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Do I have to be an absolute superstar to get into any of the Ivy League?

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Replies to: Do I have to be an absolute superstar to get into any of the Ivy League?

  • MWolfMWolf 1504 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @emptynesteryet My point was that Questbridge students are just as much superstars as kids who are accepted through the regular application process. They just had fewer opportunities, so their EC and AP lists are often shorter than their wealthier classmates. So your friend's son was just as good as any upper middle class kid here with 15 AP's and a dozen ECs.

    My point is also that Questbridge isn't a hook, since kids are admitted through Questbridge at a lower rate than kids who apply to Yale directly. The admission rate through QB is 1%-2% which is lower than the regular admissions rate.

    If Questbridge is a hook, so is having income higher than $200,000, which provides all of the extra aid and opportunities that allow the Yale admits to rack up APs and ECs. Questbridge allows about 20-40 students to be admitted into Yale a year. Wealth alone (not legacy or athlete) allows about 1,000 to be admitted to Yale each year.
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  • emptynesteryetemptynesteryet 205 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited January 20
    @MWolf well I agree.....then :)

    Still goes against common CC protocol of how you need to be a superstar: national competitions, ECs, etc to get in these schools.



    edited January 20
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  • Nocreativity1Nocreativity1 1112 replies55 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited January 20
    @emptynester- "Still goes against common CC protocol of how you need to be a superstar: national competitions, ECs, etc to get in these schools."

    So I assume you reviewed the candidates application in its entirety and compared it to thousands of others? Did the essays suggest a writing capability and passion that distinguished the student from others? Did the LORs describe a student that was special, and determined in the eyes of seasoned educators? Did the candidate achieve the 1500 SAT and finish second in the class while facing economic hardship and working a job or supporting and ill family member? Was there something else that just made this student qualified academicaly, a perfect fit for the Yale community and unique in a way that you at a distance might not be able to recognize? Apparently there was something.

    I would suggest it is much more of a frequent occurrence that a seemingly perfect kid doesn't get accepted to and Ivy, then your suggested scenario where an "ordinary" kid finds there way in.

    Generalizing and extrapolating based on an individual outlier experience is ill advised. Not sure how much time you have spent on an Ivy campus but as you meet more and more kids you come to understand how deliberate, thorough, unique to the school and successful the admissions process is.

    Your one off experience aside the vast majority of kids who gain addmissions to super elites are well suited to the school, exemplary academically and extremely accomplished.

    @preppedpartent- "Are you from North Dakota, legacy, athlete, rich or from a celebrity family?"

    You do in fact find some athletes, kids from North Dakota, legacies, celebrity kids and even some Native Americans (Bias disclaimer; My son's roommate is Native American, QB scholarship, from an underrepresented state, 3 sport HS athlete, and his HS class valedictorian). That doesn't however diminish these kids in anyway. To the contrary their unique experiences adds to the community based on their unique circumstances and these kids are just as talented intellectually. That also leaves about 50% of the kids who have none of those hooks but are also exceptional. Once on campus together they all contribute to one another's education both in and out of the classroom.

    Kind of looking like a Claude Monet painting. No individual brush stroke upclose reveals the character of the work, but step back and it all works together, and only then does the individual touch of color or texture make sense. Each kid is accepted for a reason and and their role or qualifications shouldn't be diminished by anyone who doesn't have the entire picture.
    edited January 20
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  • MWolfMWolf 1504 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited January 20
    @Nocreativity1 The point isn't that Yale students are not exceptional. The issue is that many of the ways by which Yale measures this are not easily available or available at all to a wide swathe of the population. That is one of the reasons why over 60% of Yale students are from the top 20% of the populations by income.

    If all students in this country had access to the same resources and opportunities as the wealthiest, most of the kids who are now in Yale would still be competitive, but they would be competing against a group of top applicants which would be about three times the size of what it is now. This would be true for all highly selective schools, of course.

    Of course, if the number of top students applying to colleges was tripled, the number of highly selective colleges would likely expand as well. Other higher-ranked public and private universities and colleges would become more selective, similar to what happened to UCB, UCLA, UMich, ND, and Duke over the past few decades (or even the Ivies). Not a bad thing, overall. I also expect that this trend would be strongest in public schools, because increases in students stats do not mean increases in the ability to pay the tuition of private schools.

    PS. I'm not advocating for taking away the resources of the wealthier high school students, or even changing the way that selective schools decide to admit students (except legacies). I am, however, advocating for providing a lot more resources to all high schools, to the point that they all have the same level as enjoyed only by the top 20% in income, like Finland did.
    edited January 20
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34170 replies378 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Most don't understand more about how it works because they start with their own assumptions and barly go further.

