Many folks believe that performing community service is essential in order to gain admission to highly selective colleges. These folks are just plain wrong. Don’t get us wrong — it’s nice to perform community service. By serving soup in soup kitchens, by building houses for the homeless, by walking charity races for a great cause — you are making this world a better place. That’s an incredible thing and you should be proud of yourself. But will these actions help you gain admission to a highly selective college? Probably not.
Highly selective colleges don’t seek out students who do ordinary community service. Serving soup in a soup kitchen is ordinary at best. But wonderful, of course. Not everyone in this world volunteers at soup kitchens — it shows you’ve got heart. Or it can show that you think it’ll help your case to get into a highly selective college. It won’t. There’s even an article in a local newspaper in Michigan today (“Monroe News”) entitled “Service Can Pump Up College Application” in which the writer, Paula Wethington, states, “Do you want one tip that will help your high school student be the best possible candidate for college acceptance and scholarship awards? It’s all in the timing of what you can put on the student resumes. Know when those applications are likely to be due and set a goal to have as many community service and leadership accomplishments as possible completed before that point.”
Talk about quantity over quality! Highly selective colleges don’t care if students are involved in a hundred activities. No, we take that back. They do care. They won’t admit such a student. What top colleges are looking for is depth of involvement in activities — activities that set students apart from the plethora of other applicants. At The Ivy Coach, we aim to correct college admissions misconceptions and the advice put forward in this “Monroe News” article is just, well, incorrect. This advice apparently came from a “Girl Scouts troop leader.” Perhaps one shouldn’t be getting advice on college admissions from Girl Scouts troop leaders? Just maybe?Categories: College Admissions, Extracurricular Activities Tags: College Admission and Serving Community, Community Service and Admissions, Community Service and Ivy League, Community Service Hours and Ivy League, Ivy League and Community Service
The Intel Science Talent Search is the single most prestigious science competition for high school seniors in the United States. It’s the ultimate science fair championship where young science researchers go head to head with papers spanning chemistry, biology, psychology, physics, computer science, and more (they present their work if chosen to be finalists). But it’s not always when the winner of the Intel Science Talent search creates something that can actually change the world right here and now. Not in ten years. Now. Jack Andraka, this year’s winner, has done just that.
Andraka, at fifteen years old, is by all accounts a prodigy. Just listen to him speak. So what’d he create? He created a sensor that can detect pancreatic cancer, a disease that usually isn’t detected until it’s too late. According to a “Yahoo News” article by Nadine Kalinauskas on the Intel STS winner, “Current pancreatic cancer-detection methods are ‘woefully ineffective,’ leaving most cancers undiagnosed until their final stages. By then, it’s usually too late for treatment. ‘[Andraka's] novel patent-pending sensor has proved to be 28 times faster, 28 times less expensive, and over 100 times more sensitive than current tests,’ the Daily Mail reports. Andraka believes his simple detection test would help patients identify the disease at its earliest stages, before it becomes invasive, and possibly boosting survival rates of the deadly cancer to ‘close to 100 per cent.’
And the 15 year-old was turned down by a ton of professors when he approached them about wanting to work on this in their labs. That makes his remarkable sensor even cooler. What chutzpah he had to approach all of those professors! Shame on them for turning him down. We imagine they regret that decision now. Congratulations to Jack Andraka on winning the Intel Science Talent Search but, way more importantly, on creating a patent-pending sensor to accurately detect pancreatic cancer at a much earlier stage. It’s truly remarkable. This 15 year-old has already changed the world with his enormous contribution to mankind before he even goes to college! Now that’s something. If you’re a high school student interested in science research, may his story inspire you!
Check out video of Andraka here:Categories: College Admissions, Extracurricular Activities, Talented Students Tags: Intel Science Competition, Intel Science Fair, Intel Science Talent Search, Intel Science Talent Search Winner, Intel STS
In Ivy League admissions, do you think being a member of the National Honor Society is going to be a difference-maker? If you do, it’s a good thing you’re a reader of our blog because we aim to demystify the highly selective college admissions process and correct misconceptions. The fact is that being in the National Honor Society does as little for you in highly selective college admissions as tying your shoelaces with bunny ears as compared to the other more advanced shoelace tying process.
