How to Get Your Child into an Ivy League School

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Group of students signing up for internship.

How to Get Your Child into an Ivy League School

As a parent, you want the absolute best for your kids. When it comes to education, that means helping them get into the finest colleges in the country. For over a century, Ivy League universities have served as a benchmark for colleges around the world. These institutions for higher learning represent the very best educational and, as a result, professional opportunities for graduates. However, along with this prestige, parents also have to deal with the exclusivity of these Ivy League colleges.

If you’ve ever wondered how to get your child into an Ivy League school, you’re certainly not alone.  Behind each student vying for a spot in one of these top universities is a dedicated parent who wants to support their child the best they can. With tens-of-thousands of applicants each year and only a small percentage being admitted, it’s a highly competitive and challenging process. However, these aren’t insurmountable obstacles. In fact, there are many things parents can do in order to set their kids up for success.

Here, we’ll explore the main advantages of an Ivy League education along with some tips to prepare your child for Ivy League.

Advantages of an Ivy League Education

If you’ve ever wondered how to get your kid into Harvard, it’s critical to understand the underlying motivation behind that goal. Although Ivy League schools have certainly earned their reputation and admiration, it’s helpful for parents to understand how their children can benefit from attending one of these schools. In addition to wondering “how do I prepare my child for Ivy League?”, you should also wonder “What does the Ivy League offer my kid?” This understanding offers parents a deeper level of insight into these universities and solidifies their efforts to support their children’s success.

1. Professional Head Start

Attending an Ivy League school is understandably more challenging than graduating from a standard state university. However, this hard work is rewarded as alumni have a professional head start when compared to those who attend less prestigious universities. Ivy League universities act as funnels to some of the most competitive and financially rewarding fields by helping graduates qualify for esteemed positions that wouldn’t be available to them if they had graduated from a different college. As a parent, make sure you pay attention to the specialties of each Ivy League school as some specialize in different fields.

2. Broad Network of Alumni

Ivy League schools are well-known for their extensive networks of alumni. Because the application process is so selective and the coursework so rigorous, the collective experience of Ivy League students results in a very cohesive, supportive, and connected group of graduates. While this integrated structure is great when students are attending these universities, it pays off even more in the professional world.

The connections a graduate will have by default for attending an Ivy League school can give them a competitive edge among other professionals. The great part about these networking advantages is that there is never an expiration date. Graduates can continue benefiting from their attendance at an Ivy League school for their entire life. However, they’re also expected to contribute themselves.

3. World-Class Education

Ivy League schools are continually proving their value by providing students with a world-class education year after year. A quick look at the successes of Ivy League alumni will squash any misconceptions of these universities resting on their laurels. Yes, it’s true that Ivy Leagues have a higher price tag than the average colleges across the country. However, this investment is put towards one of the best educations that are available in the world, not just the country. Ivy League universities carefully curate their coursework and diligently hire professors and other staff members to ensure their offerings continue to be the very best.

Tips to get your child into an Ivy League school

1. Prepare early.

There’s an old saying: “The early bird gets the Ivy League worm.” Okay, that’s not exactly how it goes. But you get the point. Parents who help their children prepare earlier for an Ivy League education have a higher chance of getting that coveted acceptance letter. While this is primarily a principle of having more time to prepare, it’s also important for parents to know just how extensive an Ivy League admission process can be.

Students listening to the class lecture

Admissions committees take your child’s entire academic history into account, although the primary focus is placed on the high school years. However, performance in grade school can impact your child’s high school performance. While you want to be thinking about this as early as possible, it’s generally advisable to start making calculated decisions the summer before your child enters high school. This gives you and your child enough time to start choosing coursework, extracurriculars, and other activities that will end up giving them a competitive edge in the application process.

2. Nurture academic development

Not every child develops a natural interest in developing their academic performance and capabilities. While school is appealing to some students who enjoy the challenges, there are others who struggle with various aspects of the standard education system. Although there are obvious advantages to those in the former category, there’s nothing wrong with those students who aren’t as motivated.

As a parent, it’s vital to nurture academic growth and development with your child from an early age. In order to meet the high standards set by Ivy League schools, students have to maintain relatively high performance through high school. Keep in mind this scrutiny is just placed on GPA and test results. Students also need to develop other various skills that will be required in an Ivy League education such as the ability to write precisely and concisely, public speaking skills, creativity, organization, and – perhaps most importantly – a sense of motivation.

3. Focus on strengths and interests

Preparation for an Ivy League education shouldn’t be void of interest and personalization. In other words, it doesn’t do anyone any favors to randomly pick an Ivy League school and a high-profile degree for your child. Parents are encouraged to focus on the interests and dislikes of their children when helping them prepare for an Ivy League education. If a student is pressured by their parents to study law when botany is their real passion, the chances are he or she will be significantly less motivated.

A man pointing at the laptop discussing while a woman listens.

Focusing on the strengths and interests of children also increases the likelihood that they’ll be self-motivated to learn more, practice, and develop their academic abilities. In a broader sense, this focus helps students learn to associate education, learning, and school with positive attributes instead of negative ones. If your child is nearing college age and still has a tough time determining what area of study is most interesting, it’s advisable to speak with a career counselor to help determine what path fits best with their interests.

4. Leave room for autonomy

Many parents struggle to draw a careful line between being overbearing and unsupportive when it comes to helping their child get into an Ivy League University. If you don’t intervene at all and provide your child with no guidance, their chances of getting into a school like Brown or Columbia is greatly diminished. On the other hand, being too involved can end up causing your child to become disengaged with academics altogether. A great way to ensure your child remains engaged and passionate about school is to leave room for autonomy.

