What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How 9th Graders Can Prepare Now for the Ivy League

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It’s no secret that the Ivy League schools are among the hardest colleges in the country to get in to. In fact, at every Ivy League college in 2017, acceptance rates fell below 13%, with Harvard University stooping to a seemingly impossible 5.2%. Indeed, getting into the Ivy League has never been more difficult.


Of course, if you’re just getting started on your freshman of high school, you have plenty of time to plan and prepare, and if your sights are set on the Ivy League, you just might end up needing it. Although colleges don’t generally assign much weight to your grades and other accomplishments until the second half of your sophomore year, there are many things you can do now to lay the foundation for future success. To learn how you can begin to prepare for the Ivy League while you’re still a freshman in high school, keep reading.


Educate Yourself About the Ivy League


Begin by educating yourself about every Ivy League school and becoming familiar with what it takes to get into an Ivy. Research each school to see which are most appealing to you and identify the aspects that make each an attractive choice. Get off on the right foot with these CollegeVine posts:


The Demographics of the Ivy League

Meet the Ivy League Class of 2021

Which Ivy League is Right for You?

Do I Have To Do Something Extraordinary to Get Into an Ivy League School?


You can also find more information about applying to each of the Ivies in our Ultimate Guides to Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale.


Talk With Others About Your Goals


It’s always easier to work towards a challenging goal with a support network intact. You can start to build one by discussing your goals with the important people in your life.


Start with your parents and other adult mentors. Let them know that you’re beginning to think about college and that you’d like to shoot for the Ivy League. Sharing your goal will allow others to help support you and hold you accountable as you strive towards it. In addition, you never know when someone might have a connection that could end up being important as you network later on.


Also be sure to discuss your goals with your guidance counselor or teachers. Odds are that these people are familiar with the Ivy League and will have some insights into the path towards admission. They may even be able to put you into contact with a high school alum who is already attending an Ivy.


In addition to gaining insights from these people, you’ll also build important relationships. These are the people will help to guide, support, and shape you over the next four years, so it’s to your advantage that they get to know you beyond just your place in the classroom. In a few years, you’ll need at least one of these people to write a college recommendation for you. For more information about building these important relationships, read our article How to Get College Recommendation Letters: Building Recommender Relationships.

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Lay A Strong Foundation


While it’s true that your grades and extracurriculars during freshman year won’t be weighed very heavily on your college application, the choices that you make regarding them will have a far-reaching effect that very well could impact your Ivy League chances. Now is the time to think strategically so that you’ll have a solid foundation moving forward.


First, select the classes that will best set you up for a track towards the Ivy League. Most high schools have a clearly defined “most challenging course of study” that nearly every Ivy-bound student will pursue. Yes, it’s true that sometimes students will be accepted having not pursued this direct path, but they are almost always the exception, not the rule.


Odds are that you will need to pursue the most challenging track at your high school, and to do that, you’ll need to enroll now in the classes that lead to that track. This means fulfilling prerequisites and taking a challenging course load. Be careful, though. If you take on too much, you may find yourself struggling. It’s almost always better to add a class later on or move up to a more challenging section than to drop a class or even worse, fail out. Get to know your comfort level and how much is too much now, before the stakes get any higher.


Now is also the time to lay a foundation in the extracurriculars that you pursue throughout high school. While you don’t need to become highly specialized in anything as a freshman, now is definitely the time to explore several different options and discover your passions. If possible, look for one or two activities that you’re interested in pursuing passionately throughout your high school years, along with a long-term service project that holds personal relevance to you or your community.


To learn more about class choices and extracurriculars during freshman year of high school, check out these posts:


A Guide to Extracurricular Activities for Grade 9

How Important Is Freshman Year of High School?


How to Pick Your High School Courses Freshman and Sophomore Years



Build the Relevant Skills


There are two primary ways that you should start to build the skills you’ll need to get into an Ivy League school.


First, learn about how you learn. This metacognition is what will allow you to become a successful and serious student. Explore different study methods and environments. Pursue knowledge both in and out of the classroom. Become a scholar in the true sense of the word; become someone who simply loves to learn.


If you can do this early in your high school years, good grades will follow naturally. It’s okay if you don’t achieve top grades your freshman year, but starting in 10th grade, you’ll need to be near the top of your class. Take the time to really harness your own learning power now and you’ll be poised for success in your later years too.


For more about learning styles, check out our post Going Beyond Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic: How to Leverage Your Learning Types.


Next, develop your writing skills. No matter what your intended career is, odds are you will need to know how to write, and anyone applying to an Ivy League school will need to ace the personal statement on the application. Whether you’re a natural writer or not, building writing skills should be a priority throughout your high school years.


Start by applying yourself earnestly to your written coursework. Pay attention to the feedback you receive from teachers and start to identify recurring themes that might help to pinpoint areas for improvement. Consider attending writer’s workshops or visiting your school’s writing center if there is one. To learn more, see our post How to Sharpen Your Writing Skills.


Getting into an Ivy League college is no easy feat to achieve, but if you identify this goal as a freshman in high school, there are many things you can do now to improve your chances later on. Getting an early start on your Ivy League ambitions can only help when you’re competing with such a selective pool of applicants.


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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.