What are the easier ways to get in?
After knowing the major “uncontrollable” factors that eliminate a student’s chance to gain entry into the Ivy League, our students and parents would naturally ask, “So are you saying it is nearly impossible to get into these Ivy League schools?”
No! If so, we’d be out of a job. Given our students and parents normally cannot afford to donate buildings or billion-dollar foundations to the university, there are a few alternative pathways available for students to consider.
Alternative Pathway #1: Competitive Summer Programs
Every spring, we receive many inquiries about which summer programs can increase the chance of a student’s admission into an Ivy League.
Our answer is always, “It depends.”
In general, summer programs that do not come with college credit at completion and do not have a competitive selection process are almost surely not going to help. These programs are simply a source of revenue for the school itself.
Then, there are programs that provide students with college credit and a formal transcript issued by the university. The summer programs themselves are often much more selective, i.e. the student needs to submit essays, school transcripts, and even teachers’ letters of recommendation as part of the application. Depending on the student’s performance during the course (if you get an A, not a C!), programs like this can help propel the student into the college they did the summer program at. Our experience informs us that students who succeed in getting solid A’s in their college-accredited programs have a higher admissions rate into the Ivy League.
In fact, I was told by a former Ivy League AO that some of the most competitive summer courses are created as “screen tests” for potential candidates into specific highly-competitive undergraduate programs. These summer courses normally have an acceptance rate lower than 10%, comparable to the actual Ivy League’s acceptance rates.
In addition to college summer courses, universities or various foundations have also created many ultra-selective programs that students must compete to get into. Most of these programs are STEM-oriented and some of them are reserved for U.S. citizens only. If students or parents are interested, they should consult with professional admission consultants for more information.
The takeaway here is that if a summer program is “too easy” to get into, it is probably not going to help make you look “competitive” for the Ivy League.
Alternative Pathway #2: The 3-2 Programs
If the student is strong in STEM and is considering a degree in engineering, the most common recommendation we give to our student is to apply to the Combined Plan Program at Columbia University and the Dual-Degree Program of Dartmouth College1Undergrad.admissions.columbia.edu. 2020. Combined Plan Program Experience | Columbia Undergraduate Admissions. [online] Available at: <https://undergrad.admissions.columbia.edu/learn/academiclife/engineering/combined-plan-program> [Accessed 12 November 2020].2Engineering, T., 2020. Dual-Degree Program | Thayer School Of Engineering At Dartmouth. [online] Engineering.dartmouth.edu. Available at: <https://engineering.dartmouth.edu/academics/undergraduate/dual/> [Accessed 12 November 2020].
These programs are commonly known as the “3-2 Programs”.
Basically, these 3-2 Programs are dual-degree programs that require the student to spend at least 3 years in an affiliated liberal arts college or university to earn their first bachelor degree, before transferring to the engineering school of a designated Ivy League school to spend another 2 years to earn their second bachelor degree. The admission is almost guaranteed when all the 3-2 transfer conditions are met (such as a minimum GPA of B+ in mandatory science and math courses, letters of recommendation from specific professors, etc.). These kinds of programs often give our students much higher chances of getting admitted into the Ivy League because many of the affiliated liberal arts colleges have comparatively much higher acceptance rates of 20% to 30%.
Alternative Pathway #3: Getting to Know Your Regional Officers
Inside the Ivy League admissions office, all decisions are made by real, breathing human beings, who can feel for students and want students they think are a good fit to get in.
Regional officers are the AOs who act as the experts of specific school regions. For example, there is always one regional officer from each Ivy League who is designated to perform the first read of all students applying from Hong Kong. This officer is the one who visits our students’ high school college fairs. He or she is also the person most familiar with the curriculum in different high schools across the city.
This is why when a student manages to make a positive impression on this officer, he or she will have a great advantage during the review process. There are many ways, and no one surefire way, to impress your AOs. But our team, with our years of experience, sure have a lot of stories. If you are interested in hearing these stories, please feel free to contact us.
Alternative Pathway #4: Graduate Programs
If the student is willing to stretch the timeline a bit longer, graduate programs at most Ivy League schools are actually a lot “easier” to get into.
The following are some sample comparisons between the acceptance rates of the undergraduate classes and some graduate programs:
College Name: Acceptance Rate:
Columbia University, Undergraduate (BA/BS) 5.9%3Undergrad.admissions.columbia.edu. 2020. Class Of 2023 Profile | Columbia Undergraduate Admissions. [online] Available at: <https://undergrad.admissions.columbia.edu/classprofile/2023> [Accessed 12 November 2020].
Columbia University, Business School (MBA) 16.2%4Programs. 2020. MBA Class Profile. [online] Available at: <https://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/programs/mba/admissions/class-profile> [Accessed 12 November 2020].
Columbia University, Teachers College (MA) 78%5Department of Curriculum and Teaching. www.petersons.com/graduate-schools/teachers-college-columbia-university-graduate-faculty-of-education-department-of-curriculum-and-teaching-000_10052098.aspx [Accessed 12 November 2020].
