Ivy League Admission Tips: Finding the Best College for You

Choosing among the thousands of U.S. colleges available to students today is no small feat, and it can seem daunting without a plan. On the other hand, having a road map to follow can make this difficult decision much easier. These Ivy League admission strategies can help you navigate the college application process and decide which school will best help you achieve your dreams.

Step 1 – What Do I Want/Need?

To determine which college is best for you, you must know your academic and extracurricular ambitions, financial and living arrangements, and preferred type of school.

Academic Goals

What do you love to do? Have you chosen a major? Are you interested in a liberal arts school, a business school, or something more technical?

Consider what kind of student you are. Can you flourish at a school that requires more self-motivation, or do you need stricter requirements? Do you prefer to work independently or in a team?

Extracurricular Interests

What level of involvement will you have with the school while you’re not in class? Are you hoping to be part of an athletic team, social club, performance group, or community service project?

Would you prefer an urban, rural, suburban, or small-town setting?

Living Arrangements

Do you plan to live on or off campus?

Do you own a car? If not, you’ll need to make sure the college you choose is in a city that provides public transportation or an area that can be easily traversed without a vehicle.

Would you prefer to be near or far from home?

Financial Considerations

Public colleges are typically less expensive than private schools, but graduates of private colleges frequently earn more. Still, attending a more prestigious school may or may not result in greater career or financial success.

Will you need to get a job? If so, you’ll have to choose a college with on-campus jobs or in a location with off-campus jobs.

Campus Culture

Some colleges have tens of thousands of students, while others may not be much larger than a high school. Which would you prefer?

What level of political activism are you comfortable with?

Do you love to be a part of campus social life, or are you content with just getting your degree and making a few friends?

Would alcohol or drug use on campus make you uncomfortable?

Step 2 – Research

Once you’ve considered your needs and interests, you can begin to identify your preferred schools. Another Ivy League admission tip is to use the official school websites and other resources such as CollegeNavigator, Unigo, and the College Board to compare different colleges. Ideally, you should be able to narrow down your list to about ten schools.

Keep in mind that there is no substitute for a campus visit when it comes to getting a feel of the college’s culture.

Once you’ve narrowed down the list to about ten schools, it will be time to apply. The application process will likely shrink your list further, but hang in there—you won’t be done yet.

Step 3 – Once You’ve Been Accepted

There is still much to consider once you have your acceptance letters. You are typically allowed three to four weeks to make a decision. That is the time to take an even closer look at each school. The following questions can be useful if you have to make a difficult decision:


Which schools present knowledge in a way that is best suited to your learning style?

Is the material presented by an assistant or adjunct instructor or a full-time professor? Are the professors sufficiently qualified?

Did the classes you attended during your first campus visit hold your attention?

While it’s true that the college’s practical and cultural aspects are important and should be weighed in your decision, the education you’ll receive is your primary reason for attending the school.

Financial Factors

Which schools offer better financial aid packages? You’ll need to consider how much debt each option will leave you with after graduation.

Which schools allow for living arrangements that you can afford?

Campus Life

A second campus visit can go a long way towards helping you make a decision. This visit is a great time to address anything you may have missed during your first visit.

Though friends, family, and others will express opinions about where you should attend college, the decision is ultimately yours. Follow these Ivy League admission strategies to decide which college is the best fit for your goals and interests, personality, and financial situation.