Those that got into target schools...


Besides having high GPA’s and amazing standardized test scores what else gave you the edge in apply to the school you go to or went to, and what are some tips?

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Oct 3, 2019 - 10:50pm

GPA and test scores are only a small fraction of what colleges consider, especially more competitive target schools. These schools are looking for an interesting applicant with a passion represented by a good essay that reflects why you want to go to this school specifically as well as quality ECs (quality > quantity).

But I'm sure you know that already.

The real trick to getting into target schools is: applying to a shit ton of them. Yeah I know this is unpopular and will probably get MSed, but hedging your bets is the only way to get an advantage. I applied to 16 schools (including Ivies and other top 20 schools), and I was going to apply for more, but I got incredibly lazy after writing so many different essays. At a certain point you start repeating yourself and I straight up copied many essays. Just make sure you change the school name! I know this seems obvious but after writing and editing so many essays, I ended up misplacing ONE reference to ONE school for another school, so it can happen.

Also, apply to a variety of acceptance rates. Don't think of it as applying to colleges, think of it as a huge statistical lottery where you apply to acceptance rates. Apply to a bunch of ultra competitives (<5%), a bunch of high competitives (5-10%), a bunch of competitives (10-20%), a bunch of semi-competitives (20-30%), and a FEW safeties (>40-50%). Note that these brackets are a rough sketch for me, your stats will definitely skew your chances one way or the other. The only way to really know what a school is to you is a combination of average SAT/GPA the school takes and College Confidential posts outlining ECs and essays. Note, however, that all this evidence is anecdotal. Kids with mediocre ECs and good scores get into Ivies all the time, and kids with great ECs and great scores get rejected a lot of the time. Your chances correlate with your stats/EC quality, but there's a HUGE amount of competition. As such, with so many qualified applicants you get so many rejections. Again, it's a lottery. Hedge your bets.

If you get free applies or have scholarship opportunities, take them. I applied to over 20 scholarships (local and state level) and got rejected from them all. Applying to this many schools can get expensive (I spent $1000 on apps alone, would've been more too if I kept applying). It did pay off. I got into two targets (UVA and Georgetown) and a number of semi-targets.

Just make sure when you're applying you have several (5 or more) schools in each category of competitiveness. Ultra competitives (<5%) like Dyson (Cornell) and other Ivies are a crapshoot. I applied to all of them but I don't recommend it (got nothing but waitlists and deferrals).

Apply ED to the place you REALLY want to get into/think you can craft the best essay for. ED improves your chance at some schools more than others -- research this! For example, ED to UPenn almost doubles your chances whereas ED to other Ivies (I think Columbia is one) doesn't affect your chances at all. ED is a very powerful tool. Use it wisely; you only get one. So, apply ED to either a ultra, high, or normal competitive (depending on your chances). You want to make your ED either a "reach" or "semi-reach," but NOT an "ultra-reach." Like, if you have a few ECs and a 1400 SAT, don't ED to Harvard. Frankly, it's a waste of an ED. Do apply to Harvard if you want, but use your ED to "tip the scale" in your favor; it's not gonna revolutionize your chances!

Apply to a few ultra-competitives (3 or so more) and some of high competitives (3 or 4). I'd really focus on the semi-reach categories, which namely for me were the competitives (10%-20%). I applied to around 6 of these. Focus on these because you can hedge your bets here the easiest (this was for me again). Make sure the category you apply most to are "semi-reaches" for you. Those are, schools where you have a semi-realistic chance but you wouldn't expect to get in that easily (as compared to a reach which is a low chance of getting in, and an ultra-reach where your chances are virtually 0). Lastly, apply to a couple semi-competitives and like 1 or 2 safeties. (Safeties are shoe-ins).

Again, my and your definitions of reaches and competitiveness will vary. It's all about applying to a handful of reaches, a lot of reaches/semi-reaches (large overlap in this category), and a few safeties. The "competitive" scale I made was my interpretation of these categories. Once you define your own it'll become clearer.

Also, don't half ass your essays. Once you get to the 5th, 10th, or even 15th school (or even more), apps can become very tedious and repetitive. Just make sure you TAILOR each essay. It's okay to copy, but EDIT and TAILOR each one even if it's just a little.

Other than that, have fun. Hedge. Your. Bets.

Don't apply to 15 schools you think you can get into pretty easily. But at the same time don't apply to 15 ultra-competitives if you have shit stats. You want to be simultaneously realistic and ambitious. Just don't lean either way to heavily or you'll lose money and value.