    Only a proportion of QB kids even get the national match opportunity. No, you didn't see their apps. Frankly, you probably know little about their records. So, how do you expect to acquire even regional anecdotal perspective?

    A major reason for lopsided wealth is *who* accepts an admit. Agsin, trying to read truths in enrollment stats only tells you who entolled.
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  • Nocreativity1Nocreativity1 1112 replies55 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited January 20
    MWolf "The issue is that many of the ways by which Yale measures this are not easily available or available at all to a wide swathe of the population."

    Please note I was making the point that even kids who don't externally "appear" to hit the mark are exceptional and contribute in their own way. Also worth mentioning that while they can never fully level the field schools like Yale are trying:

    "More than 50% of Yale students receive need-based aid from Yale and 64% receive financial assistance from Yale or an outside source." - Yale website

    Ironic to hear you talking about the exclusion of financially disadvantaged while there are literally dozens of other posts about how only First Gen or URMs can gain acceptance, or how non jocks suffer (legacy I agree with you except to the extant they help fund financial aid). I think all of these claims are misguided and in many cases self serving.

    The reality is that the Ivy and super elites all have the financial resources to attract, discern among, select and make it affordable for an extremely diverse (across numerous criteria) class. As an applicant you are competing against your cohort for admission. Rich white prep kid from NY vs white rich prep kid from NY, first gen versus first gen, legacy vs legacy, and football punter vs punter to name a few. The school has a broad vision of what they are looking for from a portfolio basis.

    Agreed, that if more financially disadvantaged kids had better early academicopportunities the overall size and quality of the pool might increase but so would the cohorts of competition to accommodate the schools end result. The best within those cohorts would still rise to the top.
    edited January 20
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34170 replies378 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Not necessarily by cohort.
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  • MWolfMWolf 1504 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited January 22
    Ironic to hear you talking about the exclusion of financially disadvantaged while there are literally dozens of other posts about how only First Gen or URMs can gain acceptance, or how non jocks suffer (legacy I agree with you except to the extant they help fund financial aid). I think all of these claims are misguided and in many cases self serving.

    Ever since I arrived (well, returned, in this country, I have heard about how "easy" it is for minorities and the poor to get into Ivy League schools, and these are almost always accompanied by a third hand account of some African American boy who was accepted to Harvard or Yale who couldn't do simple addition and subtraction. Basically, groups that have been historically privileged feel underprivileged when the privilege is reduced somewhat. So I tend to ignore complaints that Rich White kids are feeling discrimination, because they no longer have automatic preference in everything.

    There may be a preference for URMs and First-Gens, but they are evidently not benefiting poor URMs and FGs much, otherwise, there would be more poor students in elite schools, and the number would have been increasing, since Elites are claiming that the number of URMs and First-Gens are on the rise. However the percent of students from the lowest 20% has not changed since 2000 (below 5%). Harvard, for which it's 3%, claims that 15% are first gen, and that 13% are URMs. Even if we look at Harvard's bottom 40% it's still no more than 8% of their undergrads. So either their definitions of URM and First-Gen are EXTREMELY wide, or kids from these families most often need to be at least middle class, before they are accepted.

    However, the main problem is not the elite schools. It's the fact the we, as a country, do not believe in investing in good education. Education is considered a luxury, and mostly a way to indoctrinate our youth in our values. So public education is barely funded, and that funding is constantly being slashed. The poor communities are required therefore to fund their own education, which they cannot, so their education is extremely poor. By the time it comes to college application, poor kids are so far behind that they cannot even think to compete for places in an elite school, including relatively cheap public schools like UCB, UCLA, or UMichigan.

    The income disparity among students in elite universities are not the main problem. They are a symptom, though they also help a perpetuate the problem. However, if we change the way we fund elementary and secondary education, and actually start caring about providing affordable and high quality education to our kids, the income disparity in elite universities would be a lot lower and matter a lot less. If we fund higher education as we should, it may disappear or become irrelevant, since there would be more money available for good students who could not afford a private college, and public colleges would get the funding they need to compete with private colleges.

    Regarding legacies, well, they benefit schools financially, and the people who donate because they have three generations going to the same school have the financial clout to keep it in place. I don't think that it will disappear any time soon, so fighting against it is a waste of time and money. It also is limited by the need of colleges to maintain high GPAs and SAT/ACT scores. Too many legacies with stats that are lower than the average non-legacy will start bringing those down.

