Tired of Ivy League Prepping

Hi everyone,

I’m posting this because I just want to know if there are others like me.

Anyways my story; Canadian high school student (grade 11) applying at the Ivy leagues next year (class of 2023). I want to keep my reasons to myself but I assure you it’s not really because of the prestige but more because they’re some of the best liberal arts universities. Obviously I’m not only applying to them and I have plenty of safety and match schools I’m applying to. The ivies are a long shot but it doesn’t hurt to apply.

Or so I thought. With the onslaught of ‘how i got into ivy league’ videos and tiktoks, naturally I, like many, feel the pressure to be doing impressive stuff all the time. If I don’t actively have an extracurricular going (even if it’s during the breaks) I feel immense guilt. Even now, I feel so behind compared to everyone. I am doing the things I love, my extracurriculars do make me happy, but it’s just so much at the same time.

I feel like I’m running out of time and that I have to squeeze everything in just so I can get all my extracurriculars onto college apps (not necessarily for just ivies). Again, I know every student is probably doing this but I just wanted to hear all of your thoughts on this. It’s not that I have to force myself to do these activities, rather it’s just that I feel like it’s a ticking time bomb.

Additionally, I feel so unbelievably stupid and guilty for paying money to get tutoring just for the SAT and such. For Canadian universities, you don’t need the SAT so. I’m so unbelievably privilleged and lucky that money is not an issue for my family and likely will never be.

In conclusion, not only am i feeling overwhelmed, but I also feel guilty for letting my parents pay for my tuition classes and for taking up so much of my time with these extracurriculars just for a 1% chance at these schools.

Any advice, thoughts, or comments? I feel lost sorry guys I know I’m not asking for a specific answer in this post (eg. chance me for this ____) I don’t need advice on whether or not I should apply to begin with. Please don’t tell me not to apply, because I am going to since I’ve invested nearly three years into this and also because it would be a dream.

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I am sure there are lots of kids just like you - after all, these schools reject thousands of applications from kids who thought they had a chance, and there are posts from highly qualified applicants interested in IL /T20 schools on CC every day. As far as feeling stressed goes, have you considered not watching any more YouTube videos and Tiktoks? Watching somebody else humble brag about having achieved the goal I’m working for would just make me depressed, not inspired. If that’s how they make you feel, I really recommend doing something else with your time (anything else!).

If attending an IL school is your dream you should go for it. It sounds to me like you’re not sure it’s worth the effort if you’re likely to get rejected. That’s a matter of opinion that only you can decide. Chances are good, though, that if you go for it but fall short of IL, you’ll still end up attending a great school.

That said, I’d like to point out that not every student is doing this. I suspect you were just exaggerating for effect, but sometimes looking at things as they really are is more helpful. My D23 is focusing on schools where they have the highest-ranked programs for the major she wants and she has a good chance of getting in. I doubt she’ll have any reach schools on her list because almost none of the schools that have the best departments for her major are prestigious schools. Some college applicants are just practical: They have no interest in attending an IL school because they know it doesn’t fit their needs.

These practical applicants are good news for you: Since most of the 2 million US college applicants will NOT be applying to the IL schools, your chances are realistically going to be more like 2-6% when you apply next fall. Good luck!

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It sounds like you are overwhelmed and burned out, which is too bad because you should be enjoying your journey. It doesn’t sound like your current pace is sustainable for another year. All of the social media is causing you to fixate and obsess on getting accepted which is increasing your anxiety level. You really should take a step back from all of this for a few months and focus on high school and things that make you happy. It will help realign your priorities and objectives, which will bring everything into focus for you.

Feel for you. You sound like a great kid and well poised to do well in the college admissions process. In terms of the anxiety – maybe it would be best to try to imagine the worst. What if every single Ivy rejected you? Would you fall apart? Would you still be able to get a really good education? Have a good career or grad school options? Will your time spent doing all those extracurriculars been meaningful (hopefully, yes)?

On of the good things about competitive admissions is that it organizes you to do things that will help you in life – you learn to study hard, take on leadership skills etc. Those will serve you well in many ways. Good luck, this process and these high expectations are harming you, and you are certainly not alone.


This is what matters.

If you start feeling overwhelmed and unhappy, scale back or stop doing the EC. The chances of anyone getting into a reach school is very low. It’s not worth sacrificing your mental and physical health.

There are plenty of amazing, less competitive schools, where you will get a fabulous liberal arts education. You are in a fabulous position to not have to worry about cost.

If you post the qualities of your dream school, I’m sure you’ll get a ton of responses with less competitive schools where you will be equally as happy, thrive, and be successful.

PS. Having matches and safeties that you are equally in love with will make your search much less stressful. If you feel like you are “settling” if you don’t get into an Ivy, it’s going to be a tough admissions season.


On OP’s other threads, s/he mentioned schools like Harvard and Yale. Based on what were posted on those threads, OP has a very slim chance of admissions at best. Unless OP enjoys her/his ECs and doesn’t feel overwhelmed, s/he is likely to feel disappointed and not rewarded when admission decisions are announced.

Please don’t look at videos or read books or articles on “how to get in.” Ivies are an incredible long shot for everyone and not worth ruining your last years of high school.

Find schools that fit you and stop trying to fit a group of schools. Do EC’s you like and have time for and make sure you have some down time, alone or with friends. It is not worth it!

Here are test optional schools, an extensive list. No need to stress about scores esp. since your parents don’t need to chase merit aid. FairTest | The National Center for Fair and Open Testing

Look at the Colleges that Change Lives website and other schools. There is no reason to prioritize Ivy League admissions! I am not sure what pressures you are dealing with but if they become uncomfortable seek counseling. Your worth as a human being does not depend on where you get in to college.


This is important.

