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Ivy League Admission
Ivy Coach College Admissions Blog

Grades in Advanced Courses

July 2, 2015
Grades in Honors Courses, Honors Course Grades, Advanced Course Grades

An editorial in “Forbes” makes it seem as though getting a ‘B’ in an advanced course can help your case for admission to highly selective colleges. That simply isn’t the case.

There’s a piece by Chris Teare up on “Forbes” entitled “What It Takes To Prepare For College Today” that we figured we’d share with our readers. The piece focuses on some of the things that have changed in the highly selective college admissions process since Mr. Teare applied for admission to Amherst College back in the day. Mr. Teare’s editorial is quite articulate and accurate, but we would like to point out one thing that he wrote we happen not to agree with.

As he writes, “Because the single most important document in a college application is the high school transcript, the first issue that students face is course selection: How much challenge will show them at their best? This issue boils down to how many honors, AP, or IB courses to take. The old question is, ‘Is it better to get an A in the regular course or a B in the advanced course?’ For the more selective institutions, there really is no choice, in that students will only be taken seriously if they challenge themselves. Would you like the A? Sure. Go get one if you can. But a solid B or stronger B+ will stand you in good stead in a challenging program.” While this may elicit eye rolls, the most highly selective colleges don’t want to see “solid” ‘B’s’ and ‘B+’s’ in advanced and AP courses. They want to see ‘A’s’ in advanced and AP courses. We get that it’s not always easy to get the top grades in the most rigorous courses but the suggestion that solid grades in the most rigorous courses (as in ‘B’s’ and ‘B+’s’) will help a student’s case for admission to highly selective colleges is an inaccurate one.

So we shall correct Mr. Teare’s assertion with a line we’ve been singing for many years: “Is it better to get a ‘B’ in an honors course or an ‘A’ in a regular course? It’s better to get an ‘A’ in an honors course.” That’s the answer. Sure, it may elicit an eye roll from you. But it’s the case. So the sooner you accept this, the better. The notion that a solid ‘B’ in an honors course will help your case for admission to a highly selective college is wishful thinking.

Categories: Grades Tags: , , , ,

New Common App Essay Prompt

July 1, 2015
Common App Essay, Common App Prompt, Common Application Essay

There will be a new Common App. essay prompt about problem-solving this year.

There will be a new Common App. essay prompt for students applying for admission to colleges this year. The question reads as follows: “Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.” So they’ve added an essay prompt related to problem-solving to go along with their four other prompts. If you’re not familiar with the four other prompts, they focus on (1) sharing a background, interest, identity of talent that is so meaningful that a student’s application would be incomplete without it, (2) writing about the lesson taken from a failure, (3) reflecting on a time when a student challenged a belief or idea, and (4) discussing an accomplishment or event that marked a student’s transition to adulthood.

We always mention to students and their parents that there remains a prompt on the Common Application that is essentially write whatever you want. There are some who suggest that the Common Application did away with this prompt some time ago. We beg to differ. Refer back to that prompt about sharing a background, interest, identity, or talent that is so meaningful. In fact, let’s cite the exact phrasing of the prompt: “Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.” And here’s our translation: write whatever you want.

So for those students who wish to be as creative as possible, who don’t wish to be limited by discussing a life event or a problem solved, choose the first prompt. Choose to write whatever it is you want. The best college admissions essays are often responses to this very prompt. Does that surprise you? Let us know your thoughts on the Common App. essay prompts by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you.


Categories: College Essays, The Application Tags: , , , ,

Support Our Troops

June 30, 2015

Ivy League Veterans, Ivy League Vets, Ivy League and Veterans

At Ivy Coach, we are committed to helping as many of America’s veterans as we can gain admission to the colleges of their dreams.

At Ivy Coach, one of our missions is to help members of our American military as well as our veterans gain admission to the highly selective colleges of their dreams. These are young men and women who volunteered to serve their country at great personal risk. These are young men and women who heeded the creed once voiced by our President Kennedy in choosing to put their country before themselves. And there is nothing we are prouder of in this world than helping many of these same men and women further their educations at our nation’s most elite institutions. The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill subsidizes some of the costs of a college education and some highly selective colleges foot the rest of tuition costs.