And why is it so meaningless? Because almost every student who applies for admission to Princeton, Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Penn, Columbia, and Brown are members of their high school’s National Honor Society. College admissions officers at highly selective colleges look for ways to distinguish applicants. What they don’t look for are ways the applicants are all the same. That would be a waste! So don’t get so excited about being in the National Honor Society. Colleges don’t care about meaningless honors. They care about passion, intellectual curiosity, perseverance, determination, hard work, and talent.
There are other meaningless associations and honors that we’ll be discussing in future blog posts. In the meantime, what are some honors that you think might be meaningless? We’ll confirm or deny. “Who’s Who Among American High School Students.” Let us know your thoughts on honors and college admissions by posting below!Categories: College Admissions, Extracurricular Activities Tags: Honors and College Admission, Honors and College Admissions, Honors and Ivy League Admissions, Honors and University Admissions
So many parents and students are under the impression that volunteering is essential to find success in the Ivy League admissions process. It used to be that well-rounded students (students with no singular amazing talent but who excelled at a variety of things like three sports, a musical instrument, etc.) stood better odds in the Ivy League admissions process than other candidates. Many folks now know the common knowledge that this is no longer the case and it hasn’t been the case for years. Ivy League colleges want uniquely talented students (in one particular area) to form a well-rounded class of talented students.
But, as we said, this isn’t news. It’s been like this for quite a while and parents and students typically nod their heads that they know this and totally get it. But then why oh why do parents and students think Ivy League admissions counselors will be impressed because your child completes 16 hours of community service a week in a variety of activities? Don’t get us wrong — it’s nice that your child is giving back to the world — but do you really think an Ivy League admissions counselor is going to be floored by this? How does this reflect a uniquely talented individual? How does volunteering in a slew of volunteer activities make you special? Don’t you realize that there are tons of parents like you boasting about this very same “achievement?” It never ceases to amaze us.
If you’re a student who loves volunteering, that’s great! Roll up your sleeves and do something exceptional in one volunteer activity. Make real progress. Start something incredible. Whatever that activity is — just put all of your heart and soul into it. Don’t just join a bunch of volunteer activities because you think it’ll improve your odds of admission to an Ivy League school. It won’t. We promise you that. It’ll make you anything but unique. It’ll make you well-rounded. And do Ivy League schools want well-rounded students? No!Categories: College Admissions, Extracurricular Activities, Ivy League Tags: Getting Into Ivies and Volunteering, Ivy Admission and Volunteering, Volunteer and Ivy Admission, Volunteering and Ivy League Admissions, Volunteering and Ivy League Applications
Why is it that parents and students think that community service is a factor in admissions? Why is it that students feel that it’s necessary to add up their community service hours? Colleges are looking to form well-rounded classes of talented students. What they’re most certainly not looking for is well-rounded students with no particular exceptional talent or passion area. If admissions counselors expected everyone who applies to their college to have community service, then they wouldn’t have a well-rounded and diverse class of talented students. Instead, they would have a class of students who are only community service minded.
Certainly the bassoon player who devotes 30 hours a week to playing the bassoon doesn’t have time to devote to community service. And neither does the swimmer who goes a :51 for the 100 yard back because it takes a whole lot of work and a whole lot of talent to swim a 51 second 100 backstroke. After all, that’s four laps of backstroke in well under a minute! To do this, this student likely doesn’t have time to devote to a host of community service organizations. And this student doesn’t need to devote time to community service organizations to gain admission into a highly selective college. He just doesn’t!
Here’s something that Jeff Brenzel, the Dean of Admissions at Yale, once said: “We neither privilege nor ignore community service. The thing we are looking for outside the classroom is not a series of check boxes on a resume; we’re looking instead for a high level of engagement or leadership in whatever it is that the student cares about most.”
Read what Mr. Brenzel so wisely stated again. At Yale, like at all of the highly selective colleges, they’re looking not for a series of check boxes on a resume but rather a high level of commitment and leadership in an activity the student is passionate about. In fact, Mr. Brenzel goes on to say, “For some students, community service is at the forefront of their extracurriculars, in which case we pay a lot of attention to what they have accomplished in that area. For other students, some other passion or interest holds primary sway, and we evaluate the engagement in that area.”
