How to Get to an Elite College

There is no single formula for getting into an elite college. These colleges look at many factors in an applicant; sometimes very qualified applicants are admitted to one school and rejected from a similar school for seemingly mysterious reasons. However, there are several ways to make yourself stand out in the application process.


  1. Image titled Get to an Elite College Step 1
    Show lots of interest in the school. Go to alumni Q & A sessions, admissions officer meetings and other events. Order a prospectus. Take a tour or spend an overnight if possible. The college wants to admit students who are excited about the school.
  2. Image titled Get to an Elite College Step 2
    Contact coaches if you plan to play a sport. They can put in a good word for you.
  3. Image titled Get to an Elite College Step 3
    Contact professors in your area of interest. They can give you a good feel of their work and department, plus they can also put in a good word.
  4. Image titled Get to an Elite College Step 4
    Show passion in your extracurricular activities by seeking out activities you love, starting new projects, and taking on meaningful leadership roles. It's better to focus on one or two activities you love and give 100% effort to than to make a half-hearted effort on five.
  5. Image titled Get to an Elite College Step 5
    Be unique. Get involved in activities and projects because you love them, not because "everyone else is". For example, if you're passionate about learning Hindi, go online to learn it, study it! In your application, be sure to highlight these efforts.
  6. Image titled Get to an Elite College Step 6
    Give back to your community in a meaningful way. Find a cause that you are passionate about, and commit a significant amount of time to working on it. Colleges want to admit good citizens as well as good students, and showing that you've spent four years tutoring in a low-income neighborhood or organizing donation drives for an environmental group is good proof of this.
  7. Image titled Get to an Elite College Step 7
    Choose genuine summer experiences, such as work. Interesting jobs or internships are definitely a plus, but a summer of hard work for your uncle's construction business is more impressive to admissions than a contrived trip to France for the vague purpose of "cultural experience".
  8. Image titled Get to an Elite College Step 8
    Write a sincere essay about something that matters to you. While it may be tempting to dash off an essay about how you learned leadership skills from being the captain of the football team, consider how many other football captains probably wrote a similar essay.
    • Make sure your essay is in your "voice".
    • Start writing your essay early to allow for revision.
  9. Image titled Get to an Elite College Step 9
    Avoid pretentious writing. While you may think you sound smart by pontificating on United States foreign policy in Iran, you'll sound the opposite. However, if you write about how your parents fled Iran because of U.S. policy decisions, and how this effects your choice to go into immigration law, write away!
  10. Image titled Get to an Elite College Step 10
    Show passion in your interview. Be enthusiastic, make eye contact, and ask lots of questions.
    • Dress nicely for your interview-- it shows you care.
  11. Image titled Get to an Elite College Step 11
    Have a plan for your future. A college is more interested in someone who says they want to be an immunologist with a focus on viruses than someone who "might want to be a doctor" or "doesn't know.".
    • Your plan should make sense with your past experiences and activities. Admissions is more likely to believe someone who says they know they want to be a doctor after volunteering at an urban clinic than someone who randomly thinks they want to be a doctor but has only held banking internships and doesn't like blood.
  12. Image titled Get to an Elite College Step 12
    Take school seriously. Be sure to challenge yourself academically. Take the most challenging classes you can, even if you could get an "easy A" in a less difficult class.


  • You may not get into an elite school even if you are very qualified. Be sure you have some safety schools you'll be happy with.

Article Info

Categories: Applying for Tertiary Education