But too many members of our military and too many of our veterans think that attending one of America’s most selective universities is an impossible dream. It is so often our great privilege to tell these brave men and women that, to paraphrase Al Michaels, the impossible dream can come true. We are deeply proud and humbled to be in the service of many of our nation’s warriors as we help them navigate the highly selective college admissions process and improve their odds of admission to these very schools, schools that tremendously benefit by the very life experience they inject into in-classroom and out-of-classroom discussions.

Chris Piro allowed us to share his story in the hope of paying it forward, in the hope that service-members and veterans will come to Ivy Coach in the future to help them achieve their dreams. Chris was an airman in the United States Air Force. He served two tours of duty in Afghanistan with additional tours in Germany and Korea. This remarkable young man was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for his distinguished work during the Yeogpyeong crisis in the Korean DMZ. He is a shining example of the sacrifice of so many members of the great generation of young men and women who defended America in the years after the most significant terrorist attack on our soil.

We were very proud and humbled to work with Chris, one of the truly kindest and most courageous young men we’ve ever come across. We’ve worked with so many students over the years, but few have struck us as Christopher has. It very much fills us with happiness that Chris will be attending one of America’s — and the world’s — finest institutions next year when he enrolls at America’s first research university, Johns Hopkins University. Fittingly, he’ll be studying in Johns Hopkins’ renowned cognitive science program, where he hopes to learn about PTSD and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), which impact so many of our returning troops.

Thank you to Chris for all that you have done and all that you have sacrificed for our country. We know well that there is so much more you will set out to do in this lifetime and we’re deeply grateful and humbled to know and care about you.

If you’re a member of our military or a veteran interested in gaining admission to a highly selective American university, please read about our pro bono college admissions service and fill out a consult form so we can get in touch.

Categories: College Admissions Tags: , , , ,

Supreme Court to Weigh Affirmative Action

June 29, 2015
Supreme Court Affirmative Action, Affirmative Action, Supreme Court and College Admission

The Supreme Court will hear the case of Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

It’s been a very busy few days for America’s highest court. On Friday, in a landmark decision, the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, with the compelling majority opinion authored by the conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy. And today, the nation’s highest court decided they’d take on another hotly contested issue. Indeed the Supreme Court will hear the Abigail Fisher case, a case we’ve written about extensively over the last couple of years on the pages of our college admissions blog (yes, it can take years to get to the Supreme Court).

If you’ll recall, the Supreme Court previously directed an appeals court to scrutinize the policies of the University of Texas at Austin. Indeed it was the man of the moment and a man who has cemented his status as one of the great civil rights jurists in our history, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored the majority opinion on that case as well. As reported in a piece about the Affirmative Action case by “Yahoo News,” “Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for a 7-1 majority that courts must ‘verify that it is necessary for a university to use race to achieve the educational benefits of diversity.’ The university admits most freshmen through a program that guarantees admission to students in roughly the top 10 percent of their high school classes. It also uses other ‘holistic’ factors including race to admit the remainder. The second time around, the appeals court found that the university had justified its limited use of race to achieve diversity, given a lack of workable alternatives.” And so it goes to Justice Kennedy and seven of the eight other jurists as well (Justice Kagan has to recuse herself due to a conflict of interest from her work with the Justice Department) for next term.

What do you think will be the outcome of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin? Do you think Abigail Fisher will alas claim victory and it will be this case that forever changes Affirmative Action policies at universities across America? We’re curious to hear what you think so let us know your questions and opinions by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you.

Categories: College Admissions Tags: , , , ,

Siblings in College Admissions

June 28, 2015
Siblings in Admissions, Admission and Siblings, College Admission and Siblings

A new study coming out of Harvard’s Kennedy School finds that younger siblings often follow the leads of their older siblings in college selection.

This is interesting, though not particularly surprising. A study conducted by Harvard Kennedy School’s Joshua Goodman, Michael Hurwitz, Jonathan Smith, and Julia Fox that was published in the “Economics of Education Review” found that there is a strong statistical correlation between where younger siblings apply as compared to where their older siblings applied as well as enrolled. The correlation was found in a dataset of 1.6 million sibling pairs of SAT test-takers. So it’s a sizable sample indeed!

