As rising high school seniors prepare for another competitive admissions round this coming application cycle, a big factor to watch for this year’s application cycle is the discontinuation of the Siemens Westinghouse Competition. For those who are new to this, the Siemens Westinghouse competition is a highly prestigious research competition offered for high school students across the country that selects students based on their cutting edge research performed typically through university affiliation or through highly competitive summer programs.
In the past, the 18 page, double spaced research paper for the Siemens Competition is submitted in September, and students find out their semifinalist standing (usually top 500 or so in the country) in October, right before the early application deadlines. Many of my students have gone on to win semifinalist and regional finalist in this competition, which is extremely helpful and an award that they include before the early application deadline due November 1st.
Now that this competition has been discontinued, it generally means a few things:
The sophomores who placed semifinalist or higher in the previous year’s Siemens Competition have a significant leg up on this year’s (Class of 2023) application cycle students. Very few sophomores place in the Siemens Competition, which is primarily given to juniors.
The Intel Science Talent Science and Engineering Fair carries an even greater weight than before. In the past, those with ISEF awards were considered strong, but now that the Siemens Competition has been discontinued there are fewer students to compete with (minus the overlap – both Siemens and ISEF semifinalists).
Students who attend a competitive summer science program this year don’t reap the same awards they would have in the past. The juniors who attend competitive science summer programs this year still have an opportunity to compete in the Regeneron STS competition, but that one carries less weight because they won’t find out until January/February, after they have already submitted their application. Last year I had two students who placed Top 300 and Top 40 respectively in the Regeneron STS competition, including one who won a $25,000 scholarship.
The Siemens Competition requires an 18 page, double spaced research paper typically under supervision of a mentor through a university lab. The Regeneron STS competition also requires a research paper, but also a personal statement in addition to the research report. Again, the application essays and personal statements for summer programs, national research competitions, and of course, the college applications continue to play a significant role in the process.
Attending a science summer program is helpful for this year’s rising juniors as it demonstrates one’s intellectual curiosity through research, but it carries less weight due to the inability to compete in the Siemens Westinghouse competition. While the exact percentage of Siemens Competition semifinalists (or higher) who attend Ivy Leagues or top 10 universities is difficult to find, as a former Siemens Competition semifinalist myself and with peers who did place in the competition, it’s one of those things that does increase one’s chances to the top universities.
These research competitions are the type of competitions that Ivy League admissions officers have looked for in applicants for years – Intel Science Talent Search, Intel Science and Engineering Fair, Siemens Westinghouse, and Regeneron STS have given students a leg up when it comes to getting in. But that does not mean everyone gets in simply because of these competitions – especially those who write subpar personal statements and don’t know how to present their narrative through the applications.
The 2018 results are finally in for the Class of 2022!
75% of IvyCollegeAdmit students were accepted into Ivy League universities.
This year, I worked with a total of 16 students for the 2018 application cycle for the Class of 2022. Needless to say, given the competitive admissions climate and acceptance rates hovering at anywhere from 4-7% for the Ivy League or top 10 universities, IvyCollegeAdmit students performed incredibly well. My students have been accepted to and will be attending:
Berkeley MET / Brown (1)
This marks a total of 12 out of 16 students, or a 75% acceptance rate to the Ivy League and/or Top 10 university – an incredibly strong track record when the average acceptance rate at these schools hovers anywhere from 4-7%. This was by far the most competitive application cycle in history. Here’s some sample acceptance letters from this admissions cycle:
Outside of the Ivy League/Stanford/UChicago/MIT/Caltech schools, my other students still performed phenomenally well, including acceptances to Berkeley, Georgia Tech Biomedical Engineering program (ranked #1 in the country), University of Michigan, UCLA, Carnegie Mellon, Northeastern, and Boston College, just to name a few. This year also marks the second year of the relatively new inaugural Berkeley MET program, which accepts 40 students in the entire country for a less than 3% acceptance rate. One of my students was able to secure a spot in this highly competitive program.
My students hailed from several Bay Area high schools as well as the East Coast, including Harker School, Lynbrook High, Gunn HS, Aragon High, Saratoga HS, Juniper Serra HS, Milton Academy, University High, Lexington HS, Highland School of Technology, Auburn HS, among others. Roughly 60% of my clients are from the Bay Area, and another 40% are from all around the country, including East Coast schools.
2018 Acceptance Rate
University of Chicago
Ivy League Average
The average acceptance rate at the Ivy League or top 10 university was roughly 6.7%! Despite this the lowest acceptance rate in history, IvyCollegeAdmit students had a 75% acceptance rate to at least one of the Ivy League or top 10 universities, which is truly an incredible feat and more than 10x the regular acceptance rate at the creme of the crop colleges.
