Don’t Let Ivy League Acceptance Rates Give You a Panic Attack

Ivy League

Have you seen the admissions statistics for Ivy League schools?

  • Brown University: 9%
  • Columbia University: 6%
  • Cornell University: 14%
  • Dartmouth College: 11%
  • Harvard University: 5% (!!)
  • University of Pennsylvania: 9%
  • Yale University: 6%

We can sense a few of you hopeful applicants (and hopeful parents!) reaching for a paper bag, ready to hyperventilate (or say goodbye to your most recent meal). And we’re here to tell you to relax, take a deep breath, get yourself out of the fetal position, and journey with us to discover why this is not the end of the world.

First, let’s examine these Ivy admissions rates from a purely statistical point of view.

5 percent for Harvard  is 1 out of 20 (if only my AP Stats teacher Mr. Murphy could see me now!). That’s not half bad, when you think about it. The chance of the average American being audited by the IRS is 1 in 100. Each year, the odds of being bitten by a dog in the U.S. are 1 in 50. So you can tell your parents, “Hey, Mom & Dad! I have a better chance of getting into Harvard than you have of getting audited or attacked by Freckles!”

But seriously.

Crazy statistics aside, here is what the numbers won’t tell you: the college admissions process is not a game of chance. In other words, you don’t pop your completed application into a machine, crossing your fingers with an arbitrary 5% chance that you’ll get accepted. That’s not how it works. This isn’t the Mega Millions lottery, after all.

Why? It’s because college admissions committees (especially in the Ivy League) are made up of thoughtful, intelligent, emotional people. Yes, people. They give every single one of those applications a fair chance. Believe it or not, they read your application. They consider it thoughtfully. Sometimes, they get into deep discussions about a single candidate. This is true across the board for those highly coveted Ivy League institutions. The admissions process is a careful blend of art and science, and admissions committees are damn good at what they do.

What does this mean for you, the potential applicant (or the parent of a potential applicant)?

It means you’ve got to work your butt off to create the best application possible, one that presents you in an honest, appealing, and three-dimensional way. Most applicants make the mistake of thinking that pure numbers will get them accepted – high SATs, a zillion extracurricular activities, a staggering GPA. But here’s some food for thought: last year, around 10% of Harvard applicants were valedictorians. The shocker? Most were rejected.

Some students cringe at this statistic. “But Admissionado!” they cry, “I’m not even a valedictorian. If they’re getting rejected, what chance do I have?!” A great one, in fact, if you know what you’re doing. Because if you look at the other side of the coin, you’ll see that a huge amount of successful applicants aren’t valedictorians. Instead, they are united by another common thread: awesome applications. Of course, they’re also intelligent, unique, and have a distinct point of view.  But they key is that they manage to present this in the application, which is the hardest part when you think about all the other intelligent, unique candidates with distinct points of view vying for those top schools.

How do they do that? And, more importantly, how can YOU do that?

Join us for our upcoming webinar, “The Insider’s Guide to Ivy League Admissions” to learn the Ivy League admissions process from, yup, the inside. We’re going to walk through the key aspects of successful Ivy League applications: what the admissions committee is looking for, why they want it, and how you can build a profile and create an application to beat the odds. This 1-hour webinar will include advice for high school students (and parents of those students!) ranging from rising 9th to rising 12-graders, so all are welcome. For more information and to register, click here. (Spots will fill up quickly, so sign up soon!)

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