Ivy League Admission Tips: Avoiding Common Mistakes, Part 1

The admissions landscape for the top colleges and universities in the United States has never been more competitive. Every year, thousands of high school students apply to the Ivy League schools with little chance of being admitted, which is understandable considering the abundance of conflicting information on how to craft a strong college admissions profile. Often, well-meaning parents, teachers, and guidance counselors give students erroneous advice on how to gain admission to prestigious schools. For example, being “well-rounded” is often touted as a surefire way to craft a competitive admissions profile—but applicants who do not excel in one specific area are rarely accepted to the best schools.

In this article, we consider some of the common mistakes applicants make during the admissions process. Most of these mistakes can be avoided easily, but all of them will lower your chances of being admitted to your first-choice school. Always keep these Ivy League admission tips in mind as you go about the college application process.

Spending Time on Many Unrelated Activities

You should focus on a handful of meaningful activities that suit your unique theme and narrative. Having a focused list of extracurricular activities is much more valuable than having an overly balanced list. Remember, you should try to excel in one area of interest: your academics, personal story, and overall application theme should all prove that you will accomplish great things in that field.

Failing to Take the Required Classes

If you want to be admitted to a top college, you must meet the school’s academic requirements. Before applying, carefully research each of your potential schools’ required high school classes—if you fail to take all the required classes, the admissions officers will deny your application.

Exaggerating or Lying

More than anything else, admissions officers value transparency, honesty, and integrity. Intentional dishonesty is a certain path to rejection. So, never be dishonest about your ethnicity, how many hours you spent on activities, whether or not you toured the college, and other details on your application.

Waiting Until the Last Minute

While you shouldn’t rush to submit your college applications, you shouldn’t wait until the last minute, either. Plan on writing the essay, securing recommendations, and finessing all the other parts of your application well before the deadline.

Wasting Summers

You may feel tempted to take it easy during summers, but doing so will weaken your admissions profile. Be prepared to spend your summers reading, learning, researching, preparing for entrance exams, interning, working, or otherwise engaging in activities that will enhance your theme and narrative.

Failing to Prepare for the ACT or SAT

You will likely need to invest significant time and energy to do well on the SAT or the ACT. If your score is disappointing, you may have to retake the test. Of course, this is perfectly acceptable— but only up to a point. The admissions officers reviewing your application may be concerned if you took an entrance exam more than twice. If you are unsatisfied with your test results, be sure to allow yourself enough time to prepare before taking the exam again.

Confusing One School with Another

As you prepare your applications for each college, double-check that the essay does not accidentally include the name of another college you are applying to. Moreover, take care not to mistakenly refer to a program, professor, or student-led organization from another college. Needless to say, this will make your application seem less credible.

Admittedly, gaining admission to the best schools in the United States often requires years of preparation. We would be delighted to provide you with the best Ivy League admission strategies and help you develop a compelling application theme and narrative. Schedule a meeting with Ivy League Prep to learn more.