On a beautiful hot summer day at an Ivy League university, some parents of incoming freshmen are at a garden reception to welcome them and their students to the school. There are cheese and crackers, freshly baked cookies and lemonade, and the parents are catching their breath after moving their kids into their dorms.
The topic of conversation between the parents soon become how many schools the kids applied to and how they were accepted to this top Ivy League school. It turned out that both students took advantage of admissions consulting services.
The dirty little secret of Ivy League parents is that many of them use admissions consultants, but they won’t let you know until their kids are already attending the school of their choice. When their kids are applying, they will not likely let you know for fear of competition. It is after their kids are attending the schools that they start trading notes. Ivy week came and went, and there were many tears from parents and kids who didn’t get in. What went wrong? You didn’t know what you were doing!
I recently received this mailing from Solomon Admissions showing the 2020-2021 average acceptance rates of students to top schools with and without Solomon’s consulting:
As you can see from the above, there is definitely an advantage to hiring a consultant. A consultant will guide the student throughout the admissions process. The schools are looking for passion and the consultant can help find that passion and make the student’s application be the best it can be.
One parent we interviewed paid over $10,000 to Solomon for their services. Was he happy with the results? Well, his kid didn’t get into Harvard (the student didn’t apply). However, the student did get into one of the Ivy League universities listed in Solomon’s mailing. The parent’s only regret is that Solomon did not get involved sooner. If Solomon had started guiding the student during her freshman year in high school, she would not have wasted time on less important things like science Olympiad, which she was not passionate about, and instead focused on her passion, which was sports and fitness. But to tell you the truth, how can normal teenagers be expected to know what their passion is? It’s all a crapshoot anyway. The college consultant just makes your student sound better than the rest. And that is the dirty truth no one wants you to know until their kids get into the top schools.
Will an SAT score of 1560 out of 1600 and a 4.0 Grade Point Average and excellent extracurriculars (tennis and president of the finance club) get me into an Ivy League university?
There are no guarantees that a great SAT score and perfect grades will get you into the Ivy League. The schools reject plenty of students with flawless scores and grades; there are just too many applicants to allow everyone in. It’s all based on what your college is looking for that year. If you are great at tennis, and they happened to need a tennis player that year, that might help your application. If they need someone who is really interested in finance and have done unique things to demonstrate that interest and you fit the bill, that might help your application. You cannot predict your acceptance based on grades alone, because the colleges get a ton of students with perfect grades, most of whom they must reject. If your family can afford it, we suggest that you hire a college coach early to determine what you need to concentrate on to make your application stand out. One college coach we spoke to said to apply to the less competitive majors, such as art or labor relations instead of finance, then transfer later on if the school will allow. We suggest that you look into yourself and ask what are you passionate about that can help make the world a better place, and start something that would help your community. Something unique, something that few have done before. Perhaps help low-income kids learn tennis, or start a website to help people learn finance.
Apply early decision to your top choice school. There is less competition for early decision, and colleges will more likely to accept you to increase their yield of acceptances. Be aware, however, that you are committed to that school and agree to attend regardless of the financial aid package. Therefore, be sure you have plenty of money in your college fund or be prepared to borrow.
Concentrate on your essay. Top colleges will be reviewing your essay very carefully, so make sure you write a great essay that shows what you are all about.
Work on your community service. Do as much good for society as possible and put it on your application. Build websites for churches and charities. Volunteer. Raise money for the local food bank. Ask not what a school can do for you but what you can do for the school and society!
What about college admissions consultants? If you can afford it, it will definitely take some stress off of the application process. The consultant will hold the college applicant’s hand throughout the process, with virtual consultations, essay writing help, advice on majors (the advice that was worth the money was to go for the less popular majors so there would be less competition), and generally being there during this stressful time. During the college application ordeal, it is very important to take care of yourself: exercise, eat right and get wellness treatments and massages.
Jason, a high school senior who was accepted to attend an Ivy League college, was one of those lucky ones who did have a college coach that cost $15,000.
My college coach, a former admissions officer at an Ivy League university, worked with other former admissions officers and guided me throughout the college application process. They helped with the essay, emphasizing my special circumstance, such as needing to care for my little brother due to my parents being divorced. The college coach assisted with prepping me for my interviews. College admissions officers are looking for the perfect fit. The most important parts of the application are a great essay and spectacular extra-curricular activities. Everyone has top grades and excellent SAT scores, so you need to stand out with a personal essay that shows your special circumstance while maintaining good grades. There are so many students who have the best extra-curriculars, such as creating their own company, winning international awards, creating patents, playing in Carnegie Hall, starting their own non-profit, etc. The Ivy League is looking for someone who is so passionate about something that he is willing to spend all his time and effort on it, such as a Regeneron winner or Olympic athlete, not someone who dabbles in something. How was I to compete?! One kid hired a college coach who created a website that showed his non-profit, started by donating his birthday money to poor kids and tutoring them. My coach also gave me advice such as, everyone wants to apply to UPenn Wharton for finance, so perhaps UPenn’s art history major might be better.
Vanessa, Ivy League Student
The Pieces of the Pie for Admission to an Ivy League College
Think of admissions to an Ivy as pieces of the pie: If you have enough pieces and they are large enough, then you make up the entire pie. The pieces of the pie include: grades, extra curricular activities, achievements and awards, opportunity in high school, the essay, recommendation letters, the university-specific questions and SAT/ACT.
What grades do you need to have to get into the Ivy League?
Since the Ivies have so many applicants to choose from, they will probably choose the straight A (weighted Grade Point Average 4.0) student over the B student. The colleges want students who can handle the rigorous academic standards, so grades are a good indicator of future success. Does it mean that if you have the occasional B that your chances are zero? No it does not. However, you are competing with the straight A students, so the higher your grades are, the higher your chances of getting into an Ivy.
What if your grades are not perfect?
By not perfect, we mean a GPA around 3.3 to 3.7.
Apply to less-choosy Ivy League schools. Out of all the Ivies, Cornell probably has the top acceptance rate, which is still uber- selective at approximately 8.7%. However, students with average grades will have an improved chance of getting into Cornell as opposed to Harvard, with a 4% acceptance rate.
Explain your grades in the Common App Additional Information Section.
This is where you can explain your special circumstances, such as needing to do the housework or get a job because your parents are divorced. Nowadays, divorce seems to be the norm rather than the exception, so discuss how the divorce has affected your grades: emotional distress, extra housework, need to take care of siblings, etc.
Excel in other areas of the college application. Grades are just one part of the pie that Ivy League colleges use to assess their applicants. If a student has great extracurricular activities, top letters of recommendation, and poignant college essays, he can still be a viable candidate with so-so grades.
Look into transferring to an Ivy League. Even if you don’t get in on your first try, perhaps you can transfer to an Ivy after a year or so at another college.
The College Essay
The college essay is your chance to shine, to stand out amongst all the other stellar grades and perfect SAT scores. Here is where you need to reveal something about yourself. The admissions officers want to know who you are, so that they can make a right match for the school. Think of it as matchmaking for your significant other: you will be spending the next four years of your life in this college, so the admissions officers need to know that it will be a good fit. Of course, there are some exceptions, like if your dad wrote a large check to support the school, but for the rest of us, the essay is very important. The dirty secret, according to high school students I interviewed, everyone has some help with their essays. Even those who cannot afford to hire a college coach will probably get some help, even if it is from a friend.
Please take this poll about whether you hired a college admissions consultant and check back for the results.