    Regarding athletes, unlike with sports at large public schools, I do not understand what deep purpose they serve which justifies their preference, so my biggest issue is "why?". I am honestly ready to be convinced of the benefits that they bring to an elite school.

    As for "self-serving". I can tell you that we actually are doing pretty well with the system as it is. We're doing even better because my daughter is awesome in many ways besides being an excellent applicant for every single one of the colleges in which she was interested. Financially, we are one mind change of my wife's away from being part of the top 5% (PhD in CS from top-10 CS program, in one of the hottest fields in industry, well experienced, well known, and well respected). I am way beyond my undergrad, which I didn't even do the the USA, but I actually would have been a legacy for Columbia (my dad did his PhD there). So, it will not benefit me or my family the slightest if top schools started accepting more low and middle income kids.
    edited January 22
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  • mamaedefamiliamamaedefamilia 3451 replies23 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @curethevoid17 I know of two white middle-class girls currently at Harvard. Neither of them is a "superstar." They are hardworking, smart, kind people with depth in their respective ECs in the performing arts. One went to a lower-ranked public high school. They both come from a less well-represented state.

    So, yes, it's possible. If you have an unweighted GPA above 3.8, a rigorous course load within the context of what your school provides, and high test scores, then your application will merit consideration. However, keep your expectations low as many students with similar profiles get turned away. If a school has a single digit acceptance rate, assume that also applies to you as well. Round out your list with matches and safeties that will be affordable for your family.

    Best of luck to you.
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  • CU123CU123 3589 replies68 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Again the ivies aren’t looking for the smartest students they are looking for future superstars, there is far more then academics in identifying those students.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34170 replies378 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Again...their first concern is the four years there. Not some rare prodigies who may someday be superstars. They don't work with a crystal ball. These kids are 17. You either show the traits they want *and* the record, or save your "dreams."
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  • compmomcompmom 10763 replies76 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    It's not about the individual so much as building an interesting class.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34170 replies378 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Thst starts with individuals.
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  • BKSquaredBKSquared 1399 replies7 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Agree with @Nocreativity1 . The elites are trying to build a complete community that they feel is optimal for the college experience they want to provide academically and socially. This does not mean every kid is a national award winner, published in national journals or has played in Carnegie Hall. Among my classmates and among my son's friends, the common theme is that these people are all very smart (perhaps brilliant in some subjects, less so in others) and at least through high school were focused and ambitious. Sure there is a percentage of students with super high achievements who were "no-brainers" in the admissions decisions (they are also likely cross admits to other elite schools) but I suspect a vast majority of those who made it to "Committee" (about 6,000) could just have easily gotten disappointing news in March.

    I also want to address the "legacy" point. As far as Yale is concerned, the AO makes it clear that as a group, legacy admits on average have higher scores and grades than non-legacies. It shouldn't be a surprise that the legacy "pool" of applicants is going to be stronger than the general pool. You can attribute that to either or both nature (smart parent(s)) or nurture (higher SES, education valued in household). It follows that the legacy admit rate is higher because the pool is stronger. Except for true development cases, the days of lowering standards for legacies have passed.

    I linked this in one of the Yale threads, but it is also appropriate here. There is a good deal of truth in it. https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2018/12/07/a-letter-from-the-committee-that-reviewed-your-yale-application/
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  • SatchelSFSatchelSF 1372 replies13 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited January 22
    I take a cynical view of the Ivy League perhaps, having two degrees and literally dozens of friends and hundreds of acquaintances and colleagues from HYPSM.

    20% of the class at any given school is extraordinary. The other 80% are merely good. Pareto nailed it.
    edited January 22
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  • Nocreativity1Nocreativity1 1112 replies55 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    SaychelSF- welcome back and glad your cynicism persists. I would imagine your hundreds of Ivy acquaintances would be disappointed to know that you only rate them as good😀
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  • SatchelSFSatchelSF 1372 replies13 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @Nocreativity1 - Thanks, and the key is to never let on which you think are the merely good and which are the extraordinary!
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  • Ozzy08Ozzy08 14 replies1 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    You need to show you're uniqueness and why you will be valuable to the university
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  • MWolfMWolf 1504 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited January 22
    The private elite schools want to maintain their statuses and reputations, as well as the particular character of that school and the "educational experience" of the students, while also maintaining and increasing their endowments. They will select students based on the competing requirements of each of these.

    Public school, including elite one, such as UCB or UMich are also beholden to the residents of their state.

    Research universities are also interested in research reputation, productivity and grant money, but these don't affect undergrad admissions all that much.
    edited January 22
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