Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Sunday morning greeted me with unusual excitement. It's not every Sunday that I look forward to a country club brunch and excellent company. I stepped out of the car and into the bright sunlit El Cerrito Plaza, in a flash aware how different this morning was from my usual Sunday routine of sweatpants, sleeping in, and homework.

It was a pleasant reunion as we waited, and I enjoyed catching up with my Brown cohort and Ms. Kaplan. Plus the car ride over, that was all the time we had for chit chat, for upon arrival at the Olympic Club, I was in silent awe at the spectacular venue featuring sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay hills and the course that hosted the U.S. Open below. As Mr. Izzy Ramsey graciously treated us to a tour, I was reminded of the time we visited the Bellevue Mansions in Newport. The ILC has terrific taste!

As always, the best part wasn't even the Olympic Club or the delicious food, but the conversations we had with admirably helpful alums. I'm continually surprised by how willing these special people are to reach out to and share with us high school students. Because I had such an amazing experience this summer at Brown, I chose a seat between sisters Lauren and Corynn Brodsky, both alums of Brown and El Cerrito High.

On the off chance, Lauren had applied to Brown and it turned out to be a wonderful fit for her. It was like we shared a common language as we gushed about Thayer Street eateries, Providence offerings, frisbee, the empowering teaching style of the science department, the welcoming air of collaboration, and the eerie cult-like music of Waterfire. Corynn had had the benefit of her sister's experience and guidance when learning about and applying to Brown. Still, they both professed how they wished such profound opportunities to get acquainted with schools and mentors as offered by the ILC, had been available during their tenure in high school.

In Lauren's year, she was the only one departing for an East Coast school; little information about prestigious schools like Brown was accessible. Since the ILC, a revolution of awareness has ignited. This past year my own Hercules High had three acceptances to Brown, and many more talented students of our district, the likes of ILC alums Guadalupe Morales and Andrew Gonzalez, are attending their dream school.

Getting to know Lauren and Corynn and the other alums was more than the beginning to a splendid mentor relationship that I had hoped it to be; it reinforced once again the value of all the ILC does for us and our community. I have the Ivy League Connection to personally thank for igniting my interests and continuing to shape my guidance. This means my heart goes out to Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenburg, Don, everyone who supports futures with this program, and of course, Mr. Izzy Ramsey for making the mentor brunch possible.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Helping Hands

After an incredibly busy first week of school, there was no reprieve on the weekend--at least, that's what I thought. After work and a debate team meeting on Saturday, I honestly didn't feel ready for another event. Thankfully, the ten o' clock meeting time meant I got to sleep in, at least a little bit. I didn't know what to expect out of this 'mentor-program'. All I knew was that I'd asked for Simon Hong to be my mentor, as he now holds a job in a field that I am particularly interested in.

After a cozy car ride with Kelly, her father, my mother, and Nick, we arrived at the Olympic Club, and I was immediately impressed. I still wasn't sure what we were going to be doing, but now I was reasonably positive it was going to be classy. 

After Izzy Ramsey, who was very generous to let us use the building, gave us a tour of the Olympic Club, which hosted the 2012 US Open (how cool is that?), I talked to two El Cerrito grads who went to Brown.  They introduced me to their friend Rob, who they met when they did graduate work at Oxford. I've always known I've wanted to get out of California for college, but never really considered farther away. I'm really grateful for the time he took to give me some insight on foreign schools. 

I also sat next to Tyler, who went to CPS. I mentioned that I've been there before for a debate tournament, and he told me that we had that activity in common! It's always fun to talk to other debaters, especially when you get to see how far it took them (Yale). He was also really helpful in answering some of my questions about the atmosphere at Yale, and he gave me some really honest opinions. 

After hearing Mr. Ramsey explain what the mentor-program actually is, now I'm really excited to start meeting with Simon. I'm starting the application process, and I'll always need more support.

On that note, I feel a lot better about the application ordeal after meeting with Ms. Kim yesterday. A college counselor with 20 years of experience, I knew I was in good hands when we started talking. 