Even if you do not get into Harvard or Yale or Stanford, you will still have done what you wanted to do. Also, doing what you want to do, doing it well, and getting great grades will also make you better prepared to do well at Toronto or McGill or Mount Allison or some other great university in Canada even if you do not end up at an Ivy League university.

I think that you should continue with the ECs that you like to do. Continue to do well in your classes. Be aware that wherever you end up you will end up at a very good university. Do not underestimate how very good the top universities in Canada are (including both the famous large ones and the less well known smaller ones).

The sense of “I always have something to do and never get to rest” will also be the case if you do get to attend Harvard or Yale or MIT or Stanford or McGill or Toronto. These are demanding universities. We each need to figure out how driven we want to be in life, and find a path that is comfortable for us. There is always a tradeoff between doing more versus taking some time to relax. It is probably useful that you are learning about this tradeoff now before you decide which university to attend.


Let me be blunt, but also it will be a relief: you are very unlikely to be accepted to Harvard, Yale, or any other Ivy, for that matter. You are an international student from a country which has a very large number of students who apply to those colleges.

So maybe you should take a big, deep breath, and say to yourself:

"These are the things which are important to me, and which I enjoy. I will continue doing them because they are important and I enjoy them.

These other things are not enjoyable, and I am doing them only because I believe that they will help me get accepted to an Ivy. There is no need for me to certainly suffer in order to maybe ( a BIG maybe) be accepted to a college which I may or may not enjoy, so I will drop these things".

Ask yourself: what do you want to be when you finish your education?

A. A political scientist/law researcher of professor/lawyer/another career, OR
B. An Ivy League graduate.

Ask yourself: What is more important to you?

A. That you will have the career that you want and enjoy, OR
B. That you will be accepted to Harvard or Yale?

Yes, but there are at least 100 others which will provide you with a liberal arts education which is just as good or better, and which you will be able to attend without causing yourself to melt down multiple times while preparing for them, and to which you are far more likely to be accepted.

Believe none of them. There is no “secret formula” which will ensure that you are accepted to an Ivy League college. No admitted student knows any secrets that are hidden from the “lesser mortals” who were not accepted. The secret is to work hard, do very well, and have a good amount of luck. Alternatively, you can simply have a lot of luck, and be born rich and/or famous.

Why? You do not “owe” these activities to anybody. You only owe yourself to maintain your emotional and mental health.

Not really, most students are not doing this. Only about 5% of all high school students in the USA apply to an “Ivy”, and maybe 15% apply to any “elite” college. I don’t know about how many Canadian students apply to Ivies, but I would not think that it would be more than 1%.

My thoughts? You are investing FAR too much in being accepted to an Ivy. Your mental and emotional health are not worth sacrificing in order to actually attend an Ivy, MUCH less for a very small chance of being accepted to an Ivy.

Really, the emotional, mental, and physical health costs that you are incurring and will incur in your obsession to be accepted to Harvard or Yale are far higher than the return, considering your stated interests.

You are barely beginning your Junior year in high school, and you are already suffering meltdowns. I can only imagine what your emotional and mental state will be by next year.

Furthermore, you want to attend law school. Admissions to law school are determined by your GPA. It is extremely difficult to maintain a high GPA at Harvard or Yale. You are super stressed out trying to maintain a high GPA in high school, so how are you planning to maintain a high GPA at Harvard or Yale without sacrificing you health?

Aside from that, you want to attend law school, and then do your PhD. That means that you should not only be finishing your undergraduate without debt, you may also be needing your parents’ financial support after you finish your undergraduate. Ivies are very expensive, so you should be looking at cheaper options.

My serious recommendation is that your stop focusing on being accepted to an Ivy, and focus instead on doing your best in your classes, and on doing the things which interest you and for which you have passion outside of the classroom. Assume that you will be attending U Toronto or another excellent Canadian university and plan accordingly. Or look at good colleges for your majors in the USA which will be better fits, AND be better financial choices, but not before next semester, unless you have an opportunity to visit some colleges in the USA.

Good luck and take care of yourself.


Hi! Just a quick question… my slim chance is mainly because of my demographics, correct (eg. international student)? Or was it my ECs?

Acceptance rates to these colleges are 5% or lower. Acceptance rates for international students without hooks are lower than 2%. Those 2% include legacies, top athletes, kids of the wealthy and famous, etc. These colleges look at applicants from each country or region separately, and the more students that apply from any giver country, the lower the percent that are accepted. A lot of student apply from Canada, relative to the number that Harvard or Yale will accept from Canada.


As @MWolf has indicated, some of these colleges have very low acceptance rates, especially for international students. Moreover, even a higher percentage of admitted international students are “hooked” (than that of US domestic students). They’re either superstar students (in academics, athletics, etc.) or with connections to societal elites in their own countries, making acceptance of international students without those “hooks” even rarer.


I’m also class of 2023 and do the absolute same thing you do. I’m currently looking for a study buddy for the SAT (reading, math and writing) as well as for the ACT. I don’t know what classes your taking but I’m in the AICE program right now. I’m currently trying to figure out what make to try and get into ISEF
I’m also competing in other competitions
I’m looking for someone to actually study with and talk to (overall just be friends with)

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For sure! Do you have snapchat?

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I actually don’t use or have Snapchat
I have Instagram though idk if you use that
I also have email

Hi! I saw this thread and just wanted to leave a quick response to let you know you’re not alone. I feel for you completely (I’m a high school senior right in the middle of fall application season). I know what you mean about the EC’s. Even while participating in things you love, it still adds up to be a lot of commitment. Thank you for posting this. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one feeling this way either. I wish you the very best luck!!!


Another thing to keep in mind is it may be that the videos on “How I got into an Ivy” were made pre-pandemic and you are comparing yourself to them when you are extremely limited in what ECs you can do during a pandemic

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