How to Get into a Top US University

How to Get into a Top US University

Kira was crushed when she opened the morning mail. Brown University had been her top choice and the rejection letter felt like a dead rat between her fingers. She had pulled several all-nighters to push her GPA to a 3.6 and score a 33 in her ACT.

She was also playing French horn in the all-state honor band and mellophone in the marching band and volunteering with a teen suicide-prevention organization and a nonprofit that helps rescue child soldiers in Uganda. That's quite a mouthful, but not enough for Brown University.

62% of the students admitted in The Ohio University in autumn 2014 had ranked in the top 10% of their high school class, whereas 95% of the students ranked among the top 25% of the class. Fall 2014 saw college acceptance rates dropping by a considerable amount. Most of the blame can be placed on the fact that the overall enrollment has boomed since the past six decade while the number of seats in elite colleges has seen a much slower growth, making them more selective. With throngs of student applications rushing in, this article will provide you with a few tips to stay ahead of the pack.

Start early

Planning ahead for college is extremely crucial. Katherine Cohen of IvyWise admissions consulting company recommends a four year plan for students aspiring to get into a top US college. Here's something you can follow:

Study hard. You cannot escape that. If you are looking to stand out from among everyone else, try taking up courses that will build a college-prep curriculum foundation.

Some students have a clear picture of which university they want to get admitted in. If you are not one of them, then you might want to consider exploring your options. Visiting a few universities to decide on a few would be the right thing to do.

Students getting into Harvard University generally have an average GPA of 4.0, SAT scores above 2100 and ACT composite scores above 30. Good AP scores are also important. You should also think about when to take the exams so that your scores are available when you start applying for colleges.

Be involved in extra-curricular activities

Being involved in extra-curricular activities is important, but as Helen Zha, MIT Educational Counselor points out, “Do what you love and do it really well.” It is very important to participate in an extra-curricular activity only if you love doing it and not because it is a requirement.

You should also keep in mind that colleges look for quality involvement rather than quantity. So keeping your activities to a maximum of 2-3, instead of a laundry list of 9-10 would be a good idea. Let's have a look at what college admissions offices look for in extra-curricular activities:

Whether time spent in an active participation has been productive

How leadership has been initiated

Whether you have received any recognition

Here's a quick tip. Colleges are very interested in your summer activities. Why don't you ditch the video game and try your hand at community service? And don't just be a member, lead the pack instead.

Avoid applying too broadly

When Grace Oberhofer decided to apply to a dozen colleges, she had no idea that the whole experience would be so stressful. She just wanted to have her options open. After being wait-listed by quite a few of them, she finally got into Tufts. A study conducted by College board found that the more colleges students applied to, the more stressful the experience was.

Jeff Pilchiek, the director of guidance at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas has an important piece of advice for students applying for college, “It's tough to put together a personal, genuine application that shows commitment to a particular school when you're applying to 20 different places. It's much better to be an exceptional applicant at six schools than an average applicant at 12 or 20."

Put an effort into your application

Here are a few things that you need to avoid in your college application:

The most important thing that you need to do is read your application well before filling in. Mistakes in college application is intolerable.

Put a good amount of effort into the essay. Since your essay reflects your personality, you need make it honest, confident, well-argued and structured. Try to be different so that it piques interest and holds the attention of admission officers among the piles of redundant ones that they receive. You should also be very clear about why you have chosen that particular university and not just write out a generic essay and change the names for different universities.

Julie Shimabukuro, director of undergraduate admissions in Washington University asks students to not wait until the last minute. “By the time we process the thousands of pieces of information that come in on the final day, the actual deadline has come and gone, and it's possible that something is still missing”, she says.

Proofread twice before hitting send, and then read it again. Remember, no mistake.

Apply early

Did you know that the acceptance rate for early decision in Cornell University is 23.1%? universities like early applications because of two reasons:

It shows that you are genuinely interested in studying there and you are serious about them.

Early decisions increases the number of students matriculating,thus improving their yield.

The most important thing is to figure out what you love to do and do it really well. Take some time out to plan ahead and understand what you really want to do. That way, you would have a clear picture of where you want to be five years down the line and work towards it.


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