As I'm starting the first drafts of my personal statements, I am more and more thankful for everything the ILC has provided to me, and continues to provide for me as I'm taking this step towards adulthood.

Connections Continued

Ever since school has started, I’ve been catapulted into the busy life of a junior. Now that the summer and my trip East are behind me, the ILC continues to be an important part of my life, not only from what I learned from the experience and what it did for me, but also how it continues to create valuable opportunities for us and keep us in the loop. This Sunday I had the privilege of attending the ILC mentorship brunch held at the Olympic Club, which officially kicked off the Mentorship program for this year. In the mentorship program, each of us is paired up with an alumnus to connect with, who becomes a college counselor to us through their experience. While the program started with just Brown mentors, this year it has expanded to include Yale as well. Throughout the school year, the ILC sets up several social events for us to meet with our mentors. At this brunch we would get to meet the mentors and decide ourselves who we wanted to partner with.
The Olympic Club
It was a beautiful day—the kind of weather you don’t see often in the Bay Area—as my mother and I headed to the EC BART station to meet up with everyone else. It was nice to see everyone again. All but one of Brown I had signed up for the program. After everyone showed up on time, we quickly divided into carpool groups to Olympic Club. My mom and I were invited to ride in Mr. Ramsey’s car along with Ms. Kaplan. Thanks to Mr. Ramsey, we arrived the earliest, and had the chance to look around the prestigious club with its beautiful surroundings. My first impression of the club was stunning. The balcony offered a breathtaking view of the surrounding golf courses and San Francisco City itself. The club’s famous golf courses were the site of this year’s US Open. Izzy Ramsey (brother of Mr. Ramsey) kindly provided a quick tour of the Olympic Club, a two story building with many dining rooms, a lounge, a bar, and a beautiful entrance. 
A beautiful golf course view from the balcony
The brunch started around noon in a private room. Unfortunately, we could only choose one of the schools (Brown and Yale) for our mentors. I decided to go with Brown, since it had affected me more. I shared a table with Brown alumni Peggy, Donna, Alice, Elizabeth, as well as Guadalupe Morales, a current student (and a 2010 ILCer in the Women and Leadership course). Donna and Elizabeth, who both just graduated from Brown this year, were also from El Cerrito High School. In fact, out of the Brown mentors, four of them had attended ECHS. 
Great food, good company, what more could I ask for?

The buffet style brunch included a variety of fresh fruits, pastries, scramble eggs, bacon, sausage, and baked potato.  The zest of our conversations continued while we enjoyed our meal, and the overall atmosphere was festive cheerful. The whole event was sort of reminiscent of all the dinners we had on the East Coast. Mr. Ramsey spoke enthusiastically about the mentorship program, followed by representatives of the Yale and Brown mentors. And then, of course, we topped off the brunch with a trademark group photo of both groups by Don. It was only at this time that I found out I was the only male in the Brown group, lucky me! Afterwards everyone continued to chat and exchange contact information. I was reluctant to leave when being reminded that our time was up.
The Brown group
The ILC continues to create valuable opportunities for us even after our trips to the East Coast. I’m very excited and grateful to be part of this exciting prospect. Overall, the Olympic Club brunch was an excellent beginning for this year’s mentorship program! Thanks to Mr. Ramsey and Don for organizing this wonderful event Izzy Ramsey, who graciously vouched for us to use the beautiful Olympic Club. It will be a tough decision to choose only one mentor out of all these great people. I look forward to the next mentorship event, as well as working with my mentor.

Monday, August 27, 2012

From the Mother of Abigail Serrano

Hello, I'm Hilda Serrano, Abigail's mother and through this blog I want to thank God for the staff that makes up the ILC, and for giving her the opportunity to participate in one of the most effective programs for the women in mental, physical and spiritual.

Women and Leadership has been a great support to me as a mother because my daughter overcame in many wrong beliefs and also learned to appreciate and see life from another point of view. The importance of preparation for anyone who yearns for a better future is based on their own confidence, faith in one’s self and hard work to reach goals. I believe with all my heart that the one who has the privilege to be part of this program, also will have the power to build his future successfully.

