For $38 You Can Find Out What It Takes to Get Into the Ivy League
Last summer two students who had gotten into all eight Ivy League schools published their story in an e-book called Hacking College Admissions. If you want to know their stories all that you need to do is fork over $38. I suspect that many ambitious college-bound students and/or their parents have already done that. I’ll probably be helping the authors, Victor Agbafe and Harold Ekeh, sell a few more. That’s ok by me. They did the work in school and outside the classroom to get into the colleges they chose.
If you buy and read these books ask yourself some questions over the summer, before classes resume. The most important question to ask: Is an Ivy League school really for you? The authors of Hacking College Admissions advise that you visit each school first, and so do I. The academics at each school will undoubtedly be strong. All of the Ivy League schools have tremendous resources as well as highly regarded graduate and professional schools. Graduate from an Ivy League school and no doubt prospective employers or business partners will believe that you are an intelligent person.
But here are some things to consider before applying to all eight Ivy League schools.
- The general education requirements are not the same. Columbia, for example has a 62 credit Core Curriculum that everyone, regardless of their major, must take, and none of the courses count towards a major. Brown has a totally open curriculum; you can literally choose any course you want, even design a major. Cornell and Penn are subdivided into professional schools, much like larger public universities; you must fulfill general education requirements, college requirements and major requirements. Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth are much like liberal arts colleges; you take courses in a variety of fields that cover a quarter to a third of the requirements towards a degree.
- Locations are not the same. Brown, Columbia, Harvard and Penn are located in very large cities. Life around Yale in New Haven is as urban as it is around these schools. Princeton is a true college town as are Hanover (Dartmouth) and Ithaca.If you do not like city life, do not choose a city school. If you want to be in or near a city, Cornell and Dartmouth will not be the best places for you.
- Majors narrow down choices. For example, if you want an undergraduate business degree, you can look no further than Cornell or Penn. Economics and a second major will be the closest options at the other Ivies. If you want to become an architect only Columbia (through Barnard College), Cornell, Penn and Princeton offer an undergraduate degree. Harvard does offer engineering, but it has not offered it for as long as the other Ivies. There’s a better engineering school in the same town.It’s name begins with a ‘M’.
- If you want a liberal arts education you might want to consider a liberal arts college where all of the attention is devoted to undergraduates. The academic reputation of the departments at Ivy League schools is built around their ability to attract research dollars and produce graduates with doctoral degrees. Don’t expect small introductory courses at an Ivy League school. If you want to get to know the faculty as early as the freshman year, you would be better off at a liberal arts college where you will not have to compete for attention or research funding against graduate students.
- Ivy League schools frown on the practice of granting credit for internships. Ivy Leaguers can always get internships during the summer, and during the school year if they go to Brown, Columbia, Harvard or Penn. But they only get credit for classes that they take on campus as well as their senior thesis.
- Campus culture is not the same from school to school. Cornell, for example, is well invested in the Greek system, as are Dartmouth and Penn. The other schools are not. Cornell and Penn students typically move out of university-owned housing after the first or second year. The other Ivies are residential. There are also undergraduate schools within Cornell that are part of the State University of New York. The students who go to these schools: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Hotel Administration, Human Ecology and Industrial and Labor Relations will largely be New Yorkers. They get a discount over the charges that their classmates pay to attend other undergraduate divisions of Cornell. Out-of-state students who are fortunate to get into these schools do not get that discount.
- If you care about watching football outside, instead of on TV, the Ivies are not for you. Yes, Harvard and Yale alumni care about who wins “the Big Game.” But Ivy League schools do not get a chance to compete for a championship beyond the Ivy League. There are other exceptionally selective colleges that have more to play for such as Duke, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Stanford and Vanderbilt. If you want football with your education choose one of these schools instead.
The Ivy League schools, especially Harvard, Princeton and Yale, are among the strongest brand names in higher education. It is fair to say that they have more financial resources to help their students as well as very strong alumni bases around the world. An Ivy League education can be a rewarding experience for a self-motivated college student who can also make friends and find their extracurricular niche on campus. But the classroom experience during the first two years is about the same as it would be at a state university. These attributes: brand recognition, financial aid resources, alumni bases and extracurricular activities are all these schools have in common. The differences between among these schools are too great to invest the time to apply to all of them.