This includes allowing your child to experience failure at times if their efforts aren’t sufficient. You don’t want to shelter them from ever experiencing a setback in education as there will be plenty of obstacles at an Ivy League university. Instead, parents should be doing their best to impart independence and diligence to their kids. This can help them mature greatly when it comes to responsibility in academics.

5. Emphasize extracurricular activities

Admissions officers at Ivy League universities place a lot of weight on what students spend their free time doing outside of school. While academic performance is still a central component to the likelihood of your child getting accepted into these colleges, extracurricular activities can’t be overlooked. These extracurriculars show admissions committees that a student is willing to put in extra effort to further their academic performance while showing a desire to contribute to their school’s sense of community outside of class.

Young woman explaining an extracurricular activity to a student.

While you might have an inclination to sign your child up for as many extracurriculars as possible, it’s important to be mindful that this can look peculiar to an admissions officer. Instead, it’s better to focus on a few extracurricular activities in which your child can remain dedicated to developing a particular skill or ability.

For example, a student who participates in a foreign language learning club and picks up a language before college will look more impressive to admissions officers than one who attended over a dozen clubs without cultivating any real skills. It’s not a bad idea to seek out clubs that correlate in some manner to the field of study which your child wants to pursue. If your child’s high school doesn’t offer enough extracurriculars, don’t be afraid to look for offerings elsewhere.

6. Pursue excellent test scores

Standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT are critical benchmarks upon which colleges measure a student’s academic performance and ability to perform in the collegiate setting. Ivy League schools are no different, making it critical that students properly prepare their children to excel on these exams. Although the curriculum of most high schools tends to fall in line with what’s asked on these exams, it’s advisable for motivated parents to sign their kids up for specialized SAT and ACT courses. These specialists can help teach children exactly what to expect on the exams, how to prepare appropriately, and how to improve their scores each time.

While a perfect score should always be the goal, it’s a good idea for both parents and students to seek out both the required and average SAT and ACT scores of the desired Ivy League school. This provides an excellent goal for which to aim when preparing for the exams. Keep in mind that students aren’t limited in the number of times they can take the exam. While parents can help their child earn a higher score by signing them up to take the test more than once, too many attempts won’t look good on a college application. It’s best to limit the number of attempts your child makes.

7. Make sure the essays are phenomenal

One of the primary keys to getting your kids into the Ivy League is mastering the essay portion of the application. Ivy League schools have students fill out a general application with basic academic information. However, there’s a separate supplemental essay portion that’s designed to give admissions officers a deeper insight into each student as the general application can be dry and impersonal.

Unidentified woman taking a test in a room.

These essays are the perfect opportunity to ensure your child sticks out from the wave of applicants that flood the offices of admissions committees every year. Even if writing is your child’s strong suit, it’s still smart to hire an essay specialist who can help ensure the essay is exactly what admissions officers are looking for. After all, with thousands upon thousands of essays being submitted each year, it takes some preparation, intent, and diligence to ensure your child’s essays catch the attention of admissions officers.

Another great way to improve your child’s essays is to practice regularly. Every year, Ivy League universities publish their supplemental essays publically for everyone to see. Even if your child isn’t ready to apply, practicing responding to these essays is an excellent way to get acquainted with the process.

8. Be mindful of deadlines.

While academic enrichment and early planning along with other big picture items are key to getting your child into an Ivy League school, the details can’t get lost in the shuffle. When it comes to organizing all of the moving pieces that can increase a student’s chances of getting accepted into a top-tier university, parents need to be diligent about the specifics.

For example, knowing about submission deadlines, test dates, required documents, and other details are essential. You don’t want to end up putting years of effort and financial investment towards helping your child prepare for admission into Yale only to miss a deadline by a few days or forget to request a document from their high school.

9.  Hire a college admissions consultant.

The goal of getting your child into an Ivy League school can seem daunting and, at times, even impossible. Fortunately, you’re not without support yourself. There are college admissions consultants who specialize in helping parents achieve the very same goal you have – namely, to get your child accepted into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or any other Ivy League school. These professionals take the guesswork out of admissions so you no longer have to waste time researching, second-guessing, or tracking down dead-end “contacts”.

Female student answering a test while smiling.

An admissions consultant knows the college admissions process in-depth and guides you and your child through each step to set you up for success. Furthermore, these professionals can help you cater your child’s application to the very Ivy League college to which they want to apply, further increasing their chances of getting in. If you’re wondering, it’s never too early to contact a college admissions specialist. As with many things related to increasing your child’s chances of getting admitted to an Ivy League school, the sooner you start, the better.

Get more advice on Ivy League admissions

Getting into an Ivy League school is a common aspiration many dedicated parents have for their children. Known for their world-class courses, dedicated professors,  and advantageous alumni networks, Ivy League schools have a lot to offer students who are qualified to gain admittance. Along with this esteem and prestige, however, comes a harsh reality of exclusivity and selection. These top-tier colleges are picky. While there’s no way around this reality, there are certain steps parents can take to greatly increase the chances of their children getting accepted.

Admission Sight is a leading college admissions consultant with a proven and sustained track record of helping students from diverse areas of interest and strengths get into some of the best schools in the country. From Harvard and Yale to Princeton and Brown, Admission Sight understands the admissions process of Ivy League schools in-depth. With this insider-knowledge, we help students and parents find a viable and actionable path towards acceptance at these top colleges. Feel free to contact us to learn more.


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