Last week I wrote about two recent high school graduates, Victor Agbafe and Harold Ekeh, who successfully gained admission to all eight Ivy League schools two years ago. Victor is now at Harvard, Harold is attending Yale. These two men collaborated on a book called Hacking College Admissions. The company that published their book, Frog Tutoring, was kind enough to send me a copy after I wrote my post.
I read the book. It tells two great stories. Victor and Harold truly worked hard to earn the acceptances they received. They earned excellent grades, scored high on every standardized test and have impressive extracurricular accomplishments. Most important, these two men are very self aware. They had their interests formed early and pursued them through academics, extracurricular activities and volunteer work.
But most important, they thought long term. Their self awareness began before high school.
Victor and Harold were taking advanced courses in the middle school–and they knew that they would have to take them in order to move into more advanced courses, more responsible roles outside of school and earn scholarships to college. One would have to impressed not only with their drive, but also with the support structures around them.
Which takes me back to Hacking College Admissions. The audience for this book is not the high school student or their parents. It is the seventh grader and their parents. The academic building blocks towards acceptance at an Ivy League school or similar institution begin no later than the eighth grade. This is the first opportunity to take honors-level high school courses, or at the very least take Algebra or begin learning a foreign language. Comfort with a high state of academic preparedness in the eighth grade ramps a student up for more study as well as the tests that the most selective colleges require. This is not news. My younger brother graduated high school with Calculus and French 5 on his transcript nearly four decades ago. He has had an interest in politics since the seventh grade. He was a state champion public speaker in high school, freshman through senior year. And he did get into an Ivy. He is a proud Cornell alum.
Victor and Harold deserve credit not only for their effort, but also for understanding that an Ivy League or similar education could be very expensive. They used their senior year to pursue scholarships after their college admissions applications were submitted, and earned more than enough to cover the direct charges (tuition and fees, room and board) at any school that accepted them, as well as money from the schools themselves. If you are the parent of a seventh grader, and you and your student want to go on this long journey together, you need a financial plan or the diligence and preparedness to find the money. From my experiences around higher education, Victor and Harold are quite unique in this regard.
As I mentioned in the prior post, these men also visited the schools that they were considering, or attended programs where they could meet admissions officers or alumni. While Victor and Harold make this recommendation and provide charts to help families compare their impressions of different colleges, I wished that they had been less focused on the Ivies. I totally understand when a bright high school student applies to Harvard, Yale and Princeton. These are the strongest brand names among the Ivy League schools as well as the most generous when it comes to financial aid. But the “big three” of the Ivy League are more similar to schools such as Tufts or Washington University in St. Louis then they are to Penn or Cornell. Columbia is more similar to the University of Chicago than it is to Brown or Dartmouth.
If you are the parent of a seventh grader, and you and that student harbor Ivy League ambitions, you might want to check out Hacking College Admissions. Both of you will learn what it takes to build the right resume that will attract the right attention from admissions officers. No doubt this book will become dog-eared if your student follows their advice through high school. Or it will need to remain on your iPad, Kindle or other reader as you upgrade. If you are the parent of a tenth grader who has achieved far less than Victor and Harold had done at the same stage of their lives, you might want to consider a different journey to college and seek different advice.
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