Here’s part of the study’s abstract: “One-fifth of younger siblings enroll in the same college as their older siblings. Compared to their high school classmates of similar academic skill and with observably similar families, younger siblings are about 15–20 percentage points more likely to enroll in 4-year colleges or highly competitive colleges if their older siblings do so first. These findings vary little by family characteristics. Younger siblings are more likely to follow the college choices of their older siblings the more they resemble each other in terms of academic skill, age and gender. We discuss channels through which older siblings’ college choices might causally influence their younger siblings, noting that the facts documented here should prompt further research on the sharing of information and shaping of educational preferences within families.”

We’ve often found that there are certain colleges that are on the tips of the tongues of parents and it’s these colleges that their children apply to. This includes their older children as well as their younger children. So it comes as no surprise to us that younger siblings quite often apply to the same schools as their older siblings. And it’s not a surprise to us that they quite frequently apply to the schools at which their older siblings enrolled. If an older sibling goes to Princeton, the family’s going to get a lot of mailings from Princeton in the years ahead. It’s going to be Princeton this, Princeton that. So, naturally, there’s a good chance the younger sibling will not forget to submit an application to the university of the late John Nash.

Categories: College Admissions Tags: , , , ,

Indians Headed to the Ivies

June 27, 2015
Indians and Ivy League, Indians and Ivy League Colleges, Indians to the Ivies

As a piece in “Seventeen” points out, more and more students in India are coming to the United States for their university educations, particularly at Ivy League colleges.

More and more students in India are headed to the Ivies. In fact, we came across a piece in “Seventeen,” a most academic publication for only the most serious of readers, that we figured we’d share with the readers of our college admissions blog. The piece, written by Megan Friedman, is entitled “This College Will Only Let You In If You Have Absolutely Perfect Test Score.” When we read the title of the piece, we figured it would be misleading because there is no college in the United States — not Harvard, not Stanford, not MIT, Princeton, Yale, or Caltech — that will only admit you if you have a perfect SAT or ACT score. Indeed students with perfect or near-perfect SAT and ACT scores are quite often denied admission by these schools. And why? Because they present themselves as boring, as arrogant, as entirely similar to many other applicants, and a host of other reasons. But, as it turns out, the piece in “Seventeen” focuses on the University of Delhi in India so we shall rescind our objection.

As Friedman writes in the piece, “Global Post reports that to get into the University of Delhi, you have to seriously ace those standardized tests. In India, you take six national ‘board’ exams, and then schools see the average of your top four scores. And this year, you’d need a 99.75% to study English, and a perfect 100% if you want to study economics or psychology, to get into the prestigious Delhi school system. Why the crazy-high standards? India has a huge population, lots of young people, and not enough spots at universities to go around. In 2015, 370,000 students applied to the University of Delhi, which has about an equivalent student population to the public university systems in U.S. states like Ohio, California, and New York…What’s a slightly less than perfect student to do? Head to the States. The New York Times reported back in 2011 that students rejected from the University of Delhi instead go to ‘safety schools’ in the U.S. like Dartmouth and Cornell. So next time you think it’s crazy-hard to get the SAT scores you need, just be glad you’re not gunning for a spot in Delhi.”

That’s absurd that Ivy League institutions such as Dartmouth and Cornell are referred to as ‘safety schools’ in this piece. These two institutions offer one of the finest educations in the world and they’re extremely competitive to get into so, while we recognize Ms. Friedman is trying to make a point, this is a little silly. But her greater point is spot on. Indeed more and more students from India are coming to the United States to attend Ivy League and other highly selective colleges. It’s been a growing trend for years and we regularly work with students in India hoping to get into America’s most elite universities. We even now have a physical office in India.

If you’re a student in India (or the parent of a high school student), contact us today (by filling out our consultation form) to get started working with us. We look forward to hearing from you.

Categories: India University Admission, Ivy League Tags: , , , ,

Colleges Championing LGBT Rights

June 26, 2015
LGBT Friendly Colleges, LGBT Supportive Colleges, LGBT Friendly Universities

You read about some civil rights movements in history textbooks. And others you live.

