3 tips on how to get into Ivy League schools
by JOHN CHANG
Low GPAs are a common problem. You sail through middle school, and then you hit high school.
Everything is new, you don’t know where your classes are, you don’t have a core group of friends, and you honestly feel lost.
The teachers are new, the classes are tougher, and all of a sudden, you find yourself with your first B’s and C’s.
A bad freshman year can make the next 3 years significantly harder. And sometimes it happens so fast that you can’t course-correct before its too late.
In this article, I’ll discuss a few things you can do to compensate for a low GPA. I know your pain – I myself had a mediocre GPA when applying for Ivy League schools.
Here’s what I did:
1. Take college classes and do well in them
This coming summer, take college classes in topics which you’re clearly interested in. The key is that you must do well. It’s a bonus if those classes fit into your “broader story” – for instance, if you have a passion for medieval history, take a class on Renaissance Philosophy.
Not only can you write about it in your college admissions essays, but it strengthens your overall candidacy.
The benefits are obvious – demonstrated academic depth, and evidence that you can perform well academically at the university level.
After all, that’s what your high school GPA is a proxy for – your ability to perform well in college classes. By taking them early, even with a low GPA that will give admissions committees some comfort.
2. Load up on AP/Honors courses in your final semester(s)
Ultimately, you’re still going to have to do well in classes. Your transcript says a lot about your work ethic and study skills.
I took 7 AP classes the fall semester of Common Applications. That was a brutal semester for me, but having those 7 AP classes on my transcript – even if there weren’t grades yet – showed that I was finally taking academics seriously.
In admissions committees discussions, we often talk about trends. Trending. Directional improvements.
Basically what this means is that a student shows potential, and is improving in the right direction. So if you have mediocre grades, it’s important to improve those grades CONSISTENTLY and OVER TIME. Far better that your freshman grades are poor and junior grades are awesome, than vice-versa. Don’t forget that.
3. Overemphasize extracurricular accomplishments and summer activities
This one is pretty obvious. You want to draw as little attention to your GPA as possible. The best way to do that is by over-estimating the time you spend on extracurriculars, and discussing them to great depth in your essays.
The more attention you place on the non-grade components, and the more time that you seemingly spend in various clubs and varsity teams, the more understanding adcoms will be that you were simply overwhelmed.
The valedictorian with no president positions and no varsity sports teams will not be accepted toHarvard. That much is clear.