What to Know Before Applying to the Ivy League

October 10, 2021
By AdmissionSight

What to Know Before Applying to the Ivy League

When it becomes time for students to apply to become part of the Ivy League class of 2026, there are a lot of very important things that those students are going to want to know.

Of course, any high school student that is thinking about applying to an Ivy League likely already knows a thing or two about the highly competitive, prestigious and historic group of universities known as the Ivy League.

But what do students need to make sure that they know before they get started on their Ivy League applications?

Well, it turns out there is quite a lot! At AdmissionSight, we make it our top priority to give the high school students that we work with all of the important tools that they need to beat the odds of the tough Ivy League acceptance rate and attend one of the best schools in the world!

That’s why we have broken down the top things that any student will want to know. However, before we get into the tips and information that any student wanting to attend any Ivy League school should know, let’s break down some of the most important things to know about the Ivy League themselves and get into the ivy league class of 2026.

The Ivy League Acceptance Rates

As you may already know, there are eight individual schools that make up the Ivy League. Those schools are:

  • Harvard University
  • Yale University
  • Princeton University
  • Columbia University
  • Brown University
  • Dartmouth College
  • University of Pennsylvania

Together, these eight schools have housed and educated some of the most impactful and important men and women of their generations. Founders of massive corporations, creators of important and beautiful art, discoverers of key scientific research and even leaders of countries all over the world have attended Ivy League schools.

That legacy of great success and importance is just one of the reasons why the Ivy League schools are so hard to get into. But what is the best Ivy League school? While the answer to that question is fairly subjective, one objective aspect of the ivy League is the Ivy League acceptance rate.

The acceptance rate – of course – refers to the percentage of students that are accepted into the school from the pool of students that apply. To give you a good idea of the kinds of acceptance rates you can expect for the graduating class of 2026, let’s take a look at the acceptance rates for the graduating class of 2025 as well as the graduating class of 2024.

Table with information about different schools.

As you can clearly see from the table, the Ivy League acceptance rate for all eight schools dropped significantly from 2020 to 2021. Part of the reason why is because of the strain on the schools’ admissions offices, as well as the roll over of students from the previous year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another reason why is because schools have historically been seeing lower and lower acceptance rates for quite some time.

All this to say, if a high school student is especially committed to getting into one of the Ivy League schools, they are going to have to make sure that they do everything within their power to set themselves apart and above many of the most intelligent, accomplished and committed students in the entire world!

So, what are some of the top tips that every student should know if they are looking to beat the odds and get into the ivy league class of 2026 of Harvard, Yale, or Brown? Let’s start breaking it all down together.

Make sure you get those grades and test scores up

This might seem like an obvious place to start, but it is also arguably the most important. While it absolutely takes more than just top grades and standardized test scores to get into a school like Stanford or Columbia, that does not mean this factor is not heavily important.

In fact, high school students who are looking to get into an Ivy League program should really consider top grades and standardized test scores more of a prerequisite to get into a great school. So, while fantastic grades and test scores will not get you into an Ivy League school alone, a bad – or even average – GPA and ACT or SAT score can certainly keep you out of one.

Male students taking exam at a classroom.

When it comes to grades, a 4.0 GPA alone will not be enough either. Students also need to make a clear plan to plot out their high school curriculum year after year to make sure that they are enrolling in the types of courses that will prove to admissions officers at Ivy League schools that they can handle the rigors and challenges of the classes at Ivy League schools.

So, how does a student do that? By enrolling in as many honors, AP and IB courses as possible. If your school does not offer these types of courses, you may even want to get a bit creative by seeing if you can enroll in courses at your local community college or even a four-year college or university in or near your home town. This will go a long way in showing admissions officers at Ivy League schools that you are not only up for a challenge in the classroom, but also looking to challenge yourself academically.

Follow your passions in and outside of the classroom

When it comes to how to approach your high school courses, as well as your extracurricular activities out of the classroom, there is one simple way to make sure that you impress the admissions officers at Ivy League schools: Follow your passions.

When it comes to what kinds of courses you are taking, following your natural interests and strengths will help you set yourself apart in a number of ways for a chance to an ivy league class of 2026. First off, these are likely the courses that you are most likely to excel in from a grade and AP or IB exam standpoint.

Group of students sitting at the park and chatting

Moreover, if you enter the college application experience with a good idea of what kind of major you will want to pursue with your degree, and what kind of career or graduate education you may want to pursue after undergraduate, you will only improve your chances of proving to an admissions officers at an Ivy League school that you are a driven and mature individual.

With that being said, students should not overthink this fact, and they should feel more than equipped to deal with the Ivy League application process even if they have no idea what they want to study at university! Afterall, the undergraduate years are still for students to figure out not only who they are as students, but as young adults as well!

The follow your passions approach certainly applies to your extracurricular activities as well. In fact, it actually applies to your out-of-the-classroom activities even more so!

The dean of admissions at Brown University, Logan Powell noted in an interview that the extracurriculars a high school student engages in matters less than what a high school student gets out of those activities. So, if a student is into sports, academic clubs, theater, art, community service, or anything else, it is important that students note that they should be committing fully to them.

“Have they learned time management skills, leadership, teamwork, discipline? How have they grown as a person and what qualities will they bring to our campus?” Powell asks himself when he is looking at a high school student’s extracurricular pursuits.