We were able perform remarkably well because of the powerful applications that we crafted together to the universities. While we may have made it “look easy” in the most competitive application cycle in history, we poured a tremendous amount of time and energy into the personal statements, supplemental material, application review, and interview preparation to get these results.
I am very proud of my students, their achievements, and the spellbinding applications that resulted in an impressive outcome for the Class of 2022 in perhaps the most competitive admissions process to date. The Ivy College Admit program has continued its excellence of success and extremely high track record of placing students into the most competitive colleges in the country.
Here’s a sample of some additional acceptance letters from this admissions cycle for the Class of 2022:
Note: Past performance is not indicative of future results given the highly competitive nature of college admissions.
Getting into a top university is no easy feat – especially for Asian Americans. We all know that college admissions is competitive, but how competitive is it? In fact, when I speak to parents and students across the country, one of the common misconceptions I encounter is that students and parents don’t really understand how competitive it really is. And while stories of students getting into one of the HYPSM float around, those numbers are far fewer than one may realize.
Let me break down some numbers for you. Assume a given class has on average 1600 students. This may vary by school – for example, Harvard’s undergraduate class size is ~1700, Princeton ~1300, Yale ~1400, etc. With a class size of 1600 students, roughly 20% of the class size are Asian American. While this percentage has slowly trickled up higher over the past 3 or so years due to more lawsuits about affirmative action, we can safely assume that number.
So let’s take 20% x 1600 = 320 per class. Let’s assume there are nine of the very top schools HYPSM + Columbia, Penn, Chicago, and Caltech – that means 9 x 320 = 2880 < 3000 spots in the entire country. And if you only consider HYPSM, that means there are only 5 x 320 = ~1500 spots in the entire country for Asian Americans to get in!
The odds of getting one of those spots is extremelylow. Compare and contrast that to another school like Berkeley, which doesn’t bias against ethnicity and race and has a much higher acceptance rate for Asian Americans – in fact, 50% of the student body is Asian. So when you hear of an Asian American getting into one of the top universities, understand that is an incredibly difficult feat – you really have to be stellar in your academics, extracurriculars, and of course the application in order to seal the deal.
So ~1500-3000 spots in the entire country given the millions of applicants that apply every year. Will one of those spots be yours? Feel free to schedule an initial consultation today to gain insight into how to navigate the college admissions process.
I get asked questions about college admissions all the time.
Should my child play the piano or the oboe?
I just scored 790 on my SAT 2 Math subject test, should I retake it to get an 800?
Should I perform 100 hours of community service, or 500 hours of community service?
What are my chances to Stanford with a 4.0 GPA and 1600 SAT score?
Should I take AP US History or double up on an AP science my junior year?
While these are all fair questions to ask and I guide my students through every step of the way in my private consulting program, I can tell you that even if you get a 4.0 GPA, 1600 SAT score, perform 500 hours of community service, and play the oboe, you won’t get into Stanford or any other Ivy League if you don’t know how to present yourself in the application, in particular writing thought provoking, compelling personal statements. This is the biggest misconception about college admissions – that with the top scores, grades, national awards, and groundbreaking extracurricular activities that you will ultimately get admitted into the university you’ve worked so hard for.
And if you’re one of the people who do believe that’s what it takes to get in, then you’re in for a rude awakening. Because getting in isn’t just about having a patent under your name or finding some groundbreaking innovation as a high school student. Even if you have the top scores, grades, national awards, and groundbreaking extracurriculars, you can still get rejected from every Ivy League school. I’ve seen this time and time again.
On the contrary, however, I’m not saying you should get low grades and scores, either. But after a certain point and threshold, your chances of getting into a top university highly depends on how well you write the personal statement and package the rest of your application – not on your raw academic and/or extracurricular achievements.
Every family and student I’ve spoken to who approached the college admissions process for the first time is surprised by the amount of sweat and tears that is goes into application season. And those who aren’t prepared early on for this whirlwind are quickly left in the dust and a state of panic, wondering how to approach this most crucial part of the college admissions process that will determine where the student will matriculate for the next four years.
What adds to this level of misconception are all the stories that parents, families, and students hear through the grapevine from their inner social circles. Soon enough, as you can imagine, rumors spread like wildfire and everyone has their own conception of what it really takes to get into a top university. “I heard Eric was accepted to Princeton because he was a semifinalist in the Chemistry Olympiad and Siemens Competition. Mark was accepted to Stanford because he won a gold medal in Tae Kwon Do. Dave got into Harvard because both his parents went there.”
