ast year, the top-ranked colleges in the United States – Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown, and other elite universities like Stanford, Duke, and MIT – received nearly 250,000 applications.
In 2015, Harvard admitted a record low 5.2% of applicants. That acceptance rate at Harvard has dropped by nearly 50% in the past 10 years. Harvard accepted 1,990 out of 37,305 total applications and other top schools produced similar results. College admissions at Ivy League Universities is getting more difficult each year.
Given those intimidating odds, how can you improve your chances of getting into your top choice college?
The following will guide you through the entire college application process and provide advice and recommendations to differentiate yourself among the pool of candidates. This guide will put you on the path to getting accepted to college. It includes specific guidance on getting into to Ivy League colleges or similar elite universities.
College Application Overview
The College application process is typically comprised of the following:
- High School Transcript
- Common Application essays
- Supplemental School essays
- 2 Teacher Recommendations
- SAT or ACT scores and SAT Subject test scores
- Candidate interview
Your academic record, extracurricular experience, and personal history are usually included in the application essays and recorded in the Common Application data forms. Most students submit all of their applications online via Naviance or similar platforms.
Most colleges give prospective students two application options: early or regular decision. Early applications have two categories: early action or early decision, commonly abbreviated as ED or EA.
Early decision applicants receive consideration before regular decision candidates and these options usually involve a binding agreement to attend the school if accepted. Early action applicants also receive consideration before regular decision candidates but they are not bound to attend the college if accepted.
Early applications are usually due November 1st and decisions are received in mid-December. Regular applications are due as early as December 1 or as late as February 1st with the majority being due by January 1st. Decisions arrive in March and April. Some larger schools and public universities also offer admission decisions on a “rolling” basis.
While there are benefits to applying early, namely finding out sooner, there are also reasons to wait. If you are not certain which college you want to attend then you shouldn’t force yourself to apply early–especially if the school has a binding ED admission policy. Applying regular decision allows more time to work on applications and research or visit schools.
The entire process of applying to college is long and arduous. You should plan on taking the standardized tests like the SAT, SAT Subject tests or ACT in Junior year, and spending the summer and fall crafting your applications, obtaining letters of recommendations, and preparing for interviews. However, most students begin preparing long before junior year by maintaining the highest possible GPA, choosing the right courses, choosing the right extracurriculars and summer programs, and visiting and researching schools.