Applying to the Ivy League (Or Similarly Selective Colleges) Requires a Gut Check

Applying to an Ivy League or other similarly highly selective college, where 95-97% of all applicants are denied admissions can be intimidating. To apply or not apply requires asking, “Just because I can (since I’m qualified), does that mean I should?” 

Being the top of one’s class in one’s local high school, even in a reputedly academically rigorous, application-only program, like International Baccalaureate programs, students may believe and more than likely have been told too many times to count, that they’re the best, so elite admissions is theirs for the taking. 

Yet, sometimes, these uber competitive students, would be Ivy League applicants, who have checked all the boxes and forever towed the line, do at times, although never voiced to another human, wonder if they have what it takes to make the cut, to walk through a door that’s only open a 3% crack (in Harvard’s case, a historic 386 year old record breaking low selection rate). 

And, for some, seeking to salve insecurity which may have fueled then sustained their rise to the top of their class, the Top Dog moniker can be a fragile, thin confidence, exposed when laid bare in comparison amongst a global pool of other similarly elite students. 

In such fierce competition, applicants must argue they’re one of the elite of the elite in an autobiographical narrative interwoven amongst multiple, required essays, contextualizing their experiences. 

In knowing the slim odds of meriting an acceptance, students can question their qualifications, insecurity subtlety infused in their writing, like Wayne and Garth of Wayne’s World fame: 

Only diminishing their efforts to be as competitive as possible.

So, for students who seek to join the ranks of the elite, I strongly recommend, if for no other reason than a wavering confidence can be detected in essays and interviews and applications, to ask, “Why do I seek to be part of the elite?” and “What is my purpose, my vision for which being part of the elite is necessary in order to benefit others?”

Mentors or other trusted guides, particularly those with experience and expertise in understanding the complexity of highly selective admissions, who can help confront the inevitable concerns and fears whenever needed in the process of defining an effective argument for admissions. 

Then, no matter if said elite university selects you or not, then you’ll know you put forth your greatest effort, then get on with the business of selecting a college that understands your vision and will support your effort live purposefully.


Creative Marbles was founded by teachers who appreciate helping students craft insightful essays, first in the academic classroom, now as part of the complex college admissions process. For more information, please contact us

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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