Preparing for College

Ivy League Admission for "Average" Student?

Question: Is there any way the "Average Joe" (someone without high test scores and grades or exceptional extracurricular activities) can get into an Ivy League college?

The short answer to your question is, “No way do Ivy institutions admit the ‘Average Joe’ (or Josie).” The longer one is this: some students may not have what are normally considered to be Ivy-caliber GPA’s and/or test scores but they do have good ones, and they also have extenuating circumstances (e.g., they were brought up in a homeless shelter or on a boat in the South Pacific) or unique talents (they’ve tried out for the Olympics, danced on Broadway … ) that catch Ivy admission officials' attention. Some Ivy-qualified students, too, consider their accomplishments more “ordinary” than they really are. (Maybe you're one of them?)

While certainly we would never discourage anyone from applying to a dream college, a student who is short of outstanding in all areas (grades, test scores, extracurricular achievements) or who doesn't have an atypical background or talent would probably be throwing away a 50- or 60-dollar application fee by applying to the most competitive colleges. There are many excellent institutions that welcome good students who won’t make the Ivy cut (and even some students who do may find their needs are better met at a different school).

If you've always had Ivy in your eyes but realize that you aren't likely to get into an Ivy League institution right now, keep in mind that a strong undergraduate performance elsewhere might position you for a place in an Ivy League graduate program down the road.