There are no words to express our gratitude that the ILC left to us as parents. Moreover I also take the opportunity to thank all those who contributed with money, time, effort, knowledge, patience and love for each of these young people whom are involved with ILC because without them wouldn't be possible the change that is now reflected in our teens.

Nevertheless, my daughter has in mind the great commitment that means giving or be a part of a social movement, with the responsibility and privilege of transmitting and work hard for others giving testimony of what she learned in this program. As a mother, I have the compromise of cultivate in my daughter the heritage in knowledge, the moral and love that she will leave to the new generations.

Thanks again,
Miguel & Hilda Serrano

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Unbounded Journey of Knowledge

Just when I thought my ILC journey was over, I was proven wrong. I woke up bright and early and headed over for the El Cerrito Plaza Bart station. There, I caught up with my Brown cohorts (Nick, Kelly, Emily, and Ying-An) before heading to the Olympic Club that Mr. Izzy Ramsey volunteered to let us use for our Brown/Yale Mentorship Brunch. 

When Mr. Ramsey sent us an email, telling us about this wonderful opportunity, I was pretty shocked to know that there was even more. It's like, dessert as a main course, and then even more dessert in the end. Ever since I came back from the three week Macroeconomics course at Brown, I've never been the same. I've seen the world differently, changed my perspective of education options, and most important, I realized that opportunities are out there passing by without me even knowing it. If I learned anything from the ILC, it would've been to pursue your opportunities because you never know where it would lead you. And so, with that in mind, I jumped to the chance to pick out my very own Brown/Yale mentor. 

As my first year in the Ivy League Connection, I've tended to see things in a more general sense. Throughout a lot of the college tours, I didn't really lean towards any particular college because as a junior, I felt like it was better for me to explore my options more before deciding something that would change my life forever. With that in mind, I actually decided to take on a Yale mentor. Now don't get me wrong. I absolutely loved my summer life at Brown. I loved the amazing classes that they had to offer, and I definitely loved that amazing campus that I frolicked in for three weeks. But to get a better sense of college life, I've decided to go start off a new point of view with a new school and a new perspective. 

Once we got to the Olympic Club, we took our time to get comfortable and talk to the alumni around. I did, and it was really interesting talking to the alumni again. Mr. Izzy Ramsey was kind enough to tour us around the Olympic Club to help us kill some time. Once brunch was ready, we took our seats, got some food, and chatted. I talked with Tyler Shen, a Yale graduate. Tyler took economics while he was at Yale and he is currently doing one of the most interesting jobs that I've heard about. He told me he started about three weeks ago. He basically gets to choose the next big idea to invest in for the company. We also had a lot of random chats about Facebook stocks which was one of the best parts of our conversation. Other than that, Tyler gave me an amazing perspective of Yale and it gets me pretty excited that I'm taking on a Yale mentor this year. Other than Tyler, I also got to talk to the other Yale mentors, but not as much. Nevertheless, I am so excited for this second part to my journey and I can't wait to take this next big step in my journey. 

Once again, I would just like to thank the Ivy League Connection for this amazing opportunity, and also to Mr. Izzy Ramsey who was such a kind cost to our event. I'm looking forward to this new experience and the many things that I will learn from it. Today was the start of something big and it will definitely show promising results down the road. 

Episode IV: A New Haven

Today I took yet another step in the massive, now 4-part journey that is my experience with the ILC. I found it fitting that this fourth step (and final step in high school, but not even close to my final step with the ILC for the rest of my life) was with Yale, as that is where it originally began. I was fascinated with Yale my sophomore year, and was ecstatic when I was selected for the Grand Strategy course. Unfortunately, I was too young to enroll in the program and ended up going to Cornell instead, and had a wonderful experience there. This summer (as you can probably tell from me posting this on the Brown blog) I had the privilege of attending a course at Brown, again thanks to the ILC. By the end of the course, I started to regret that I wouldn't get to be a part of this amazing program again. So naturally, when Mr. Ramsey and Don sent out an e-mail inviting some ILCers to a brunch at the Olympic Club as part of the Brown and now Yale Mentor program, I jumped at the opportunity. I decided I wanted to be a part of the Yale program, as I believed it was a much better fit for me, and I really just wanted to learn more about the school.

