Sep   2018



The Secret to Gaining Admission to the Ivy League

Founder, Moon Prep
Last Updated: Sep 24, 2018

Most high school seniors have college admission on their mind right now. And many students have the same desire: opening an acceptance letter that says "Welcome to Harvard."

It’s no easy feat to be accepted to the Ivy League and other top-tier universities throughout the US.

The admission rate for Stanford University hovers around 4%. It’s not uncommon for a high school valedictorian to be rejected. The valedictorian—and their parents—are always shocked when this occurs. How could a student with a perfect GPA and test scores be rejected?

The answer is simple: there are nearly 40,000 high schools across the country. That means 40,000 valedictorians. With only eight Ivy League universities, the number of valedictorians is more than three times the number of open slots. What this means is these highly selective universities turn down students who are “perfect on paper” all the time. Being valedictorian is great, but it’s not enough to warrant admission to the most selective colleges in the country.

Related: What Do College Admission Counselors Look for in College Applications?

Academics are the first hurdle to overcome in the college admission process, but there are additional hurdles. Countless parents and counselors advise their students to be well rounded, in terms of their academics, participation in sports, volunteering, extracurricular activities, etc. But I suggest you do the exact opposite.

Most students (and people in general) work hard on improving their weaknesses. They try to present an adequate skill level across all areas. As a result, they are mediocre at most things. The well-rounded strategy backfires in most cases because the student comes across to the admission officers as average in all fields and does not shine in any one field. Harvard is not an average college, so why would they accept an average student?

I advise that students work diligently on their strengths. Forget about striving to be well rounded. "Pointy" students gain admission to the top universities in the country; they are exceptional in one, maybe two areas.

This strategy takes time to implement; it requires persistence and dedication to become a specialist in your field, and that’s the exact reason why it’s so extraordinary. The first time Tiger Woods picked up a golf club, he was not a pro. Even Pablo Picasso had to start somewhere.

Related: What Do Your Extracurricular Activities Say About You to Colleges?

A university wants to know that you’re willing to put in consistent, sustained effort in your chosen field until you achieve the kind of success that makes you stand out among your peers. “Pointy” students demonstrate that they have direction and passion and have laid the groundwork to do this, and that’s why they are preferred candidates for any university.

Top universities seek specialists: individuals who are so driven by one aspect or one field that they are enthusiastic about devoting their entire time and attention to achieve outstanding results in that area.

By choosing different students with ambition, initiative, and demonstrated skills in different areas, a college builds a class that is well rounded yet made up of “pointy” students.

I will let you in on another secret…the most innovative companies in the world—such as Apple, Google, and Amazon—follow the same strategy. They hire "pointy" candidates.

"Pointy" students stand out, not just in college admission, but in life. 

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About Kristen Moon

Kristen Moon is an independent college counselor and founder of Moon Prep provides one-on-one tutoring services catered to university admission. They guide students through the entire application process, including completing applications, personal statements, supplemental essays, student résumés, scholarships, and financial aid. Their specialty lies in the Ivy League, direct medical programs (BS/MD), and highly competitive universities.


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