This is the 21st century’s holy grail for many top students.
There are a lot of educational consultants and businesses centered on preparing students for Ivy League admissions.
Never having actually worked in an Ivy League admissions office, I can not claim to know what goes on there (though I have my suspicions 😉 ). I am sure that the new student sessions that I attended as a parent when I took my own daughter to visit the Ivies present an idealized view.
While doing research for an upcoming article on AP test scores, I ran across the article below. This also led me to write the SAT Test Prep article posted just prior to this one.
The article’s author was admitted to all of the top colleges and made perfect scores on the SAT and ACT tests. More importantly, the article is very well-written, seems very sincere to me, and jives with my experience in the “real world.” That said, not being a college admissions officer, I pass it along with that reservation. It’s advice often runs counter to some conventional wisdom, but rings true to me based on my experience in research, high-tech, and teaching:
This is a long article and contains links to the author’s complete Harvard application along with his suggestions for filling out various sections. Settle in for some serious study if this kind of thing interests you.
There is also an extensive Q&A section at the end which addresses significant issues (see a sample quote below), including whether or not one should really aspire to this lofty goal.
The author is the co-founder of PrepScholar, and as I mentioned in my previous post, I have no association with or financial interests in that organization. I simply stumbled across this while researching a different topic, found it very interesting, and thought that I would pass it on to my readers.
From the Q&A section:
“You’re promoting early specialization for kids, and this is harmful. Teens aren’t supposed to know what they want to do in the rest of their life.”
I agree that teens change a lot as they go into college. I’m a great example of this. Over my life I’ve had two major trajectory changes. Throughout most of my early pre-college life, I wanted to be a doctor – specifically, a neurosurgeon. As if I could not be more of a cliché, I liked science, I liked helping people, and I liked understanding and interacting with people. The combination of these led me to medicine.
When I got into college, I realized I wanted to have a greater impact than being a practicing physician. I also really liked research and innovation. So I applied to MD-PhD programs (this is a dual-degree program that combines medical and research training (yes, it’s long – the average graduation time is 8 years)) and I joined Harvard Medical School and MIT.
I really enjoyed my time there and learned a lot, but I discovered something even better – entrepreneurship. I loved building products that solved problems real people had, and I loved the freedom. So I left my program after 4 years, getting neither MD nor PhD degree.
I don’t regret any of my decisions, even though it took me on a different path from where I am now. I learned a ton about healthcare and bioengineering that normal people who go straight into startups don’t know, and I still feel I achieved a good amount.
The point is, not knowing exactly what you want to do isn’t a good excuse for avoiding exploring and diving deeply into something. When you choose a passion and work hard at it, you learn a lot of valuable lessons that are extensible to whatever you choose to do in the future. You learn the value of discipline, how to motivate yourself, and how to prioritize your work on what’s really important. You also see firsthand the result of hard work and perseverance in your achievement – and this sets the stage for positive feedback loops throughout your life.