When I woke up this morning, I realized two pretty important things: One, it was my sister's birthday and I had completely forgotten to write in her birthday card even though she'd be opening presents in about two minutes. And two, today I was heading into the first ILC event that I knew next to nothing about. I always had some idea of what to expect at past ILC functions, from dinners with alums to the school board meetings and so on, but I really didn't no what to expect here. Would this become a 3 and a half hour info session on the college application process? Would it just be dozens of alums attempting to convince me to apply to a school I'm already set on applying to? A third possibility never even crossed my mind, as I usually tend to expect the worst of things I know nothing about. Luckily for me, the event ended up being a perfect blend of the two, with a lot of just getting to know people mixed in. 

All the Yale alums I got a chance to speak with were kind, informative, and just as ridiculously intelligent as you'd expect them to be. This made for great conversations throughout the event, but I unfortunately realized at the end of the event that these brilliant people are who Yale expects to find in their sea of applicants, which ended up making Yale even more intimidating of a school than it already was. Aside from this one somewhat sad realization, the brunch was incredible! All these alums were young enough to understand just how competitive the college application process is now, and I was oddly reassured by the fact that, according to Andrew (Yale Class of '11), it's all pretty random. As a student who was accepted at Yale and MIT yet rejected by UC Berkeley, it completely made sense that he would feel that way, and that made me feel much better about the fact that I will get rejected by schools, and that's perfectly fine, I just have to hope my dream schools aren't the ones that reject me. I can't wait to start working closely with all the great people I met, and the I'm already counting down the days until the A's game September 30th where we'll meet up yet again.

An Exciting First Step

Spending three amazing weeks at Brown University really prompted me to start thinking more about college. Before my trip, I hardly knew anything about the admissions process, let alone where I might want to go to school. Now I know more, but I still have a long way to go before I feel confident in applying to a school that actually feels right for me. When Don and Mr. Ramsey sent us an email regarding a college mentor program I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.

After a breakfast meeting with a woman to discuss my action plan, my mom picked me up and we headed down to the Plaza Bart Station. We arrived at 9:40, with plenty of time to converse with people before our 10:00 AM departure. On the ride to The Olympic Club, my mother and I were fortunate enough to drive with Peter, a Dartmouth alumnus, and Karen Shebek, Nick’s mother. Peter, having been a Dartmouth admissions officer, provided really helpful advice regarding the college admissions process. One of his most valuable tips was to finish a draft of your personal statement before you start your senior year. I’ll definitely keep that in mind during my free time next summer.

When we arrived at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, we were given the opportunity to mingle with Brown and Yale graduates. I was able to talk to two sisters, both of whom attended Brown. Izzy Ramsey, who graciously hosted the event, then gave us a tour of the beautiful club. The giant windows with stunning views of the golf course and surrounding San Francisco area really gave the building a unique feel.

Soon it was time to eat and everyone split into his or her respective Brown or Yale group. I was situated next to two Brown alums that both loved the college. I spoke to a woman named Liz who went to El Cerrito High and actually lived in the dorm I stayed at during my time at Brown! It was great to already have a connection.

About mid way through the meal, Mr. Ramsey introduced himself and let others speak about the mentoring program. Hearing about the casual events where students are able to meet with their mentors sounded really great. Being the oldest of my family, it’s hard to know where to start regarding the admissions process. Having someone as a guide will be of great benefit to me.

