Ivy League Admission Tips: Strategies for Developing Your Theme and Narrative

College admissions have never been so competitive, and top schools are becoming increasingly selective. Therefore, you need to craft a memorable admissions profile that will make you stand out. Perhaps the two most important elements of an outstanding college application are the theme and the narrative.

The theme is the recurring topic that unites the various components of your application. Your theme might be an academic or extracurricular interest (such as entrepreneurship, engineering, and biology) or a specific project.

On the other hand, the narrative is your unique story that shows who you are, what you are capable of, and what you have already accomplished. It should show why you are so enthusiastic about your theme.

In this article, we share some Ivy League admission strategies that will help you develop your theme and narrative.

Start Early

The later you start developing your theme and narrative, the harder it will be to make your admissions profile stand out. If you begin to show interest in a subject in your senior year, it will be difficult—though not impossible—to convince admissions officers that you are serious about that subject.

Rewind one year, though, and you’ll see how much easier it becomes to develop a compelling theme. For example, suppose that you plan to pursue a career in business. Instead of taking a fun but otherwise unhelpful history class, you could enroll in an economics, management, or entrepreneurship class. If no such courses are available, you may be able to take a summer college course or pursue dual enrollment. You could also look for an internship at a local business.

If you decide to pursue business even earlier, you would be able to focus on that subject throughout all of high school, not just during one or two classes in your senior year. Additionally, you may find the opportunity to engage in other business-related activities, such as starting a small business.

The earlier you begin to consider your application’s theme and narrative, the more compelling they will be. Look at our founder’s admissions profile to see how he developed a unique theme and narrative.

Prove Your Value

Value is perhaps the single most important idea that your admissions profile must convey. Everything in your application should add to your perceived value; your application should demonstrate how you will contribute to the quality and overall success of the college. Top colleges are seeking applicants with ample potential for academic and career success.

If you want to create that kind of value, you can’t do everything. You shouldn’t try to take all the hardest classes in every subject, play in multiple varsity teams, participate in student body politics and multiple clubs, and be an all-state musician. Being busy does not add value to your application—being exceptional at something does.

So, you need to focus your time and energy on excelling in a limited number of activities, and these activities should be linked to your theme.

For instance, instead of taking a dozen AP classes, you should focus only on the AP classes that fit in with your theme and strengthen your narrative.

Show Diversity

Showing diversity does not mean you need to be diversified: quality matters more than quantity. Colleges want a diverse class—not individual students who try to do everything.

Instead of trying to show a great deal of variety in your interests, you should try to be the variety. That means pursuing opportunities that will set you apart from the crowd of applicants. For example, programs with low acceptance rates, unique real-world experiences, and international exposure will help you develop a strong narrative. Such experiences will show the admissions officers that your perspective is unique.

Provide Evidence of Your Passion

If you are passionate about a particular academic subject, extracurricular activity, or social issue, you should pursue that passion with focus and zeal. Keep in mind, however, that passion must be accompanied by evidence. Your admissions profile needs to include direct, measurable evidence of passion and success. This includes numbers, details, specific awards, and recognition.

Developing a compelling theme and a strong narrative requires hard work and careful planning. If you follow these Ivy League admission strategies, you can be confident that your profile will stand out.