On this momentous day in the history of our union, a day in which “E Pluribus Unum” was reflected in more than our nation’s currency but also in the fabric of one of the most significant Supreme Court rulings of our generation, we figured we’d reflect on significant advances toward LGBT equality on college campuses in recent months. We’d like to start that conversation off by offering our wholehearted support to the recent administrative decisions at Smith College, Bryn Mawr College, Wellesley College, and Barnard College. These four all-women’s colleges reversed course in recent months and changed their policies so as to allow transgender students who identify as female to be admitted to their institutions. This was a long overdue policy change and these colleges, colleges that have graduated some of the most influential women in our nation’s history, serve as true trailblazers in the fight for equality.

And these colleges are not alone. Dartmouth College has built an LGBT house, Triangle House, in a sign of unwavering support for its LGBT students and allies. UCLA offers undergraduates the opportunity to minor in LGBT studies. NYU has the First Year Queer and Allies Program so first-year students can learn about all of the resources the university offers to its LGBT students. Berkeley has about 20 different LGBT-affiliated student organizations. USC has the Rainbow Floor. There’s an LGBTQ Guide to Cornell. Princeton offers a course entitled “Queer Theory and Politics.” University of Chicago has an Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Student Life. Harvard, a university we’ve been critical of in the past for their lack of LGBT resources, has an office of BLGTQ Student Life. And all of this is merely a sampling. We can go on and on with the support so many universities across the United States have shown for LGBT students.

So on this historic day that seemed but an impossible dream just a few short years ago, we tip our hats to universities that have led the charge for LGBT equality. Sometimes, you read about history in textbooks. And other times, you live it. Today, we’ve lived it. In the words of the conservative Supreme Court Justice who today cemented his legacy as one of the fiercest defenders of LGBT equality, “Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” Thank you, Justice Kennedy.

Categories: LGBT College Students Tags: , , , ,

SAT Results

June 25, 2015
SAT Subject Test Results, SAT Test Results, SAT Subject Tests

The June SAT and SAT Subject Test results were made available today.

On a day in which students found out their June SAT or SAT Subject Test scores, know that while these tests are extremely important in highly selective college admissions, they aren’t everything. Can a student with 1,200 SATs (on all three sections of the exam) gain admission to Harvard? No. It’s not going to happen. But just because you get a perfect score on your SAT, that’s not a good indication either that you’ll gain admission to Harvard. Indeed students with perfect grades and perfect SAT or ACT scores are denied admission each and every year to highly selective colleges such as Harvard. And why? Because students who just so happen to have perfect grades and test scores may not be all that interesting. Maybe a teacher’s letter of recommendation paints a student as a grade grubber (admissions officers hate grade grubbers!). Maybe one of a student’s many college admissions essays paints her as arrogant (admissions officers hate arrogant applicants). Or maybe the student just comes across as boring, as ordinary, as unexceptional.

So, yes, having SAT or ACT scores as well as SAT Subject Test scores that are within the ballpark of the top schools is important. Very important. Having scores that are too far out of range can certainly make it impossible to get in. But know that these scores aren’t everything. If you didn’t happen to get a perfect SAT score, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get into Harvard while the applicant with a perfect SAT score doesn’t. We help students who don’t have perfect or even close to perfect test scores get into top colleges like Harvard all the time. But, again, this student cannot have a 1,200 total SAT on all three sections. And contrary to the belief of so many folks, if you don’t have the very best SAT or ACT scores, you don’t have to be a recruited athlete, a legacy, a development case, a minority applicant, a first generation college applicant, etc. to get in. Other students get in too. We indeed work with these students every year.

So for those students who got within range on their SAT today (maybe somewhere between the 25th to 50th percentile for these schools) or for those students who only marginally got their SAT Subject Test scores up, chin up. If you’re within range, if you’re ballpark, there’s hope for you yet. After all, that’s where we come in. Interested in a free consultation? Click on our orange button, fill out the form (if you click on this link, you don’t have to find the orange button), and you’ll hear from us via email within the day.

Categories: SAT / ACT Prep Tags: , , , ,

College Admission Essay

June 24, 2015
College Admissions Essay, College Essay, Admissions Essays

An editorial up on “The Week” misses the mark on the Common Application Personal Statement.