The brunch today really helped me to gain confidence in my ability to apply to college in a successful way. I was able to meet amazing graduates, all of whom would make a great mentor. I’m looking forward to next few months when I have the opportunity to attend programs related to the mentor program. Getting a head start on college is important and today was the perfect first step. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

From the Mother of Romina Pelaez

My husband and I are thankful for the opportunity that the Ivy League Connection has given to our daughter, Romina, to be a part of its program—this program that sends qualified students to different prestigious universities and colleges to take up a short course over the summer. We were very happy and proud of her when we first learned about the good news that she was accepted to the ILC. The process that she went through to get into the program was challenging—defending her point of view on a not-so-easy topic through essay writing, experiencing the intense panel interview, and applying to the actual college—already gave her the opportunity to learn how it is like in college and in the real world after college.

The fancy dinner at Boulevard a couple of weeks prior to the trip to the East Coast was also a wonderful experience for Romina where she got to meet and interact with other Ivy Leaguers and sponsors. I can only imagine the wonderful events she's attended back east.

We had mixed emotions about it; happy for Romina because it was an opportunity of a lifetime for her, but at the same time sad because of the 3-week separation from each other. It was very hard for us to let her go because that was the first time that Romina would be away from our family for 3 weeks, considering the distance and fear of not being there with her in case she needed us. Nonetheless, her eagerness and enthusiasm to learn things outside of her usual high school environment changed our mind.

Aside from the academic understanding of the Women and Leadership course, her short stay at Brown University has taught her a lot of things: how to mingle with people from different walks of life, how to handle challenging situations in or outside the campus, how to budget her finances, and most especially independence from us. When she returned from Brown, there was some type of energy I saw in her—some type of drive to pursue her dreams and achieve her goals. The overall ILC experience made Romina a mature and better person, a blessing that she will cherish for the rest of her life.

As a parent, it's difficult to see your child slowly separate from you. Letting Romina go miles away from us at her age was not easy, but now it's definitely safe to say that it was all worth it.

-Dinah Pelaez, mom

Monday, August 20, 2012

From the Parents of Molly Radosevich

First of all, our sincere thank you to the Ivy League Connection for providing a fabulous opportunity for our daughter, Molly. Molly attended a summer session at Brown University where she participated in a two week seminar on Women & Leadership. The course work, social interactions, and exposure to east coast culture will be of benefit to her for a long time to come.

Looking back on the experience, the Ivy League Connection is a very generous program. The academic exposure at Brown was excellent. In addition, the opportunity to visit a number of other schools on the east coast including Wellesley, Dartmouth, Brandeis and Harvard was huge. Molly is very interested in music and during her trip she was able to meet with and play for one of the piano instructors at Wellesley. Another door opened.

Also worth noting is that the ILC is not simply generous, it is rigorous. The application process included both written and oral segments which were challenging. Getting through these was not so easy, and the experience will stand all the participants in good stead in the future. The attention required to meet deadlines, timelines, and be on time is a necessary skill that will contribute to success in the future for Molly and her entire cohort.

No review of this summer could be complete without acknowledging the many individuals connected with the ILC that we had the opportunity to meet. What a stellar group of people! It is amazing they can pull this off year in and year out. And in particular we (and Molly) thank Jackie Timmes, Katherine Williams and Ms. Kaplan who watched over the cohort on their trip.

The ILC has opened many doors for Molly, and the connections she has made through the program will undoubtedly make a real difference for her as she navigates the waters ahead. We are grateful she was able to participate in what turned out to be a truly great experience for her.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

From the Parents of Emily Cain

What a Gift
When our daughter, Emily Cain, told us about her interest in applying to the Ivy League Connection, we were in full support.  We knew very little about the program but what we had heard was impressive. She worked diligently on her essays and got herself ready for the interview. When Emily told us that she had been accepted to the Women & Leadership Program at Brown University, we were thrilled at the unique opportunity that we knew awaited her.

The weeks prior to the trip gave us further insights into the program and the hard working individuals that make this program so special.  The informal potluck at ECHS was a great way to meet the other girls going on the trip and the wonderful chaperones. Chaperones, Sewellyn Kaplan, Jackie Timmes and Kat Williams really put everyone at ease with their relaxed presentation and open demeanors. The lovely dinner at Boulevard was a great opportunity to meet and speak with Brown alumni, a few of the sponsors and Charles Ramsey. Attending the School Board meeting and standing for the photo with all the selected students, program leaders and sponsors was an honor.