Oct 5, 2019 - 4:54pm

Did you read the post? My whole point was that it's a huge lottery even if you're qualified. I was definitely nowhere near as qualified as some of the people who got rejected from the Ivies. Getting into one takes a lot of qualifications, and even then your app could be perfect, and you won't get in because of the amount of applicants combined with sheer luck.

Oct 5, 2019 - 4:22pm

The real answer to the question is a) go to a private high school b) donate to the school c) know someone d) have a dad that’s a senator

That’s how you “tip the scales”

Anyone that falls under these categories is lying to themselves if they think their privilege didn’t play a role in getting in to a top school.

  • Prospect in Other
Oct 5, 2019 - 8:35pm

I go to a target, and I would just stress what above commenters have said. It's disheartening, but you do have to realize that there are many, many more qualified students than there are spots at "prestigious" schools. So much of it is luck, and a lot of it is also privilege. A large portion of my class comes from top-name private schools from all over the world, and just as many come from other smaller private schools across the country. The barrier to entry for public school students seems much, much harder to me (4.0, valedictorian, first-gen, local leader, plays multiple sports and is student body president, nationally ranked for something, etc). The admissions process is not fair at all.

Being admitted or denied from some of these places really, really doesn't say as much about your personal achievement or greatness as you think it does in high school. I went into the process secretly feeling like I deserved admission to a top school. Now that I'm at one, I've realized that I'm not special, I'm just really damn lucky (in many, many respects). I do think that prestige can help you get ahead in life, and if you happen to get your foot in the door, that's a great opportunity. But, there are successful and smart people everywhere.

In high school, a great friend of mine turned down an offer from a top school to go to a no-name, local six-year med program. I thought he was nuts, and I gave him an earful for it. Now, I have more respect for his choice than almost anyone else. He's happy, has no debt, and will be a doctor before most of our peers even apply to med school. Sure, if you know you want to go into IB or something, maybe the name of your school matters, but even that- who knows. I'm going to a top BB next summer, and even though there are hundreds of alumni from my school on the street, the two people who helped me most were both people I happened to cold email from non-targets- no tie to me at all.

Make a list of schools that only has places you would genuinely be happy to attend (safety or reach). Be realistic with your expectations, and no matter where you end up, keep working hard and be proud of (and excited for) the doors that do open for you.

Oct 26, 2019 - 11:59am

Something really nice about going to a school on a big merit scholarship like UF (as someone who chose that over a top-20) graduating without any debt is a huge boost. Additionally, if you plan on going to grad school, the name of your undergrad doesn't matter that much. But by far the biggest benefit i've seen is that big selective state schools (UNC, UF, UGA, etc.) have a ton of resources available, and you are a big fish at the school. Most of these resources are only utilized by the top ~10% of the students and if you associate in those circles, you are just as competitive as a kid at a top 20.

  • Prospect in 
Oct 5, 2019 - 10:19pm

1 You need to tell a story in application. If you ain't an amazing person who can be pres of class, valedictorian, and t100 in a sport, you gotta have a passion and follow it.

2 There are ALOT of things highschoolers can do. A TON. Look far far beyond high school.

Get an internship at a finance company, any finance company. Maybe not in finance company, just the department. OR get an internship with an econ professor. Email ALOT and don't aim for just the amazing schools (chances are you won't get these.... econ researchers don't rlly need uneducated interns). Try to start a business (an online one... its possible) or just a simple etsy store that can turn into a business. Shows leadership and courage.

Say you like helping people. Learn personal finance. Compete in the national personal finance competition. Create a club that educates on personal finance. Find an organization you can volunteer with that helps people with their taxes and/ or money management. Create a club/ non profit that goes to a local low-income high school and teach them personal finance or how to invest.

Say you made your passion finance and technology. Learn how to code. Learn financial coding. Attempt to create an app that teaches people financial coding. Create a financial coding club at your school.

Overall, if you want an edge and you aren't the #1 best instrument player in your district or state champions in a sport where you are caption or nationally ranked in debate...... you gotta go and pursue a passion and tell a story.... not to say that you don't need achievements in at least some of those activities.

Oct 9, 2019 - 5:30pm

There is one piece of very good advice in here that cannot be underestimated. Honestly the "internship" or long-term research/shadowing of an econ or finance professor is lowkey the hookup. I did that at my school (not a major target but top-25 nonetheless) for a different area of study and the dude introduced me to a board member who ended up doing my interview, and both of them vouched for me come decision time. I was by no means an exceptional candidate, but that was 100% what tipped the scales for me getting in.

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