How do I stand out in my Ivy League college applications? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
There are a few things I did that went beyond good grades and good SAT scores that I think gave me an advantage when I applied to UPenn. Hopefully they'll be useful to someone else out there:
- I applied early decision. Schools across the board like to feel like their applicants are so enamored with attending that they will tear up all their other applications if they get accepted, which is what you're volunteering to do if you get accepted early decision. If you're ready to commit, do it. I'm not even sure I'd have gotten in if I'd applied regular decision. My grades were above average but not perfect. Same deal with my SATs. If you feel like your application might have some slight weak points, early decision can work in your favor.
- I played up an academic niche. For me, it was French. I was in the National French Honor Society, president of my high school's French Club, had spent a summer as an exchange student in Paris, and was in the AP class. Hitch your wagon to whatever academic star you're most passionate about and showcase it as best as you can on the application, which leads me to my next point.
- I hammed it up on the essay. One of Penn's essay questions the year I applied was something like "write page 216 of your autobiography," which to me was a glorious meaty softball sliding across home plate. It was the perfect creative writing prompt and an opportunity to drive home that academic niche I just talked about. Because guess where page 216 of my autobiography happened to take place? Yep. Paris, folks.
Epilogue: Once I got to Penn, I took a notoriously hard French-language literature and politics course, got a C-, and never spoke French again in my life. But I'll never forget that it got me in the door!
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