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norsul

What other things should I do except getting good grades in order to get accepted into an ivy league college?

Hey guys,

I'm currently doing the IB diploma programme in Finland, and I've just finished my first year. I was thinking of applying to an ivy league college, since they are pretty much the only colleges that offer sufficient financial aid (my family wouldn't be able to pay for pretty much any kind of education).

The problem that I am facing in applying to these colleges, is that I am pretty much at the end of the priority list: I'm and international applicant, I'm doing the IB (as I understand American colleges prefer the American high school program, even though it might be less challenging in some areas), I'm not a representative of any kind of a minority and I require financial aid that would pretty much fully cover my studies. Because of this I will need to excel far and beyond others in order to have even the slightest chance of getting accepted.

So my question is: what kind of other things should I concern myself with doing in order to increase my chances of acceptance? I mean things like extracurricular activities, competitions etc. Basically, assuming I get perfect scores from the IB finals + TOK + EE and the SAT (or at least near perfect) and ranked the first in my school, what could I do to increase my chance of acceptance? I'm not playing any kind of group sports, so that isn't an option, nor am I a president of any kind of a club. Only things which come to my mind right now are things related to academic achievements, for example Finland organizes a mathematics competition between high school students, and I'm doing my best to prepare and to at least be in the top three. Another thing is a competition organized by the Finnish Academy of Sciences for the best investigative work (basically the EE), and they have a section for people doing the IB-diploma where people send their EE's (only exception is that there is no word limit in this, so it can be an extended version of the extended essay :D).

So what do you think about my suggestions and what else could you suggest for me to do in order to increase my chances of getting accepted into an ivy league college?

And by the way, do the activities which we do as a part of our CAS count towards extracurriculars etc. in the application? In that case, I've done my service hours and a little more (about 80 hours) working as a volunteer in a science center called "Heureka", working as an inspirer (basically the guy who walks around the place helping people, the title "inspirer" is a little misleading in my opinion), and I've also done tutoring sessions for pre-ib students in mathematics, chemistry and physics. If these activities count, how much do they count?

Thanks in advance!

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You've done good up until this point but ivy leagues have many candidates who are much better. You need to improve your extra curricular activities if you want a chance. I would recommend you to do the following as a base by the time you finish IB. By all means do more if you can.

1. Most Important is to know your subjects forward and backwards

2. Do more than 150 hours of CAS,, mostly in services. Help out as much as you can. What you should be aiming for is to be able to fill your extra curricular activities with many different activites

3. Get a sort of internship over the summer between IB1 and IB2 or some sort of job relating to your future field of studies. This really makes you stand out.

4. In your second year or even over the summer work on the essay you will be sending these schools and get it tweaked as much as you can.

Good luck mate!

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Everything Dew said and I would add to that that you should really focus on trying to get a lot of Service activities under your belt. A friend of mine got into Princeton on a full ride and she was an international student with mediocre grades (for Princeton standards) and ordinary ECs, her application essay is what really made her stand out. She was from Afghanistan and her essay focused on how she had to run away from her country with her mother after the Taliban took over and how her mother and she survived impoverishment as refugees for two years in Pakistan, until she moved away to England to live with an Uncle. Here she excelled in school, got a full scholarship to a boarding school in Switzerland, and now dreamt of going back to her country to bring it back to its former glory. A Princeton education in International Relations would be the 'ideal' way of preparing her for that daunting task.

Granted her story is very unique and moving, it's also worth mentioning that she spearheaded four different trips to outlaying regions of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, that were refugee sites and spent countless summers there rehabilitating people. She also made a trip to Palestine because her work was recognised by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

If you really want to be considered for a full ride to an Ivy, you have to do something extraordinary. It doesn't have to go to the extent that my friend did, she had to compensate for not having brilliant grades, but if you do half the amount of service-oriented work she did and are recognised as an upcoming academic in your preferred field for your age-group, you stand a definite chance of getting a full-ride.

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Sometimes being an international applicant can help. Apparently, there are 'quotas' that some universities have in order to appear 'diversified', but Ivy League schools would have so many applicants from all over the world, so this may not apply to them...

I think the most important thing is to show a passion for something. That could be for a sport (which isn't in your case), or a subject, or a CAS activity. Just have evidence that you have been committed to that activity - don't do a million activities that don't mean anything to you just to fill up your list.

Having a passion would also help with your essays. The essays you apply with are very important! Make sure you take the time to write your main essay, your activity essay and the university supplement. (Please, please don't say you want to very much go to Yale in your Princeton supplement... Please.) Often, these are used as the 'tiebreaker' between two similar students, and the essays are supposed to reflect who you are; any thoughts, hopes, dreams, attitudes, passions etc. that help show you are different. Be warned: Ivy League supplements can be very tricky, so spend a lot of time on these. Also, through the Common App (which I believe most the Ivy League schools have adopted) you can submit your Extended Essay, so make sure it's good if you do so!

YES YES YES, CAS activities do count as extracurriculars. Otherwise I wouldn't have much to put on there. :)

Are you sure you can only apply to Ivy League schools? There are other schools that are really good too and offer work-study programmes that help pay for your tuition. Other good schools include Duke, Williams, Amherst, but I'm not too sure if they have work-study programmes. (Amherst or Williams get a lot of funds from alumni, so one of the two are more likely to have scholarships.) The problem is that even if you are a fantastic student, it's not guaranteed you will get into an Ivy League of your choice (or any good school, for that matter): competition is so high that it makes it that much more uncertain for you. Do think about some safety schools that offer good financial aid, I'm sure there are some out there. :)

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Thanks for the help guys! It's really appreciated :D.

By the way, I forgot to mention my subjects (I don't know if it matters, but here they are in case it does :D)

Higher Level:

Mathematics

Chemistry

Psychology

Finnish B

Standard Level:

Physics (anticipated, i.e. I've already done the final exam, results on the 6.7 :D)

English A: Language and Literature

I'm also studying Swedish from the national curriculum.

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Don't forget to take the SAT II Subject Tests; I'd suggest you take in your strongest Higher subjects. There isn't a Finnish (with listening) option or Psychology, so you have a choice between Maths Level I or II and Chemistry for your highers. Typically, especially since you're applying to Ivies, they ask for at least 2 Subject Tests, but some may require 3, so you may have to take Physics or Literature, whichever is your strongest. I'd personally suggest you take Maths Level II (if SL can do it, than you definitely can) and Chemistry, since both are basically the IB syllabus.

From my point of view, I didn't find Literature too hard, but that's dependent on your strengths. :)

All the best!

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Thanks, I'll probably takr math II, chemistry and physics (I had it as SL only because my school didn't provide HL physics), literature is not really my thing, but with physics I can always learn a little more if required, besides, I've looked at the SAT tests, and in my opinion they are way easier than Ib finals, so I should be good :-) .

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other advice: ivy leagues are not the only universities that offer enough aid to international applicants. in fact, universities such as cornell and upenn give out poor financial aid packages (sometimes even none).

colleges you should be targeting and looking at are universities that are need blind towards international applicants. as far as i know, there are only 8 colleges in the united states that does this: harvard, yale, princeton, mit, dartmouth, amherst, middlebury and williams.

here is also a list of universities that will offer you all the aid you need if you manage to get in. (because you are an international student and you require aid, for non need blind universities, you will be judged in a separate, and usually much more competitive, pool) http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2012/02/16/colleges-that-claim-to-meet-full-financial-need

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