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How To Get Into An Ivy League School: A Step-by-Step Guide Featuring Testimony From a Real, Live Silver-Spoon Legacy and a Racial Minority!

by Maureen O'Connor | January 13, 2009 at 12:03 pm

IvyGate’s Guide to Admissions: Part II

Getting into an Ivy League school can be likened to winning the lottery: Pencil in a bunch of scantron bubbles, cross your fingers, pray to be struck by lightning. But instead of winning millions, you’re rolling the dice for the opportunity to impoverish your parents. (Or ruin your credit rating, or both!) Nevertheless, aspiring Ivy is a time-honored American pursuit, and no matter how improbable, impractical, and ultimately unpleasant the prize may be, thousands attempt it every year. Mostly, we do it for the free t-shirts.

What follows is IvyGate’s foolproof, guaranteed, 100%-success-or-your-money-back step-by-step guide to swindling your way into the school of your dreams.* Be warned: It isn’t always pretty, and a few of these steps (#3, section ii, second option) might make you go to hell.

1. Have perfect SAT scores, an off-the-chart GPA, amazing extracurriculars, leadership positions in everything, and the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Duh. This one is a given, a prereq. if you will. Even the richest kid in the world won’t get in if he’s apt to flunk (or, more likely, drop) out.

2. Be from an insanely wealthy and/or well-connected family, preferably one with an Ivy League legacy. Apply early. While legacy admission standards aren’t as hilariously low as they used to be. a study by Princeton SOC professors Espenshade and Chung equates legacy status with a 160-point SAT boost (on a 1600-point scale) to the privileged few who definitely need it least. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. To guarantee admission, you need to be the child of a major donor. the kind who write seven-digit checks to their alma mater and have buildings named after them. One such Ivy Leaguer, the grandson of a prominent university trustee, told us about his admissions process, starting with an unconventional and star-studded campus tour:

my grandad flew to meet my dad & i [at the university], and i just figured that it was going to be a regular day of tours & walking around. however, when we got there we were met by a super friendly admissions guy. he took us on the regular tour, but then we ditched it because he said “it’s completely useless” (ironic, considering how much energy & money the university pumps into those tours) he took me around campus, and then brought me to meet a representative from the most popular department at the school, which i claimed to be interested in it. (later, i realized that he was

one of the senior professors and chair of the undergraduate program) then they shuttled me over to the president’s office. i didn’t really GET that it was the president until they told me after we met. the meeting was brief, but looking back, it was quite an unbelievable opportunity. after lunch, we wandered around campus with another admissions rep, who told me all about undergraduate life.

After the jump: Anonymous Silver-Spooner (ASS) (Don’t be mad, ASS! We tease because we love/hate) continues his story and we offer five more tips for getting in.

As for his literal, ink-on-paper application, it was the same as anyone else’s:

[my grandfather] was definitely noted as an alumnus on my application – but not in any special way, just in that box where they ask you to denote any alumni relations. i submitted my application via Registered Mail (like everyone else…to make sure it got there), so there were no special addresses or markings on it.

This fits accounts from the Daily Beast’s admissions-side account. The admissions officer received ASS’s application was probably already familiar with his name, and knew to flag his app for whatever special treatment the Dean of Admissions prescribed. Would ASS have gotten in without his trustee grandpop?

i mean duh… there is no question that my connection helped me out. (i remember being worried at the time, but but looking back it was like “why was i ever for a SECOND concerned about not getting that ‘YES!’ letter?”) at the same time, i don’t think my grades & sat scores could’ve prevented me from getting in.

ASS reports little special treatment post-admissions:

5. Pimp your athletic skills, especially in sports that barely exist outside of upper education (crew, we’re looking at you). Apply early. Espenshade and Chung estimate a 200-point SAT bonus to recruited athletes, which is roughly the same as Insider Higher Ed’s recent data on non-Ivy universities’ athletic admissions. Once admitted, you don’t even have to stay on the team —admissions are “merit-based” and financial aid is “need-based,” which means they can’t take away your admission or funding should you cut and run halfway through preseason training. A former varsity rower tells us recruitment is an easy game to play:

recruitment’s honestly a joke. i became a serious recruit at both brown and dartmouth just by emailing the coach. otherwise, coaches catch onto people at national regattas or whatever, but for the most part, smaller sports like crew are pretty easy to get recruited for if you’re any good at all and have the academics to back you up. i was recruited at dartmouth, brown, harvard, and colgate. i also reached out to yale and princeton but they didn’t seem too interested.

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