just try to have a very real and connected conversation. Most interviews last 20-40 minutes, and if you’ve gotten this far, it’s a very good sign that you are already on your way!

[I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer and a Harvard graduate.  I currently run the Ivy League admissions firm: www.IvyLeagueEssay.com out of New York.  I provide expert advice on college essays and applications to students all over the world, and specialize in the Ivy League and “Top Ten” schools.  Feel free to contact me for more information, and get into the college of your dreams!]

5 06, 2015

Applying to an Ivy League College? Common App Essay Advice from a Former Harvard Interviewer!

By | 2017-04-17T22:51:49+00:00 June 5th, 2015|Brown, College Admissions, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Ivy League, Princeton, UPenn, Yale|1 Comment

1. What are some of the common misconceptions/mistakes you see regarding students’ Common App essays? Do you have any general advice for the Common App?

The biggest mistake I see students repeatedly make with the Common App, is not understanding what makes them unique. Schools are looking for “original thinkers”…. “original doers” and in your Common App you want to show off just what makes you different from your peers. It may be something you don’t even realize, or pay much attention to, so look for it!

I had one student for example, who had spent her life studying ballet at a very high artistic level, where she was even asked to join a big city ballet company as an apprentice, and yet she didn’t think this was something worth mentioning, and instead wrote her essay on a science fair she participated in (wrong approach). Another student of mine had had an extremely interesting life growing up in a town where he and his brother were the only Jewish kids in their entire school system in the rural South. He (again, wrong approach) wrote about going on a summer trip to Mexico with his high school class. WRITE ABOUT SOMETHING UNUSUAL! The most unusual experience, or fact, or interest in your life that you can think of. Done well, that is what will get you in.

 

  1. Social media is a boon for some students and a bane for others. Does Harvard search up students’ social media profiles during the admissions process?

 I actually was an admissions interviewer for Harvard before social media was so prevalent, so can’t officially answer this question on Harvard’s behalf. However, as a general rule, if an admissions committee is very interested in someone, or if they’re on the fence about a candidate, they will sometimes google the student to see what comes up, and this includes more often than not, facebook profiles. It simply helps to put a face with a name in most cases, and that is really often all they are looking at, just trying to get a “feel” for the applicant, but whether admissions officers will admit to this practice or not, is debatable. Again, wasn’t around as an option 15 years ago!

  1. What advice would you give to students who want to succeed in an admissions interview?

 I actually offer free interview prep for all the students who work with me on their applications, at no extra charge. We go in-depth into what they can expect, how to prepare, how to present themselves, but in general, the overriding action needs to be: confidence. No matter what you say, it is going to be more important how you say it. Again, this is something I work on with my clients more specifically.

4. Some students I know are self-studying for AP exams in subjects that aren’t offered at their schools, and not taking the actual class itself. Is this a good idea?

 It is a good idea if they can do it well, and score well on the exam. By “well,” I mean achieve a 4 or a 5. Preferably a 5. Anything less and I would not report. I would also consider enrolling in a community college class if the student’s school doesn’t offer a particular AP that they’re interested in, as the admissions committee will be impressed that they had the ambition and drive to branch out and education themselves on their own, outside their immediate resources.

 5. Are some majors harder to get into compared to other majors at Harvard?

Not if you can demonstrate “original thought” in terms of why a particular major is right for you, why a particular interest stems out, and can be backed up by, your own unique experience. Saying, “I want to be a Biology major, so I can be pre-med” or, “I want to major in Economics so I can get my MBA and eventually work on Wall Street” isn’t going to get you in, unless that uniqueness in terms of your background and experience can shine through.

So, in that regard, saying you want to major in Latin, because you are very interested in expanding your already ongoing research in ancient Catholic cryptology, and have already published papers on the topic in some well-read Vatican journals…is going to give you a better chance than the pre-med student above, but it all depends on you and, again, what makes you uniquely interesting in your major of choice.

6. What general advice would you recommend to students who have been waitlisted, or students who are appealing their decision?

First, I have known both clients and friends who were waitlisted and then got in at the very last minutes, so there is always hope! The best thing you can do, is follow the school’s instructions and submit any additional materials IF REQUESTED. If nothing is requested, than you simply have to wait it out, also knowing that you could consider transferring after your first year elsewhere if you truly wanted to try to get into that particular school.

  1. What are the main qualities Harvard wants to see in extracurricular activities?

Again, uniqueness! I can’t stress this enough. Everyone who applies to Harvard is President of some school club, ether plays the piano or the violin (at an extremely exceptional level), and/or is on the swim team or math team (take your pick). Everyone also volunteers and “gives back.” It’s all the same.

What they’re looking for though, once again, is originality.   What do you do with your time that’s unique? What do you do with your time that’s already at an adult level? Find what makes you different and emphasize it throughout your college application…especially if you are applying to the Ivy League. These schools pride themselves on creating an “interesting” class. A class where you look at the person next to you and think, “wow, that’s really cool.” Be that person and you add to the school’s diversity. That is what will get you in, on top of already having the excellent scores and grades.

[I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer, and a Harvard graduate, and currently run the Ivy League Admissions Consulting Firm: www.IvyLeagueEssay.com. I work with students all over the world. Contact me for a free consultation today!]