What does it really take to get into a top college like Stanford or the Ivy League schools? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
It takes both conformity and differentiation.
Conformity: very high grades in the most challenging courses available, very high standardized test scores, evidence of leadership, specialization, meaningful contributions: passion.
Differentiation: once you're in the running with thousands even tens of thousands of others who have conformed in the sense I've just described, you have to show them that you're a unique individual. They don't want one to two thousand kids who have all gotten this GPA that ACT/SAT and play piano or are soccer stars. They want a class of individuals who will each contribute to the vibrancy of the community and to the learning of one another. Once you've got a quantitative profile that puts you in the running (conformed to those expectations) then you've gotta be brave enough to tell them (in essays, via the people you choose to write your recs) who you actually are. The unique individual. The actual you.
Finally, let's face it, it takes some luck. With many more qualified students than spots, whom they actually choose is a bit of a lottery. If it happens and you want to go there, be grateful. If it doesn't, don't feel like a loser. Those odds aren't in anyone's favor.
Als0, it's a bit off topic, but please know that there are plenty more great schools than Stanford and the Ivies. There are better lists than U.S. News if you really want to know where to get a great education, such as Colleges That Change Lives () and The Alumni Factor ( ) to name just two.
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