So, no, community service is by no means a prerequisite to gaining admission to a highly selective college. And if anyone tells you otherwise — as they so often do — they’re wrong and you should ignore them accordingly. You have our permission.
While you’re here, check out this post on Ivy League Admission and Community Service.Categories: College Admissions, Extracurricular Activities, Ivy League Tags: Community Service and College Admission, Community Service and Ivy League Admission, Volunteer and College Admission, Volunteering and College Admission, Volunteering and College Admissions
In every aspect of the college admissions process (and in life), it is important to be honest. On your activity sheet, don’t cite that you volunteer at your local church for 22 hours a week if you really only volunteer for 8 hours a week. During your college interviews, don’t claim to love reading when you can’t cite a book that you’ve read for pleasure (that means outside of the required reading for English classes) in the last five years. Oy vey. And if you’re an athletic recruit (especially if you’re a runner or swimmer), that means not lying about your times!
Do students really think that they’ll be able to get away with lying about their times in college swimming recruiting? With websites like swimmingtimes.com that records swimmers’ times, it’s not just wrong to lie about your times…you won’t get away with it. It’s too easy to check. Too easy to verify. Too easy to realize that the times a swimmer has given to a coach don’t match up with the times the coach has found online. And coaches do indeed check their recruits’ times online. Of course they do! Do you really think that they would waste a spot on a recruit who won’t actually be able to contribute to the team over the next four years? Has it happened in the past? You bet. And when that recruit shows up on the first day of school and it’s easily apparent that he/she lied about his/her times, that coach is going to be quite mad.
That can lead the coach to even contact the admissions office. Maybe they’ll do something about it. Maybe they won’t. Maybe the coach will be too embarrassed that they didn’t verify the swimmer’s times with his/her coach or online. But, these days, it doesn’t get to this. It’s hard to dupe a college swimming or track coach with all of the information that is out there online. So if you’re even considering fudging those times by even a little, think again. Don’t do it. Even if you get in, your admission could be revoked. You’ll be mortified when all of your fellow swimmers and runners think of you as a liar and a cheat. And it’ll start you off on the completely wrong foot in college. Be honest in the college admissions process. Always and on everything.Categories: College Admissions, College Athletes, Extracurricular Activities Tags: College Swim Recruiting, College Swimming Recruiting, Ivy League Swimming Recruiting, University Swim Recruiting, University Swimming Recruiting
One of the advantages of being a runner or a swimmer or even a golfer in the college athletic recruiting process is that applicants tend to know where they stand. As a male swimmer who goes a :58 in the 100 yard backstroke, his best event, isn’t going to get any attention at Division 1 swimming programs. In the Ivy League, the Harvard coach isn’t going to be interested in him and neither is the Dartmouth coach. Does that mean that this swimmer can’t swim in college? Not necessarily. There are certainly some universities where this applicant can pursue a college swimming career — likely just not in Division 1. A school like Brandeis or Middlebury might have interest, though even Middlebury might be a stretch.
As a high school basketball player, you may have some idea of where you stand with college coaches but it’s not as cut and dry as swimming or running. There aren’t times in basketball. You can’t just look at the data and see how you stack up. It’s hard to compare one applicant’s jump-shot against another. Sure, there are coaches who make a living doing this, but, for the student, it’s easy to think your jump-shot and agility are much better than that shooting guard at the rival high school.
So if you’re a swimmer or a runner, compare your best times to the times at meets for the universities you intend to apply to. If you’re a :56 100 yard breastroker and swimmers at Yale are going :55, :56, then you’d fit in really well. If you’re a 1:08 100 yard breastroker and swimmers at your dream school are going sub-:57, then you might want to seriously reconsider your plans on swimming at that college. Be realistic. Be objective. Scan through those meet results and you’ll see just where you stand in your dream school’s coach’s eyes.