Don’t get me wrong, getting those awards help. If you’re you’ve placed in the Intel Science and Engineering Fair or became state champion in the national debate competition, those awards will help get your application noticed. But that doesn’t mean you’ll get in. In fact, far from it – I’ve had high achieving, high octane prospective clients who reach out to me for help on their transfer application who literally got rejected to all the top schools they applied because they didn’t spend enough time on their application.
I feel for those students – and it’s definitely unfortunate given how hard they worked. I mean, you just spend four years of your life working your tail off and you got dinged everywhere. We can certainly blame the ultra low acceptance rates as a culprit, but the question is did your application or personal statement give you a chance at getting admitted in the first place? How strong of an application did you really put together? If you put together a strong application and it still didn’t work, certainly you can rest in peace that you tried your best and gave it your all. But if you didn’t, then you just shot yourself in the leg.
Personally, I’ve edited and read thousands of essays, in every shape or form. Most of the time I can tell right away when a personal statement has gone awry – that there is a very evident flaw in the essay that would diminish an applicant’s chances of admission. Or other times, the essay was just really mediocre and didn’t really put the student’s strongest foot forward.
While I certainly can’t guarantee everyone into a top university, I can tell you that my students are extremely pleased with the essays that they write. Not only are they satisfied with their personal statements and their completed application, but they are content that they performed to the best of their ability and did everything in their power to get admitted to these highly selective schools. After my students go through my program, there is no regret – we’ve put their best foot forward.
Just browse through College Confidential, a popular college admissions forum, and you’ll see students posting their stats – many with very strong academic and extracurricular profiles, but still getting knocked down in the process. Sure, it’s competitive. Acceptance rates are at all time lows and it will continue to be more competitive every year given the significant increase in applicants and the limited number of spots. The biggest misconception when it comes to college admissions is that you can get in with simply a strong academic and extracurricular profile alone.
What I don’t hear often enough are what are the steps and approaches that one took in their application. What did Eric, Mark or Dave write about in their personal statement? How did they construct a compelling story that demonstrated to the admissions officers their personal qualities that ultimately got them that acceptance letter? And while these are definitely more private and personal information that admitted students often don’t share, these are ultimately the factors that got the student in and separated them from the thousands of other applicants out there.
And I can guarantee you that’s something parents and students who have gotten into these top universities won’t tell you. Because what’s the point – why would they? They simply aren’t incentivized to and prefer to boast about how great their child is rather than sharing about what a great application they put together, perhaps with the help through a private college consultant like myself. Don’t make that mistake and neglect the application.
I highly suggest reading the essays and personal statements of successful candidates that did get accepted to top universities and understand on a more granular level why a particular student was admitted. It’s because the admissions officers can identify with the voice of the essay and understand the student on a much deeper and personal level. And once you get to that point and package together a compelling application, you know you have a strong shot at one of these top universities.
In the admissions ball game, you are only as good as you are on paper. Although you may have spent hours on a particular activity in high school, if you do not capture that in the application in a meaningful manner, then you have done nothing in the admission officer’s eyes. And that means writing stellar application essays.
Remember the admissions officers never visit nor see you. All they get is the electronic pdf or 12 page printout that is your college application. Sure, you might argue there is the interview – but that accounts for a small amount of the admissions process and is typically done by alumni of the school – not the admissions officers themselves.
Whether you get accepted or not really depends on how you present yourself in the application. All the blood, sweat, and tears that you put into your extracurricular and leadership activities are meaningless if you don’t know how to capture how your experiences shaped you in the personal statement, or the college application, in a meaningful manner.
Getting into an Ivy League college depends on how well you craft together that college application and demonstrate those personal qualities through the personal statement. The personal statement includes the supplemental essays for each university as well as the 650 word main common app essay. Ensuring that those essays form a powerful picture that represents the applicants personal qualities is the holy grail of college admissions.
I’ve seen students with perfect 1600 (or 2400) SAT scores and 4.0 GPA’s get turned down by the the Ivies. I’ve also helped and worked with lower achieving students with 1800 (out of 2400) SAT scores and 3.3 GPA get accepted into an Ivy League. In fact, I’ve always said the weakest student I’ve ever helped get into an Ivy League had a 3.3 unweighted GPA and ~1180 on the SAT’s. Yes, you heard me right – and he was Asian American too – no hooks, no legacies, no NCAA athlete, nor URM.
