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College Guidance Q & A

Larry receives numerous questions from applicants and their families about college admissions. While this week's question comes from a younger student interested in applying to Ivy League universities, Larry's response includes thoughtful advice and insight that all students can use.

Q. How do I start preparing to apply to an Ivy League School if I just started high school? What should I do to maximize my chances of getting accepted?

A. Forget the appellation “Ivy League” to start. All the Ivy League colleges are excellent, but the eight of them compete in athletics without granting athletic scholarships. Unless you are an elite athlete, the league is meaningless.

Today, as you start high school, ask what’s important to you. Check back on that often. Over the next three years do what’s important to you and hopefully that goes beyond academics. Why? Because academic excellence is only the first screen for highly selective colleges.

When you discover what is important to you beyond academics, pursue it. Grow its influence upon you and others. If you need help, enlist capable partners. Be bold and ask for what you want, but listen to what you hear. Don’t just join. Joining is good, but it’s easy.

None of this is guaranteed to get you there. You might not succeed. But if you fall short, you will still be in a good place.

In the meantime, slowly but increasingly learn which colleges offer a match for your ideals and aspirations. Those colleges will see you in the most positive light.

When the August before your senior year arrives, start your applications and thoughtfully answer every question. Edit and revise. Be merciless upon yourself, allowing no clichés. Application submission is, unfortunately, a competition - but it is not a race. No fine college cares when you apply as long as it’s before their deadline. Good luck.

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