Ella York - Teen Aspect - June 21st, 2022
It’s the dream of high schoolers across the nation, even though it will become a reality for a small, select few. Nevertheless, thousands of students still hope that they, perhaps, could be one of the lucky few. Many will see their hopes crushed in rejection letter after rejection letter. Even after working for nearly their entire lives to be the perfect student, athlete, and person, they still find themselves facing the empty words of ‘unfortunately, we were not able to accept you.’
In the last decade, Ivy League schools have become even more exclusive, with acceptance rates lower than ever. To many, it seems as though you have to solve world hunger to make it into these elite colleges. And they aren’t exactly far off.
This then begs the question, are Ivy League schools truly worth the sacrifice?
See, it truly does require extreme sacrifice to prepare an application to one of these schools. And I’m not just talking about a rigorous academic life, either.
Across the country, there are thousands of students whose entire schedule consists of AP courses. Since the widespread use of these classes are relatively new to high schools, I’ll provide some background. AP classes, or Advanced Placement, are essentially semester-long college courses that are stretched to take up the whole year for a high school student. Now, the classes themselves won’t guarantee college credit, but the exams do. Students can take these college-level exams in May, and if they do well, they can earn college credit.
This idea was initially introduced to help students pay less at college. See, if they rack up enough AP credits in high school, they can enter college with the same credits as a sophomore or even a junior, meaning they can graduate faster, and spend less money on their degree.
Now, the purpose of APs has shifted quite extremely in recent years. Instead of helping students get a head start on college, these classes are now used as a way to show colleges that a student can manage academic rigor. Now, it’s almost guaranteed that you will not get into an elite school if you do not take any APs.
But what if a student has a schedule that is exclusively APs? Does that strengthen their chances of being accepted?
Well, the answer is yes, and no.
See, there are intelligent students all across the nation. Being smart isn’t unique. Anyone can study enough, work hard enough, or simply luck into natural intelligence. This is not what elite schools are looking for.
Taking many APs is not special, not for schools like Stanford or Yale. You have to keep in mind the sheer number of applications these institutions receive every year. Last year, Stanford had a total of 55,471 applicants. Only 2,190 were accepted (i).
APs are not made to get into college, they are used to determine if you are even eligible. APs are no longer the outliers they used to be; they are now the bare minimum.
So, what else is it that these schools are looking for?
The answer is extracurriculars.
Top colleges want well-rounded students. They don’t want someone who spends their entire day studying for school. They want people that are going to make their school a better place. This means that they want people who played a sport, learned an instrument, started a club, or just did anything unique outside of school.
Having these things makes you the ideal candidate for elite schools. Yet, even then, there are still plenty of people who played volleyball and started their own club at school. These schools want students that used their club to make an impact on their community.
People often refer to this as a ‘passion project,’ and that’s exactly what it is. It has to be an authentic representation of yourself, and it has to help someone.
To sum it all up, colleges want students who take all APs, play a sport, learn an instrument, speak another language, start some form of project meant to help the world, and, on top of all that, they have to be a good enough person to get letters of recommendation from multiple adults. Throw in the required eight hours of sleep per night, and you’ve got a schedule full enough to wear anyone down.
And all this work, just to get into a school even more advanced and rigorous than anything you’ve ever experienced before.
As someone interested in attending a competitive school, the question of, ‘is this worth it?’ has crossed my mind many times.
Preparing yourself to write that application takes years to do, and those years can’t be given back. People that go to elite schools spent their high school lives getting ready for college, not necessarily living as a high schooler.
The crazy part is, even those that do everything right, they start the club, they play the sport, they have the grades, even those people don’t always get in.
To go to an elite school, you have to make sacrifices that by no means guarantee anything.
So, I’ll leave you with one last thought: how much does that acceptance letter truly mean to you?
University, U. A. at S. (2021, October 19). Our selection process. Admission Statistics : Stanford University. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from https://admission.stanford.edu/apply/selection/statistics.html