Before we knew it Emily was driving off in a shuttle at 3:30 AM, with her cohort, heading for the airport. This was the first time that Emily would be away from our family for three weeks; she was totally ready and excited for the days ahead. In the days and weeks that followed we cherished the blogs. The blogs served not only as a terrific skill for the participants but they provided us as parents with a window into the program and the experiences of the participants. Emily was so busy that we rarely spoke on the phone and her text’s mostly read:  “We are soooo busy. I am having a fantastic time…” The Blogs provided the details.

The Ivy League Connection is truly a unique and fabulous opportunity for students of WCCUSD. We would like to extend a special thank you to Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg, and Don Gosney for their tireless efforts and to the sponsors for making it all possible.

Emily Cain’s parents :  Tracy Westphal and John Cain

Thursday, August 9, 2012

From the Parents of Madelaine Pine

When Madelaine first approached us about applying for an Ivy League Connection scholarship, I have to admit, we were skeptical. The course, Women & Leadership at the Brown Leadership Institute, sounded like a natural for her, but we were dubious that this could be a full scholarship, and there was no way we could afford even part of an Ivy League summer program, much less transportation and all the other costs that immediately came to mind. As usual, Maddie had done her research, and presented us with details of the program. We were quickly convinced that this was an impressive opportunity for her.

Soon Maddie was diving into yet more research to write her thoughtful essays. She found out what was appropriate dress for an interview, and practiced answering sample questions slowly and clearly, despite her nerves. It was clear from the start how motivated she was to take advantage of this chance to study and travel on the East Coast this summer. When she was informed that she had earned a spot in the Women & Leadership cohort, she was elated, and so were we.

In the months that followed, Maddie had the opportunity to meet Brown alumni who were gracious and generous with their time and experience. During an elegant dinner at Boulevard, she met two recent graduates who had studied neuroscience, an area in which she is particularly interested. She also had the opportunity to hone her skills at polite dinner conversation and professional demeanor; valuable practice for a normally casual, “laid back” young woman.

The 3 weeks Maddie spent at Brown and touring other universities in the area were some of the most eye-opening weeks of her young life. We spoke or FaceTimed almost daily, and each day I could see her imagination expanding to consider new and different ideas and options for her future. She was exposed to a wide array of people and places. Her roommate was a young woman from Japan who lives in Indonesia. Her classmates were from Manhattan, Southern California, Guatemala—all over the world. Their diverse life experiences and perspectives gave Maddie a glimpse beyond the rather small town of El Cerrito. Her professor and the guests she invited to speak to and work with the cohort were exceptionally knowledgeable and kind.

Upon returning home, Maddie's commitment to implementing her Action Plan, the El Cerrito High School Young Voters' Club, has only grown stronger.  She has been looking up resources and recruiting likely members and co-leaders even as she fine-tunes her newly expanded college applications list. This experience has given her a broader view of what is possible for her future—not just for college, but in her life. She has higher hopes and higher expectations as a result of her involvement in The Ivy League Connection and  we are deeply indebted to Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Mr. Gosney, and the patient and enthusiastic chaperones who all made this wonderful experience possible.