While you’re here, check out this post on University Athletic Recruiting.Categories: College Admissions, College Athletes, Extracurricular Activities Tags: College Athletic Recruiting, College Recruiting, College Sports Recruiting, University Athletic Recruiting, University Recruiting
Work and college admissions success (as in employment during high school or over high school summers), contrary to popular belief, are not inversely related. There’s an all-too-common misconception out there that students should attend fancy, expensive summer programs to improve their odds of getting into highly selective colleges. This simply isn’t true. Do you think that Harvard is going to admit your child because he attended a summer program? No. They’ll gladly take your money for the program but that doesn’t mean that it’ll improve his odds of getting into the university when he applies. The fact is that expensive summer programs are entirely overrated and not necessary to gain admission to highly selective colleges.
There are a number of things a high school student can do in lieu of going to a fancy summer program at a prestigious university. For instance, they can work. Maybe this means lifeguarding and saving lives. Maybe it means flipping burgers. Maybe it means starting an entrepreneurial endeavor that the student will continue even after the summer ends. Maybe it means doing science research and conducting experiments. Maybe it means researching the life and times of Josephine and Napoleon Bonaparte. There are tons of options!
The point is, parents, stop worrying about financing these expensive summer programs. Will your child learn some good things through these programs? Probably. But they can also learn some good things by reading a book in between shifts at a job over the summer. They can also learn some good things trying to start a business endeavor. They can also learn some good things right in their neighborhood. They don’t have to spend the summer away from home! There are indeed other options.Categories: College Admissions, Extracurricular Activities, High School Summer Plans Tags: Employment and Ivy League Admission, Work and College Admissions, Work and Ivy League Admissions, Working and College Admissions, Working and Ivy League Admissions
Your college application activities should be truthful ones. Take a lesson from Richard Vos, the former VP of admission and financial aid at Claremont McKenna College who fudged admissions statistics to boost the school’s “US News & World Report” ranking. Don’t fudge information on your college application! That means don’t lie in your college essays. That means don’t lie on your activity sheet. That means don’t lie in your college interviews.
On your activity sheet, there’s plenty of room to fudge the number of hours you spend in a given activity. Don’t do it. If you spend three hours building houses for the homeless, don’t write that you spend four hours. It’s not like the additional hour is going to get you into college and lying isn’t right. Not to mention — it can very easily backfire on you! What if the teacher who is writing one of your letters of recommendation is also your club supervisor? What if they write that you spend three hours a week doing an activity when you wrote a number quite different on your activity sheet.
It’s never worth it to lie on your college application. There’s a good chance you’ll get caught. And even if you do get in and get away with it for now, there’s always the chance that your admission decision can be rescinded at a later time. Do you really want to have to worry about this? We don’t think so. Be honest in every component of your college application.
Check out this video focusing on mistakes on the Common App activity sheet.Categories: Extracurricular Activities, The Application Tags: College App Activities, College Application Activities, Common App Activities, Common Application Activities, University Application Activities
Summer is just around the corner and, if you’re a high school freshman, sophomore, or junior, it’s time to start planning out what you’re going to be doing this summer. If you wait too long, you might just end up watching TV all summer long. Not only would that not be fun, but it certainly would not be productive. And it would put you at a serious disadvantage as you seek to earn admission to your dream colleges. So as you finish up your coursework for the year and start preparing for final exams just around the corner, start planning your summer plans!
If you think you need to attend a fancy, expensive summer program at a university to gain admission to the college of your dreams, you’d be wrong. Sometimes, the best high school summer plans are right in your neighborhood. It could be taking a job at the local deli or working as a lifeguard at your local beach. Maybe it’s volunteering at something you’re very passionate about. Maybe it’s conducting science research at the local college, research that you’ll later present at science fairs around the country.
Colleges want to see a focused commitment and a depth of commitment in a specific area. Your high school summer plans are a perfect opportunity to really delve into your passion and explore it in a way you simply don’t have time for during the academic year. So capitalize on this distinct opportunity. Don’t let other students gain an advantage that you won’t have. Start planning your summer plans right now.Categories: Extracurricular Activities, High School Summer Plans Tags: College Admissions Summer Plans, College Admissions Summers, College Summer Plans, High School Summer Plans, Summer Plans for High School