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    A guide to Ivy League and other top universities

    Getting into prestigious international universities like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and others is an aspiration of most of our graduating students. However, in absence of exact requirements available on the college websites, students are often wondering as to what is the right way to make their places in these institutions.

    In past years, a handful of GIIS students have successfully secured seats in their preferred field of study at Ivy League colleges. A few of them being, Koyena Pal from IB 2017 batch who is graduating in Computer Science from Brown University and Sparsh Gupta from 2017 batch, pursuing Engineering at Cornell University.

    Ivy League schools are all extremely selective private colleges in the Northeast. The term Ivy League has become synonymous with extremely prestigious, highly selective colleges and for this reason, colleges such as MIT, Caltech and Stanford are also considered equivalent to Ivy League schools. Moreover, the selection criteria of these colleges are similar.

    Ivy League and other top institutions are looking for two main qualities in applicants:

    • Students who are going to accomplish world-changing things.
    • Students who are going to contribute positively to their communities while in college and help other students accomplish great things as well.

    According to the Admissions Dean of Harvard University, "Each year we admit about 2,100 applicants. We like to think that all of them have strong personal qualities and character, that they will educate and inspire their classmates over the four years of college, and that they will make a significant difference in the world after they leave Harvard."

    While Princeton’s Admissions Office says, "We are interested in the talents and interests you would bring to Princeton outside the classroom. We don't value one type of activity over another. Rather, we appreciate sustained commitment to the interests you have chosen to pursue."

    An applicant’s profile, essay, achievements and highlights should contain the gist of all these qualities that the institutes are looking for. Thus, spending time and thought on creating a strong profile can actually increase the chances of the student being selected by these universities.

    Here are some top tips to create an outstanding profile for application into Ivy League level colleges:

    Highlighting Extra-Curricular

    Universities look for students who:

    • Show sustained dedication over time to a particular area and balances with extracurricular activities. (i.e. heavily involved in sciences but also balances by performing arts)
    • Active membership in clubs and societies with experience in organizing events and taking leads to form new interest groups and clubs.
    • Self-starters, self-motivated and students who reach out for opportunities outside school.

    Powerful Essay

    The quality and content of Essay is the most crucial part of one’s application. The essay should show the students’ personality, writing skills, and aspirations. It should make the student stand out and most importantly, it should show, not tell; introspect, not brag.

    To make your essay stand out think on the lines of what’s your brand? what unique voice, perspective, or interest do you bring forth? You can include the following in your essay:

    • A vision you want to make a reality, for example, technoprenuership, social enterprise, etc.
    • A passion for something, for example, space, ballet, robotics
    • Aspirations to solve a critical problem like poverty or environmental issues
    • Personal qualities like being exceptionally funny, risk-taking or resourceful
    • Background (unique perspective or personal story)

    Recommendation Letters

    It is advisable to submit at least two Recommendation Letters. The Recommendation Letters help in the following way:

    • They allow universities to gauge the student’s suitability for their chosen course.
    • They give universities an idea of how a student will contribute to the campus life, and how they fit to the culture of a university.
    • Admission department gets an overview of how a student performs in an academic environment.

    Tips to creating an impressive profile

    Applying for Ivy League schools is not an overnight job. To create a strong application, students should take initiatives and efforts that can add value to their profile. Here are a few examples of how aspiring students can work on creating a valuable profile:

    1. Participate in a national level competition and try to score well. A candidate with good scores in a national level competition will be noticed by the selection committee and will stand a better chance to get selected. Competitions like Olympiad for Math and Science, debate, essay and writing competitions for humanities subjects are recommended.
    2. Try to exhibit leadership qualities by starting a club or nonprofit group. Use methods like social media and Kickstarter to raise awareness about relevant issues. Try to do something good, in a quantifiable way—consider the number of people you could help, the number of students you could teach, or the amount of money you could raise. Encourage your friends to join the cause with you.
    3. If you have good writing skills, get your work published as white papers or journals.
    4. Exhibit mentorship qualities by showing that you have taught others the skills and talent that you possess.

    Other requirements for Ivy league US Universities and likes are:

    Academic Scores - CBSE – 90%+, IB - 40+ Points

    Test Scores – SAT – 1500+ / ACT 33+, SAT Subject test for at least 2 subjects (almost perfect scores)

    Ivy League colleges look for students who are not only academically brilliant but also driven to do something different and challenging. If the applicant is successful in showing the spark, drive and dedication with necessary evidences to support the points, he or she will be able to stand and move closer to their target.


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