While it used to be thought that well-rounded students who had skills and interests in many different places had the best shot of getting into even the best Ivy League schools, students are now advised to take a more “specialist” approach.

Students should plan to focus on a few core interests for all four years so that they can acquire related skills, earn roles of leadership and really leave a positive mark on their community back home. This will give every admissions officer looking at their application confidence that they will manage to do the very same thing once they get on campus.

One quick note about extracurriculars: Ivy League schools love seeing that students they are accepting are simply good people. For that reason, it certainly would not hurt for any student interested in getting into an Ivy League to get involved in some form of community service.

This is a great way for any young man or woman to prove that they are committed to leaving the world in a better place than how they found it, something any admissions officer – at an Ivy League school or otherwise – will surely love to see.

Apply early decision/early action

Remember those incredibly low Ivy League acceptance rate percentages that we broke down for you earlier in this article? Well, those rates get a significant boost for students who decide to play early decision/early action.

However, there are some really important things to keep in mind when it comes to applying in either of these ways. First off, students need to know that they are only able to apply to one school for early decision.

Moreover, if a student ends up getting into the school that they apply to early decision, they will have to withdraw from all of the other schools that he or she has committed to attending.

To get a good idea of how much better of a chance students have when they apply early action/early decision, take a look at the difference in acceptance rates for students from the graduating class of 2021.

  • Brown – 21.9 percent compared to 9 percent
  • Cornell – 25.6 percent compared to 12.5 percent
  • Dartmouth – 27.8 percent compared to 10.4 percent
  • Harvard – 14.5 percent compared to 5.2 percent
  • UPenn –  22.0 percent compared to 9.2 percent
  • Princeton – 15.4 percent compared to 6.1 percent
  • Yale – 17.1 percent compared to 6.9 percent

While the acceptance rates for early decision/early action students have taken a dip since then, just like the acceptance rate for regular decision students, you can see the incredible difference if you plan to be part of the ivy league class of 2026

Write incredible personal essays

If grades and test scores are the two most important aspects of a student’s application, then their personal essays are a close third.

In fact, there are some schools that consider the personal essay portion of an application nearly as highly as grades! That means that it serves as an incredible opportunity for students who are looking to really set themselves apart.

However, the personal essay section is also potentially the part of the process that students can struggle with most. For some reason, some students believe that in order to impress admissions officers, they are going to have to prove why their experience is unique, how they overcame some great hardships, and why they need to attend an Ivy League school to accomplish their lofty goals.

A woman's hand writing on a paper

Well, the fact of the matter is that very few students come from such incredible hardship or backgrounds that they warrant writing an entire essay about it. Instead, admissions officers are really just looking for a chance to find out who a specific student really is beyond their grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.

In fact, the best way for a student to look their best when applying to schools is to write about something small and mundane but look at it from a completely unique point of view. This will give anyone reading those essays a chance to really see how unique a student is.

Beyond that, it is really important for students to give themselves the time – and take the time – necessary to read over their essays and proofread them for grammar and spelling errors. After all, no student wants to worry about a few spelling mistakes being the deciding factor in whether or not they get into the school of their dreams!

What else you need to know

Here are some key things to keep in mind when applying to Ivy League schools:

Focus on your field of work

Remember when we talked about following your passions? When you are applying to Ivy League schools, make sure that you are targeting the schools that are best known for offering great educations in that area of focus.

Surely, every Ivy League school is a wonderful place for every academic focus, but this is a very useful way to narrow your search.

Consider location

College offers a fantastic opportunity for young adults to branch out and call a new part of the country home. All eight of the Ivy League schools are located in historic and beautiful cities or towns, but there is a very big difference between living in New Haven, Connecticut – where Yale is – and Manhattan, New York -where Columbia is.

Students should be sure to visit and tour every campus that they are interested in attending well before the application process begins.

Think about the alumni network

The people who graduate from Ivy League schools are amongst the proudest alumni in the world, and that fact becomes a major asset for anyone who graduates from those schools. Alumni networks can open incredible personal and professional goals, and students should be aware of what kind of alumni network they will want to be a part of after they graduate.

Group of students smiling for the camera


As you can see, there are a lot of very important things that every student should know when they are applying to Ivy League schools and get into the ivy league class of 2026.

Any high schooler interested in going down this demanding and singular task needs to be prepared for what is to come. They also need to be prepared to excel throughout their high school years in order to give themselves a fighting chance of getting into any of the eight Ivy League programs.

That is where we at AdmissionSight can come in and help. For years, the college admissions consultants at AdmissionSight have helped determined and intelligent students beat the odds and get into Ivy League schools.

Thanks to our experience, guidance, and insight, we can help students beat the odds of the ever-competitive Ivy League acceptance rate. While it may seem like something of a crapshoot about who gets in and who gets left out every year, we know that there are some very specific and particular things that admissions officers are looking for. We give our students the skills to utilize that unofficial checklist and succeed in their college application goals.

So, if you are a high school student interested in attending a school like Harvard, Columbia, Brown or Yale, contact us today to set up a free consultation so that you can learn more about what we bring to the table.

After all, there is a reason why 75 percent of the students that we have worked with are able to accomplish their goals and get into the ivy league class of 2026 or a top-10 school elsewhere in the United States.


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