The Reason I Didn’t Get Into an Ivy League

I believe a college degree is detrimental to anyone born after 1985… but there are exceptions to every rule. In this case, the Ivy Leagues (and Stanford) are the only institutions superior to the School of Hard Knocks.

In my senior year of high school, I applied to five Ivy Leagues. When I didn’t get into any of them (and also didn’t receive financial aid from the remaining colleges) I skipped college altogether. Now, two and a half years later, I continue to reap the benefits of this binary extremism; by attending an Ivy I would have derived an elite pedigree (which transcends its cost), but by skipping college I avoided the crippling debt of mediocrity.

Though I ultimately think the School of Hard Knocks was the better outcome for me, I can’t help but dream of “what could have been”. I occasionally wonder why I wasn’t “Ivy League material”, and whether or not I’ve since proven otherwise. While I’ll never know for sure, I have surmised critiques* of my original college application that may be useful — if not amusing — to Ivy League hopefuls, graduates, and rejects alike.

*Of course, these critiques are my best guess. I have no way of knowing what an admissions officer would say, but I’m not sure it’s that simple anyways.

The Good

Under the guise of objectivity, allow me a moment to gloat over my high school successes:

  • Valedictorian- 4.8 weighted GPA, 4.0 unweighted
  • 1510 SAT
  • International Baccalaureate (with additional AP credits)
  • Congressional Intern
  • Founder and head coach for a speech and debate program
  • Club volleyball captain
  • Volunteer autism therapist
  • God’s gift to mankind

The Bad

And now for the good stuff.

I wasn't a “well rounded spike”

Most people who have researched elite colleges are familiar with the “well rounded spike” application structure.

The phallic symbolism gives me some solace

“Well-rounded spikes” are good at almost everything, but are also exceptional in one specific area. Ivy Leagues specifically look for these students since they have already taken steps to become an expert in a field of interest; after all, it’s in the school’s best interest to maintain a monopoly on authority.

As a generalist with no strong convictions and a smorgasbord of a resume, I doubt admissions officers believed I could one day impose their collegiate indoctrinations on a large enough scale.

My SAT subject test scores… sucked

The “benchmark” subject test score for Ivy Leagues is approximately 750 out of 800 points. I scored 680 points in English Composition… which doesn’t bode well for my future as a writer on Medium.

In my defense, I learned of the subject test requirement two weeks before the application deadline, and I rushed into the exam with no preparation. If this sounds like an excuse, it’s because it is… that, and the fact that my IB curriculum did not align with SAT testing material at all. Otherwise I’d obviously have scored perfectly. Obviously.

I didn’t follow the Essay Format

While planning my Common App Essay, I read hundreds (yes, hundreds) of example Ivy League essays.

For those of you who aren’t obsessive enough to read hundreds of college essays, let me explain the only acceptable ways to approach it:

  • I’m oppressed, look how hard my life is.
  • I’m privileged, but I’m “woke” about it.
  • I’m a child of immigrants, here’s how I reconcile my two identities.
  • I’m Jesus Christ incarnate- I worked at a summer camp.

In my self-righteous rebellion, I decided I was too good to play this game. Instead, my essay made me vulnerable as it touched on my subliminal insecurities and academic aimlessness. I stand by my essay to this day but, arguably, it didn’t brag enough, it didn’t demonstrate expertise in a so-called passion (in fact, it rather incriminated me), and it didn’t exploit my 25% Latina status. Fine.

I didn’t have any national awards or scholarships

Most people who attend an Ivy League school are exceptionally brilliant by definition. What better way to validate brilliance than by crushing thousands of peers in an accredited battle of wits?

In high school I received automatic “gimmie” awards based on my grades and SAT scores, but I was naive to assume everyone else wouldn’t also receive frivolous participation trophies. The types of awards that impress admissions officers unsurprisingly require some initiative (like private merit scholarships, exclusive invitationals, and explicit national rankings). If I could do it over again, I might partake in the National Merit Debate Between Girls Named Dexter Who Wear Glasses And Are Allergic To Cats. Pretty sure I would win that one.

Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo.

If I cannot bend the will of Heaven, I shall move Hell.

One of the perks of not having an alma mater is that I get to choose my own ostentatious motto. This one implies that I will still try to bend the will of metaphorical Ivy Leagues in life, but that I will turn failures and rejections into my greatest weapons.

I may not have gotten into the Ivy Leagues, but now I’m in a league of my own.



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Financial independence and personal fulfilment without a college degree