Anne-Marie and Tim Pine

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Trends Among Colleges

Commonalities of Ivy Leagues and Prestigious Schools
While visiting the East Coast with our group of ILCers, I had the opportunity to visit four prestigious colleges, two of which are Ivy League schools. While visiting each campus, we attended information sessions, spoke with current students and faculty, and went on tours. We visited Wellesley, Dartmouth, Brandeis, and Harvard. While listening to the information dispelled throughout the tours and in the information sessions, I began to notice trends or commonalities among the schools. Each is a small institution with intimate class sizes and low student to teacher ratios. Each promises personal care and attention from a nurturing and supportive staff. They all seek out exceptional, passionate, ambitious, caring student leaders. The Ivy Leagues and prestigious schools of the East Coast are looking for extraordinary students who excel in academia, extra-curriculars, and character. They boast of diversity. They all offer popular study abroad programs and a multitude of extracurricular activities, clubs, and athletics in which students are encouraged to participate in an effort to take learning and life beyond the confines of the classroom. They lay claim to exceptional graduate school acceptance rates. Each offer need-based financial aid promised to cover 100% of every student’s need (dependent upon income brackets). They have similar requirements and similar price tags. Not to say that the schools are without differences, for there are many, but I decided to focus on a comparative study of similarities and trends among these four prestigious East Coast schools. The following chart provides general information for each school collected through the information sessions, tours, pamphlets, and websites. 

General School Information
Student Population
Median Course Size
Student: Teacher Ratio
6:1 to 8:1- data varies
Financial Aid
# of Courses Needed to Graduate
Majors, Concentrations, and Programs


I recognized admissions trends between Wellesley, Dartmouth, Brandeis, and Harvard as well. The buzz word this year for applications is a “holistic approach,”meaning that each school will read all pages of each application and view everything as the whole picture rather than focusing on one component more than another. Each of the aforementioned schools is looking for exceptional students who promise academic achievement, strong ties to extracurricular activities, and personal strength of character. There is not one aspect, such as grades, test scores, or the essay, that outweighs the others. The prestigious schools of the East Coast are interested in candidates who are well-rounded individuals. If an applicant struggles in one regard, he or she may still redeem him/herself in another. The following chart details some of the admissions requirements for the four schools we visited.

Admissions Requirements
Common App?
No minimum.Students are expected to demonstrate academic rigor and drive.
No minimum.Students are expected to demonstrate academic rigor and drive.
Around 70-80% of students admitted from 2008-2011 had GPA’s of 3.7-4.0+
No minimum.Students are expected to demonstrate academic rigor and drive.
No minimum.Students are expected to demonstrate academic rigor and drive.
ACT and Writing or SAT and two Subject Tests.
SAT or ACT (Math, English, and Writing) PLUS two SAT Subject Tests
SAT I or ACT with writing
SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT Plus Writing; Two SAT Subject Tests
Mean Score for SAT Math, English, and Writing and/or ACT
SAT: Critical Reading: 692,
Writing: 703, Math: 693
ACT: 30
SAT: Critical Reading: 680-780
Math: 680-780
Writing: 680-790
ACT: 33
SAT: 1950-2150 total score
ACT: 29-33
Average scores are usually in the 600-800 range per test.
The essay asks you to write about who you are, who you will become by attending Wellesley, and what you will add to the  school. You may want to consider that Wellesley is an all-girls school and speak about the benefits of this.  Above all else, be honest and be yourself!
A long essay and two short answer essays are required. Put equal time into all three. Pick an activity that matters most to you. Essays should be personal and about you. Give readers a sense of your humanity.
The essay should be honest, true, and proofread. Who you are is good enough; don’t try to be something or someone you’re not. Brandeis is dedicated to activism and community involvement.
Harvard is looking for students who exhibit passion, academic vitality, extracurricular activities, and strong personal qualities.
Supplemental Materials
Wellesley College Supplement: Why you want to attend Wellesley. It also asks for biographical and contact information as well as your decision plan. Additionally, you may choose to submit an Arts Supplement or Athletics Supplement if applicable.
Supplements: Name and personal info (address, etc.); Peer recommendation;
PLUS supplemental essays/ short answer questions
Brandeis Supplement: Includes a personal statement or essay
Harvard Supplements: Contact information and academic intentions; extracurricular interests, background, & teacher evaluations; supplemental materials, essay, & information for students abroad
Recommended, but not required.
Optional and by alumni invitation only.
Recommended, but not required.
The interview is very important
Letters of Recommendation
Three are required: Two from teachers of academic subjects and one from a guidance counselor
Select someone who knows you well and will say good things about you. Additional letters accepted.
Three are required: Two academic subject teacher recommendations and a counselor recommendation
Two are required: A letter of recommendation from a teacher in a core academic subject and a letter of recommendation from a secondary school official
Two are required: Two academic subject teacher evaluations
Class Rank
Approx. 95% of admitted students were in the top 20% of their graduating high school class
Approx. 95% of admitted students were in the top 10% of their graduating high school class.
More than 75% of admitted students were in the top 10% of their graduating high school class. 93% were in the top 20% of their graduating high school class
Top 10% of graduating high school class
Acceptance Rates


