It is a well-known fact that admissions to Ivy League schools, already the most competitive undergraduate and graduate programs in the country, have recently become even more competitive. This phenomenon is due in large part to several factors, including an increased emphasis on accepting international students, an increased number of high school graduates seeking admission to Ivy League schools, as well as a broadening of the criteria that makes an applicant truly “worthy” of acceptance to an Ivy League school. Though the first two of these factors are well outside the control of high school students, the story of Kwasi Enin, a Long Island teenager who was accepted to all eight Ivy League schools, provides interesting and compelling insight into the third. If you have been following this story, then it is already clear to you that Enin’s success is not a result of luck or simple good fortune but rather a product of planning, preparation, and hard work.
A popular misconception among high school students and the parents of high school students is that you need a perfect SAT score in order to even be considered for admission to an Ivy League school. In fact, some Ivy League schools (specifically Harvard, as was explained to me by their school representative when I myself was a fresh eyed, naïve high school senior) are notorious for rejecting more perfect score applicants than they accept. While a high SAT or ACT score, coupled with an equally and consistently high GPA, is absolutely necessary to be considered a competitive applicant, today those two things are simply not enough to guarantee admission to an Ivy League school.
Consider Kwasi Enin’s unparalleled success. Enin scored only a 2250 out of a possible 2400 on the SAT, and did not graduate in the top ten of his high school’s graduating class (he is reported to have graduated 11th out of a class of 647); despite not having the absolute top tier 1%er stats that you might expect of a student admitted to all eight Ivy League schools, Enin nonetheless accomplished this remarkable feat. This should lead interested parents and students to ask the obvious question: how, then, did he achieve this?
The real reason for Enin’s unprecedented success stems not from his superb GPA and SAT score; many students with equally or even more impressive academic credentials are regularly denied admission to the Ivy League. The reason for Enin’s success is, in four years in high school, he molded himself into the ideal Ivy League undergraduate candidate. Let’s review this in a bit more detail.
By all accounts Enin was a stellar high school student both in and outside of the classroom. Enin’s list of extracurricular activities is one of the most impressive that I have ever seen. Enin was a varsity Track & Field athlete, a member of his school’s theatre troupe (regularly starring as the lead in school plays from freshman year onward), a member of an a cappella group (for some reason, Ivy League schools go gaga for a cappella), played three instruments for his high school orchestra, was actively involved in student government, AND he managed to find time to regularly volunteer at a local New York hospital. This is not to mention his equally versatile academic interests: he is currently planning on pursuing a career path in medicine, with dreams of one day being a successful MD, but would like to sustain his current level of involvement in the musical arts as well (according to him, this is the primary reason he selected Yale over the other Ivy League schools).
These activities are consistent with the advice you might have seen in College Compass’ What does it really take to get into the Ivy League? series. Students who are serious about being accepted into an Ivy League school should follow the example set by Kwasi Enin. Specifically, as outlined in our Ivy League series, students must excel both in and outside of the classroom; it is no longer enough to have fantastic grades. This means students should focus on obtaining leadership positions, or at least positions of importance, in their extracurricular activities. Even more specifically, students should target extracurricular activities that allow them to demonstrate to admission officers that they are versatile and well-rounded. In Kwasi Enin’s case, he was able to show admission officers that he was capable of excelling in an athletic context, an artistic context, and an academic context. This is how Kwasi Enin got accepted into all 8 Ivy League Schools.
It also helps that he wrote a wonderful admission essay.
Have you heard the SAT is changing? Learn more about the new SAT here. Interested in learning more about college admissions? Find out more with College Compass, your guidebook to the college admission process.