Ok, here’s part III of my series, Advice on the Ivies. In this part, I’ll talk about step 5:
Take advantage of unique opportunities in Junior High and High School to give yourself a leg up
So what do I mean by that?
Well, let me give you an example. I remember hearing the same words, all throughout freshman orientation at Harvard, said from one freshman to another:
“Oh! I remember you! We went to CTY together!”
“What’s CTY?,” I asked. Turns out, it’s a kind of intensive summer nerd camp. It’s a place where kids with good test scores go, and meet each other, and work really hard. They get to surround themselves with other like-minded kids, and they also find out about opportunities for kids like them. And, experience shows, it pays off. A whole lot of Ivy League kids once went to CTY.
I’m not an expert on CTY, but here’s their website. It looks like they have scholarships available.
Places like CTY help to naturally feed people into good schools. The faculty there know about how the game of elite colleges works. In turn, they can help to steer students in the right direction.
What other experiences can do this? Well, there’s prep school. A good private school will prepare its students well, with excellent courses, and world-class college counseling. Of course, they cost as much as a fancy new car – every year. However, as with colleges, you can sometimes get a full ride if you meet their income qualifications. The best schools to apply to for this sort of thing are well-endowed schools like Andover, which promises needs-blind admission. That means, if you get in, they’ll pay whatever you can’t (at least, according to their calculations — which might be different than yours, so sometimes you have to haggle after you get your initial financial aid package).
The best situation to be in, scholarship-wise, is broke. Low income kids get a full scholarship. Rich kids have parents who can afford the tuition. It’s the folks in the middle that have trouble — because they really can’t afford those tuition bills either, but on paper, it might say that they can.
In addition to Andover, there are a bunch of elite northeast boarding schools, which basically make up the high-school equivalent of the Ivy League. There’s Exeter and Choate and St. Paul’s, Groton and Deerfield and…the list goes on. I’m not linking to them, because I trust you to have good Google Fu, young Grasshopper.
If you’re interested in private schools, most big cities have a few that are really strong. For example, in Austin, the two big ones are St. Stephen’s and St. Andrews. The sky’s the limit.
So. What other kinds of opportunities can help give you a leg up?
If full-time private school is out, you might try an intensive summer program at a private school or college.
Also, does your state have a Governor’s school, or something similar? These are public schools, for elite kids. You should also look into Magnet school programs in your area.
If you’re very strong in a subject area, you might be able to take classes at a local college while you’re still in high school.
And finally, don’t be shy. High school is a great time to go up to people and say, “How did you do what you did? How did you get what you have? I want to be like you.” Adults love that, and will talk to you for hours with advice.