Of course, getting tip top grades, strong SAT, SAT Subject, and AP test scores, and strong leadership and extracurricular activities help significantly with the process. In this day and age, getting those is almost required and a minimum threshold to get in. Pursue activities that you’re passionate about and demonstrate your well-roundedness and focus – we’ve all heard that over and over again. But you didn’t need me to tell you that, did you?
So why do these amazing, well-qualified people still get rejected every year? Because they didn’t know how to write their personal statement. At least, not a compelling one that would give them a real shot at getting in.
Keep in mind that there are literally tens of thousands of students with perfect 4.0 GPA’s, 1550+ SAT scores, National Merit Semifinalists, National AP Scholars, and the list goes on. These exams are no longer “enough” to differentiate one student from another given so many students boast these stats. The personal statement is the one differentiating factor that separates the 1600 SAT, 4.0 GPA student from the one who has a 1580 SAT and 3.9 GPA at the same high school. These stats are no longer “good enough” to differentiate one candidate from another – rather, they are typical scores and grades that the Ivy Leagues expect you to get.
What it all comes down to is how you demonstrate your personal qualities, leadership, and contribution to your community through the application. This takes the form of personal statements, extracurricular activities, and recommendation letters that help the admissions officers determine whether to accept or reject you. Most of the time I can tell right away if a student will get accepted or rejected based on the essays alone.
The biggest mistake that students make is not taking their application seriously enough. This tends to happen with overachievers, who believe that their grades, test scores, and even national academic awards are enough to get them in. So yes, do pursue your passions and your interests, and work as hard as you can during your four years of high school. Just remember to capture and express all of your personal qualities in the college application itself, and write a genuine, palpable personal statement that helps the admissions officers understand the qualities that define you.
I can’t tell you how many students every year tend to neglect the importance of these essays. If I were to give it a true weighting, I’d assign 50% of the admissions decision to the common app essay and recommendation letters, 25% to academics, 25% to extracurriculars. But this number can change drastically when the admissions committee is making decisions where nearly every strong applicant has perfect 4.0’s and top of the line 1550-1600 SAT scores.
In fact, I will bet that a student with a lower score, say 1300 SAT and 3.8 GPA with a stellar application and well written personal statement has a better shot than the 1600 SAT student with a poorly written personal statement at getting into the Ivy League. Princeton, my alma mater, states every year that if they could fill their entire class with valedictorians or 1600 SAT score students, they could do so easily.
At the end of the day, a strong student with high academic and extracurricular stats is only just that – another profile on paper to the admissions committee. That paper ultimately comes to life through the common app essays – who this candidate is, the applicant’s level of introspection and critical thinking, and the values and experiences that shape the applicant’s perspective. And sometimes, the admissions committee is even willing to overlook a student with low GPA/test scores if they can understand how that applicant thinks on a deeper level.
So how can you get into the Ivy League? Craft together a well thought out college application and personal statement that reflects the qualities that define you. Because at the end of the day, the bitter truth is that admissions to Ivy League schools is highly dependent on how well you present yourself on paper and draft your personal statement.
Even with admissions rates dropping to all time lows…
My students have done remarkably well in the college admissions process. And I mean incredibly well, gaining spots in the top 6 universities in the country, including multiple acceptances to Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, etc. Every year, as thousands of students vie for a spot at one of the country’s most elite institutions, a part of me shivers with excitement. But it’s not the type of excitement that you’d feel while going on a roller coaster ride – it’s a calm, peaceful excitement that vibrates within me as I help my students navigate the murky waters of college admissions to get them that coveted acceptance letter.
As high school students across the country sweat about final exams and college applications, it’s a peaceful journey for me. But for my students, I sense their nervousness and trepidation as they embark upon the college admissions process. Thoughts loom: “What if I don’t get in? What if all the hard work I put in throughout all my high years have gone to waste?”
Granted, it is a pivotal moment in one’s life. And that’s why given my expertise with the college admissions process, I love my job so much. It’s a great passion for me to see my students get accepted to the college of their choice. It’s a thrill every year for me as I witness my students, one by one, get accepted to the university they’ve always dreamed of attending. Princeton. Stanford. MIT. Harvard. UChicago.
But what I remind all of my students is that we didn’t get to this position without hard work, and most importantly, spending significant time on the application. Most students tend to neglect the importance of putting together a well thought out application, which is my focus from day one as soon as the student signs up with me. By crafting together a compelling college application that blow the admissions officers away, we are able to outcompete against the country’s best and brightest. Congratulations to all the early acceptances!