Applications are created, made, and broken with free time that students have (or don’t have). Colleges look carefully at exactly how you spend your free time. And if they can’t tell how you spend your free time while they’re looking at your application, then they’re betting you don’t do much. But…we don’t need to tell you that twice, right? Because you’re reading this blog post. Which means you’re interested in the Ivy League. Which means that you’re likely scheduled out for the next 2-4 weeks.
If you’re contemplating applying to an Ivy League school, odds are you’ve been described as one or more of the following: overachiever, motivated, intense, cutthroat, highly focused. We get it—we’ve been described as those things, too. There’s not really such a thing as a “chill Ivy League applicant.” The barrier to entry for an Ivy League school is insurmountable for most on purpose. It’s a place where the intense go to learn, play, and expand their horizons.
So here you are, about 1-2 years out from applying to an Ivy League school and wondering just how you can possibly optimize your summer to signal to Ivy League schools that you are, in fact, Ivy League material. You know that attending a summer program at a university doesn’t increase your chances for admission into that particular school. And you know that there’s a formula when you’re deciding—we’ve written about the best possible summer ideas based on your interests, whether it’s STEM, teaching, cooking, sustainability, business, writing, medicine, math, politics, or something else.
The thing is, we’ve written most of these articles on the topic of summer for the average to high-achieving kid, but not necessarily for the Ivy League applicant, because to be honest, very few students actually have what it takes to put together an application that will be seriously reviewed by Yale, Harvard, or Columbia. That’s not to say that our students don’t get into these places, because they do, but oftentimes it’s because there is something unique about them beyond their application.
So, how do you actively seek out, develop, and ultimately incorporate that **extra-special unique** Ivy League-worthy skill THIS LATE IN THE SUMMER? It’s simple. You get a job. Why? Because it will make you a better person in every way possible. And it's your only real option.
The kids who we work with who have had jobs (and by jobs we don’t mean a fancy internship at your dad’s friend’s real estate office where you go and sit on Instagram all day waiting to shadow a meeting. We mean a job where you get up every morning and sometimes you have to put on that Rick Ross or Drake song to self-motivate) are truly just better people. And that’s because they comprehend the importance of hard work. This only comes with experience—when you actually grasp how the basics of customer service and hospitality, when paired with empathy and an understanding of the realities of others, are essential to success.
Ivy League schools want students who are, above all else, good human beings. They don’t want robots who are non-stop, don’t sleep, have applied to 83 internships, and spend 50 hours a week coding while waxing poetic about how they are going to save the world by bringing technology to developing countries. Ivy League schools want students who listen and ask questions before they launch into a monologue that you didn’t ask for about Bitcoin vs. Ethereum. They want human beings who understand the complexities of the world in their truest form, which is best understood through seemingly mundane interactions at, for example, a retail store or a restaurant. Ivy League schools want students who are highly observant.
Oftentimes, we find that the suggestion of “getting a job” falls on deaf ears to our students, because they view it as “below” them. First of all, it's not. They don’t say it, but we know that’s what they’re thinking. And that mentality is why they aren’t accepted to Yale. It’s not because they got a 35 on their ACT when they should have gotten a 36. It’s because they don’t quite grasp what it is these schools want, which is students who are actually going to change the world. But in order to do that, you have to understand the world first. And you need to show that in your application with a heavy dose of humility. What better way to understand the grievances and complications of the world than to directly participate in the capitalist system that runs our country? This late in the summer, your best bet is to get a job. We'll say it again: get a job. Trust us. The perspective that you gain will not only enrich your application, it will enrich your outlook.