We came across an editorial up on “The Week” written by Annabel Monaghan entitled “Why it’s impossible to write a good college admission essay” that we figured we’d share with our readers. Ms. Monaghan is the parent of a college applicant and she’s got some thoughts on college admission essays. For starters, we of course 100% disagree with the title of the piece. It is misleading, but we understand that it is Ms. Monaghan’s opinion and while we disagree with many of her statements, she presents her case nicely (and we do empathize with her). We’d also like to mention that there is not one college admission essay. There are many college admission essays and each essay matters a great deal. But we suspect Ms. Monaghan is referring to the Common Application Personal Statement.

So why does Ms. Monaghan believe it impossible to write a good college admission essay? As she writes in her piece, “As the parent of a rising high school senior, I’ve been to my fair share of college information sessions lately. The admissions officer always concludes with the same set of comments about the application: namely, that the college essay must capture your true and authentic voice and reveal the essence of who you really are. Exactly that line, 100 percent of the time. I look over at my son every time, his eyes glazed over. I love this kid, and the essence of who he really is astounds me. But there is no way in hell that he, flipping through his Instagrams and quietly plotting his next meal, is going to have an easy time summing up his essential him-ness in 500 words.” Well, not to be too critical, but you’re allowed to write 650 words for the Common Application Personal Statement so you should of course use all of the real estate you are afforded (not 500 words). Writing only 500 words is a mistake.

Ms. Monaghan then goes on to write about her college essay in which she boasted of being the president of her high school. As we’ve said many times on the pages of this college admissions blog, the Common Application Personal Statement is not the place to boast about accomplishments and students need not incorporate their activities. Perhaps Ms. Monaghan doesn’t think it’s possible to write a good college admission essay because she doesn’t know what a good college admission essay is. A good college admission essay demonstrates how a student thinks, how he approaches the world, how he loves learning. It is not a patchwork of accomplishment and after-school activities. That would indeed make for a lousy college admission essay. The best college admission essays, as we’ve said so many times, are about absolutely nothing (you’ll need to read more of our blogs to fully understand this!). And one can totally encapsulate nothing in 650 words. When a student writes about seemingly nothing, they can actually showcase the essence of who they are, what makes them tick, and what they stand for. To write about nothing — and to do so well — can be quite powerful indeed.

Categories: College Essays Tags: , , , ,

College Admission Stress

June 23, 2015
Admissions Stress, University Admission Stress, Ivy League Admission Stress

While “It Gets Better” was an expression coined to address our LGBT youth, the same principle applies to all of our youth. It gets better after high school. It does. There’s no need to get utterly stressed out about the admissions process. It. Gets. Better.

With the story out of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology dominating the college admissions news-cycle these past few days, we figured we’d offer some more commentary on what led this young woman, “Sara”, to forge letters from deans of admission at Stanford and Harvard, to claim that Mark Zuckerberg called her to sway her to attend Harvard, as well as to claim that she was admitted to a program created exclusively for her in which she could attend Harvard for two years and Stanford for another two years, among other absurd fabrications. It’s no surprise to us that Sara is an Asian American young woman. The stress put on Asian American — and Asian — applicants to highly selective colleges in particular by their parents, their schools, and themselves can be intolerable. It can take their breath away.

One of the reasons we write this college admissions blog is to put out information on the highly selective college admissions process every single day so that students and parents have a place to come for accurate, informative, expert advice. Do we give away most of our best kept secrets about the college admissions process on our blog? Absolutely not. We’re an American business and our secret sauce is expressly reserved for our clients at Ivy Coach. We make no apologies for this. And we never will. But, hopefully, this information helps to demystify the college admissions process for our readers. And it’s our hope that this makes it much less stressful. It’s our hope that our readers feel more in control of their destinies in the college admissions process with the information they glean from our college admissions blog.

Indeed we urge the parents and students who read our college admissions blog to take a deep breath in and out. In ten years, you’ll look back at the stress you were under during the college admissions process as a whole different time. Maybe you’ll laugh. Maybe you’ll take a deep breath and be grateful you never have to go through it again (unless you have more kids!). In the LGBT community, there’s an expression: “It gets better.” To college applicants (and their parents), especially those who are under enormous stress right now, it gets better. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. Repeat it. Internalize it. Live it.

Categories: College Admissions Tags: , , , ,