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Can You Get Into An Ivy League Without Bribing Admissions?

Housewives. CEOs. Titans of industry. Your favorite aunt.

It seems like just about everyone these days is trying to get their kids into elite colleges—by any means necessary. And certain elements of the wealthy and well connected don’t seem to mind going through the back door—or side door—as long as their child gets accepted.

You’ve probably seen a news story or two about admissions tactics that have gotten some high-profile parents in hot water recently. These approaches, the “side doors” as they were pitched, went well beyond traditional means of giving students a leg up in the college process.

For the rest of us, who can’t fund a building or get a coach to admit our son on the basis of a photoshopped water polo player, we have one option: the front door. And that just means helping your child get accepted the normal way—sans bribes.

So how do you give your kid a shot at matriculating in the hallowed halls of the Ivy League? And how do you help set them up for financial success once they graduate? We’ve got some tips for you.

Before we get down to grades, test prep, and everything else, it’s useful to take a look at why so many people want to figure out how to get into an Ivy League school.

Across the Ivy League’s eight schools, none admitted more than 11% of applicants for the class of 2022 in 2018. Harvard led the field with the lowest admission rate of 4.59% (that’s 1,962 candidates admitted against 42,749 candidates). For comparison, UCLA currently ranked as the #1 public university in the country, admitted 14% of applicants in 2018 for a total freshman class of 15,970.

There’s some evidence that getting your child into one of these schools might be worth it. The median income for Ivy League students 10 years after starting college hovers around $70,000 according to 2015 data from the Department of Education .

The same data found that the median income for all other schools was $34,000 for the same time period. The distinction gets even more pronounced with top students from top schools. The top 10% from Ivy League schools earn $200,000 or more.

Let’s dig into preparing your student for the Ivy League college admissions process.

Getting into an Ivy League School

Applying Early

If your child already has the grades and extracurriculars buttoned up, you might be able to give them a better chance by encouraging them to apply early. While acceptance rates across all eight schools are low in the Ivy League, Yale accepted about 20% of early applicants in 2017.

In such a competitive field, and without the benefit of side doors, it can be wise to take advantage of any possible edge.

Grades, Grades, Grades

Grades are an important deciding factor for Ivy League schools; 95% of the 2022 class at Yale ranked in the top 10% of their high school graduating class. It seems obvious that if you want to go to great schools in the country for college, you probably need to have pretty fantastic grades in high school.

Some researchers have found that some of these good grades might be the result of grade inflation with a particular correlation to private schools. However, there is some good news for parents who don’t belong to the 1%.

If your child doesn’t go to an elite prep school that costs about the same as a luxury car every year, they might still have a shot if they’ve got the grades. About 65% of that 2022 Yale class graduated from public high schools, so not attending a private school doesn’t necessarily make students less likely to be admitted to an Ivy.

Acing the Tests

As a parent, you might have seen a few ads on social media for ACT prep, SAT prep, and any number of tutoring companies that want to help your student ace the big test.

That’s because the testing industry is big business (which may explain why so many have been tempted to pay open those side doors recently). The test prep market is expected to grow around $7.56 billion globally between 2016 and 2021. That figure alone should demonstrate just how important these tests are to admissions officials.

So what does it take on a standardized test to get into an Ivy?

Students admitted to Harvard in 2016 scored an average of 1540 on the SAT and 32 on the ACT. That same year, Yale acceptees scored an average of 1540 on the SAT and 33 on the ACT.

The jury’s still out on whether all that test prep actually works. The College Board , the nonprofit that develops and administers the SAT, has itself flip flopped on whether test prep is worth the expense (they’re currently in favor of a no-cost option to boost scores).

If you’re going to pay for personalized live instruction, expect to pay about $800 to $1,100 for some of the larger companies’ services.

Helping Them Find a Passion

Have a student who’s right on the edge grades-wise? Does your rising junior have scores that are almost there? They might just have a shot.

There’s mounting evidence that colleges across the board may be starting to place less importance on grades and scores (probably because half of American teenagers are graduating with A averages ).

Activities outside the classroom, and outside the bounds of standardized testing, can help your child show leadership, growth, and potential for competitive universities.

One college admissions consultant said that it doesn’t matter what activities they engage in, but that the activity should be quantifiable and that “admissions officers are looking for evidence of deep commitment to your extracurricular activities.” She also said that admissions officers are savvy enough to see through a last-ditch effort to join a bunch of clubs late in school.

One of the most important things to consider, beyond the grades and the tests, is college fit. Getting accepted at an Ivy League college is a great achievement, but if the course of study and campus aren’t a good fit for your student, they may be happier elsewhere.

You might want to think about how your student would fit at the college, and how it would fit with your student, before your family makes a decision.

Another thing to note is the expense of exploring an Ivy League college. All this activity, and the associated cost of applying to college, can start to add up. It can be helpful to hone in on the colleges that your student may have a good shot at getting into and the schools that might be a good fit for them.

Then, of course, there’s the small matter of paying for it all (the tuition, the meal plan, the books).

Refinancing for Their Future

Regardless of where your child ends up, they may have some student loans once they graduate. If they do, you may be able to help them refinance their student loans with SoFi.

You may not be able to help buy them through that side door, but you can help set them up for success once they’ve got that degree. And it only takes about two minutes to find your college grad’s new (and hopefully improved) rate with SoFi student loan refinancing.

Learn more about how SoFi student loan refinancing can help you and your child pay for their education.

Learn More

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The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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