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  • Writer's pictureCassandra Hsiao

My #1 Tip to get into an Ivy League University

In the ever-evolving landscape of college admissions, the idea of being a well-rounded student has shifted. Rather than seeking well-rounded individuals, colleges now aim for a well-rounded class. What does this mean for you? It means developing a spike – a specialization in 1 to 3 areas you're passionate about and genuinely excel in.

That was my secret sauce to getting into all 17 schools I applied to, including all eight Ivy League universities: I developed a spike in storytelling, focusing on poetry, playwriting, and journalism.

Here's where Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule comes into play (it might seem crazy high, but you have a head start as a high school student!) While you may not reach 10,000 hours, dedicating significant time and energy to your spike is crucial. For me, it was honing my storytelling skills, and in the process, winning honors and awards.

Why are honors and awards important? This is a third-party validation of your dedication and skill. It proves to admissions officers you are not only dedicated to your spike, but that you are objectively good at it (aka your hard work has paid off)!

But what if there are no honors and awards to be won? For example, what if my basketball team sucks and we come in last every season? Or what if my school has a lack of resources?

The key is to make the most out of your situation. If your team is at the bottom, be the best within that context. Go for leadership positions—assistant coach, team captain. Innovate a new way of working out and keeping team morale high. If your school lacks clubs, create one — this demonstrates initiative, creativity, and perseverance.

Admissions officers consider your impact relative to your community. Starting a club or initiative and nurturing it over time reveals grit and determination.

Build your spike, put in the hours, earn recognition, demonstrate creativity. This is what will help you stand out! Remember, colleges want a well rounded class, not a well rounded individual.

And this advice isn't just for getting into college—it's what helped me build a deeply fulfilling and exciting life.

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