Call The Ivy Dean Today at (845) 826-5310


Applying to College? Good Grades Alone Aren’t Enough

At one point or another, most high school students dream of attending a top-rated college. It’s hard to resist the temptation to imagine what it would be like to study at one of the most prestigious higher-education institutions in the country, like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia or Brown. However, it is harder, of course, to get in: according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, just 0.4% of undergraduates attend one of the eight Ivy League schools.

The Ivy League institutions are among the most selective colleges you can apply to, though they are not the only ones. A selective college is any college that receives more applications than the number of spaces it has available in the freshman class. Importantly, a selective college only partly admits students on the basis of academics – since applicants typically only apply to a school if they have the required grades, everyone in the applicant pool is usually qualified. Students need to therefore make the case to their preferred college that they should be admitted for other reasons, which is why it is essential that applicants know what makes them unique.

Picture this: an admissions office at a top college has to sift through thousands of applications each year to decide who to admit. Some applicants stand out because of their extraordinarily high grade point average, but for the most part, the transcripts are fairly similar. So, admissions officers will base their decisions on more subjective things, like an applicant’s extra-curricular activities, passions and hobbies, or what they want to do after they graduate from college. If a student can paint a clear picture of themselves that sets them apart from other applicants, they are more likely to be accepted.

A college counselor can be of great help in this area. They can help students figure out what is most unique about them, and determine how best to present that information to the colleges they apply to. Whether it is through application essays, letters of recommendation, character references or list of activities, there are several ways in which a student can give admissions officers insight into what makes them special. Admissions counsellors can guide applicants in what to highlight in each component of an application.

Of course, a college counselor is not the only person who can assist with this: family members, family friends, teachers and guidance counselors can help, too. Everyone can benefit from outside feedback on their application, and since it can be very difficult for someone to know what makes them unique, it’s often worth asking others for their input.

Regardless of how you do it, it is vitally important to let a potential college know what is really different about you. They will consider the degree to which you can differentiate yourself from other candidates, because they want to be sure they are creating a diverse freshman class. Admissions offices aim to “build” a class in the same way a stone mason builds bricks for a building. Each one needs to be separate and distinct, yet they all need to fit together well to make the building strong.

Ultimately, to have a healthy, dynamic first-year class, each student needs to contribute something unique. It is the key to ensuring the student body is interesting, both to the students and the faculty teaching them. Remember, colleges are not looking for the most well-rounded student, but rather the most well-rounded class. Rather than trying to prove you can do anything and everything, focus on a few things that make you stand out. Your application, and chances of being accepted, will be better for it.


On paper, I am by no means a perfect student. However, thanks to my Application Positioning, I was able to maximize the strengths that I bring to a college to compensate for other factors. Thanks to The Ivy Dean Team, I will be attending Princeton University, my dream school, in the fall.

Douglas R. – Princeton University

Dee provided excellent advice and guidance throughout the application process. Her overall expertise in admissions, professionalism and warmth made the experience a great one. I was thrilled that I was accepted to several of the most selective colleges in the country and will be attending Stanford in the fall.”

Laurel P. – Stanford University
It's my pleasure to inform you that I've been admitted to my first choice college: the University of Southern California. My dream is becoming reality! I am thrilled to get the chance to belong to the USC and to start a new adventure there. It is also thanks to your great help that I've been accepted, I'm very grateful! Thank you so much for everything.
Sonia G. – From Switzerland
Our son and daughter wanted to go to colleges in the same city but they had different interests and different strengths. She matched them each with their ideal college, one Columbia University and the other NYU, and worked to get them admitted. We couldn't have been more pleased.
Niki and Roger S.
I was a serious student but also wanted a university where I could continue competitive cycling. There weren't many schools that met my needs and fit my personality. From her experience, she was able to hone right in on what became my first choice school. I graduated last year and the entire college experience was awesome.
Colin J.
My parents and I didn't know how helpful it could be to have someone who understood things from the inside working with us. Ms. Blackman was able to identify just what would make me the most attractive candidate to colleges.
Bob M. – Harvard University