Here’s a dirty secret about what college admissions officers want in a candidate: it’s all available online.  You can search any school’s common data set and find out what traits they value. Each factor ranging from your GPA and class rank to what state you’re from is rated on a scale of not considered to very important.  If you want to get inside the head of an admissions officer, that’s the first step.


The second dirty secret about college admissions is that schools barely glance at an application.  At Yale, the admissions team evaluates 300 applications in two hours.  That’s 24 seconds per application.  The brutal truth is that there are going to be tons of highly qualified applicants rejected from top-tier schools.  I have a family friend who works as a college admissions officer for Yale. The school could actually raise the average test scores and GPA of its student body by only accepting high schoolers from the tri-state area.  But they’re not interested in just your stats. Elite universities want a hook; they want a compelling reason to accept you. What’s really going to differentiate you from other candidates is tangible proof of your passion.  That can be anything from a published book of poetry or an app which you coded. The number one way to show some self-direction and stand out from the crowd is through your personal statement.


There is, however, such a thing as standing out too much.  In the past, intrepid students have chosen to write their personal statements on topics such as their sexual exploits or why abortion is a sin.  They weren’t accepted.  You don’t know who is going to be reading your essay or what their sensibilities are so you should play it safe by avoiding charged political topics.  Similarly, while being clever is encouraged, don’t get carried one. A former Yale admissions officer once read an essay “about [the applicant’s] fear of going to the dentist — in backward letters, colored pen, and a spiral ‘Yellow Brick Road’ pattern.”  The risks you take should be appropriate.  The sweet spot is where you can shine light on a common story in a way that is uniquely you.  In the same article, the author relays the story of “a girl wrote a brilliant feminist essay… about gender and socialization, revealing that she was a phantom serial farter in public and yet no one ever suspected because of her gender.”  Wouldn’t you want to read that essay?  If you can come up with an eye-grabbing one sentence summary of your personal statement, then you’re on the right track.

Ivy Admissions wants to uncover your hidden story.  You might not be the next phantom serial farting feminist, but everyone of our students has the ability to write an essay of equal caliber and creativity.  Let’s discover it together.