University of Pennsylvania, Undergraduate (BA/BS) 7.7%6“Facts.” University of Pennsylvania, www.upenn.edu/about/facts. Accessed 12 Nov. 2020.
University of Pennsylvania, Wharton (MBA) 12.8% 7“Wharton MBA Class Profile & Acceptance Rate | Wharton MBA.” MBA Program, 8 Sept. 2020, mba.wharton.upenn.edu/class-profile./
University of Pennsylvania, Grad School of Education 51%8“Graduate School of Education – University of Pennsylvania – Graduate Programs and Degrees.” Overview, www.petersons.com/graduate-schools/university-of-pennsylvania-graduate-school-of-education-000_10013709.aspx. Accessed 12 Nov. 2020.
Harvard University, College, Undergraduate (BA/BS) 4.9%9Fu, B. and Kim, D., 2020. Harvard College Admits 4.92 Percent Of Applicants To Class Of 2024 | News | The Harvard Crimson. [online] Thecrimson.com. Available at: <https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2020/3/27/harvard-admissions-2024/> [Accessed 12 November 2020].
Harvard University, Harvard Business (MBA) 7.8%10“Class Profile – MBA – Harvard Business School.” Admissions Class of 2022 Profile, www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/class-profile/Pages/default.aspx. Accessed 12 Nov. 2020.
Harvard University, Grad School of Education 36%11“Harvard Graduate School of Education – Harvard University – Graduate Programs and Degrees.” Overview, www.petersons.com/graduate-schools/harvard-university-graduate-school-of-education-000_10030486.aspx. Accessed 12 Nov. 2020.
Perhaps the best news for non-U.S. applicants is that international students make up about 30% to 50% of the population at these graduate programs, making them much easier for our motivated international students to enroll into. The reason for this is because graduate schools have no use for athletes and legacy applicants. Graduate school is where the universities get their reputation – all they want are the smartest kids with the highest achievements who can contribute to academia.
Alternative Pathway #5: The “Other” Schools or Campuses
The last major “alternative pathway” I am going to discuss here are the Ivy League programs that take place on “other campuses”.
In 2011, Yale University created its Yale-NUS program12“Yale-NUS College.”, www.yale-nus.edu.sg. Accessed 12 Nov. 2020., which is a collaboration between Yale University and the National University of Singapore. Students in this program are primarily situated at Yale’s Singapore campus but they have the opportunity to study at Yale’s New Haven campus and participate in different collaborative degree programs, such as the 5-year special programs with Yale School of the Environment and the Yale School of Public Health. Graduates from this program will earn a Bachelor of Arts with Honors or a Bachelor of Science with Honors on a diploma with the Yale-NUS name on it13“FAQ | Yale-NUS College Admissions.”, admissions.yale-nus.edu.sg/faqs. Accessed 12 Nov. 2020.. The admission rate for this program is only between 3% to 7%, but we must bear in mind that athlete and legacy student statuses are not part of the consideration here, and the international student population is definitely not a concern, as ~40% of the students are international students14Wikipedia contributors. “Yale-NUS College.” Wikipedia, 27 July 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yale-NUS_College#:%7E:text=A%20more%20detailed%20class%20profile,its%20largest%20intake%20to%20date..
A perhaps better-known program involving an alternative campus is the Columbia Sciences Po program15“Program Overview | SPO Dual BA.” SciencesPo Columbia University, sciencespo.gs.columbia.edu/content/program-overview. Accessed 12 Nov. 2020. that was established in 2010. Students in this program study and live on one of the three campuses of France’s Sciences Po for the first two years before returning to Columbia’s New York campus to finish off their dual-degrees in Columbia’s School of General Studies. A limited number of subjects are available for study while in France16“Academics at Sciences Po | SPO Dual BA.” SciencesPo Columbia University, sciencespo.gs.columbia.edu/content/academics-sciences-po. Accessed 12 Nov. 2020..
Based on the success of its Sciences Po program, in 2018, Columbia launched another program with Trinity College Dublin17 Elizabeth Redden. “Columbia, Trinity College Dublin Start New Dual B.A. Program.” Inside Higher Ed, 4 Apr. 2018, www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/04/04/columbia-trinity-college-dublin-start-new-dual-ba-program#:%7E:text=Similarly%2C%20Sarles%2DDinsick%20said%2C,2016%20was%20just%207%20percent.. The nature of this special program is similar to that of Columbia Sciences Po, except its application is found on Columbia’s School of General Studies website, not on the Common Application.
Quantum Prep is an education consultancy that focuses on placing their students at the best colleges or universities. We boast of diverse results. In addition to the traditional rap sheet of prestigious university acceptances, our consultants like to highlight the different paths they have sent students on. All of our students are different; we are proud of our one-on-one tailored approach towards university counselling. Contact us for a complimentary 30-minute initial meeting, where you can get tailored individualized advice on how to put your best foot forward. Read our reviews to see what our clients think of us.
By Ally Ip, Director of Research