Most schools indicate that there is not a minimum GPA requirement. However, rigor, challenge, and quality of courses taken are assessed. Schools want students who challenge themselves and do the most with the options made available. AP, honors, and advanced courses are recommended. The International Baccalaureate diploma is also respected. Many schools indicate that they would like to see 4 years of mathematics courses, 2+ years of laboratory science courses, 4 years of a foreign language, and significant courses in writing, history, and literature completed successfully in high school. Successful candidates take the most academically challenging and rigorous courses their schools have to offer. It is especially important to keep up your rigor and stamina during the final two years of high school. Leadership, motivation, ambition, extracurricular activities, and passion are additional common assessments considered for admission to college. Each candidate is also assessed in the context of his/her school and district, and the class offerings, experiences, and opportunities available. The good news is that if you do not shine in one area, say you suffer from test anxiety, for instance, and your SAT scores reveal this, you can make up for it in the other sections of the application. You do need to be a standout applicant in the other sections though. 
Many of the schools also look at each candidate’s transcript in relation to their district and what offerings are available. Some districts do not offer AP classes, or offer very few, while others offer many. Admissions officers will assess each district to determine what is normal or average for any given district. They will then strive to select students who are exceptional in terms of the district norm and who possess intellectual curiosity. The admissions teams want applicants who have done their best to make the most with the hands they’ve been dealt. They look for students who take the most challenging courses available at their prospective schools and who really push themselves to be the best and do the most with what they’ve got. Admissions teams are looking for the level of rigor and ambition each candidate exhibits.
Most schools indicate that, like the GPA, there is no cut-off score or golden score for the SAT or ACT. Harvard reported that SAT/ACT scores vary; some students with scores in the 500 range on the SAT are admitted because they excel elsewhere while many students with scores of 800 are not accepted due to limited space or other various factors. Each school does list the median score for last year’s entering freshman class. This score indicates the middle 50 percent, with 25 percent of admitted students scoring above the median and 25 percent scoring below. These median scores can be viewed in the chart above.  Again, the prestigious schools of the East Coast take a holistic approach to their admissions process so there is no formula or guarantee based on scores. One should remember, however, that these are highly competitive, sought after schools looking for exceptional students. Therefore, students should strive to do their very best on the SAT or ACT. Each school also takes the highest score from different sittings. 

The essay is also an important aspect of the application process. Time and time again we were told that students must be honest in the essay. You are enough. If you are not funny, don’t try to be funny. Choose a topic that you are passionate about and that gives the readers a sense of who you are as a person. Your essay should provide information about you that is not provided elsewhere in the application. Dartmouth says that your essay should sound like a conversation on a third date, after the introductions and niceties have been accomplished, and the conversation becomes more meaningful and real. The essay should be simple; it is the message that matters. It is true that the schools we visited are looking for exceptional students, but above all else they are looking for honest students who are able to write well and give accurate self-portrayals. You may want to research the school you are applying to in order to present your best qualities in alignment with the school’s vision and mission. For example, Wellesley is an all-girls college, so applicants may want to speak about the effectiveness of single-sex classrooms. Brandeis has a tradition of activism and scholarship. Therefore, if you are an activist, you may want to highlight this when applying to Brandeis. Know your audience.
Most schools ask for supplemental materials in addition to the common app. The supplemental materials often ask for biographical information as well as learning and college objectives. There are often additional short answer questions as well, such as: “Why do you want to attend said school?” or “What attributes will you bring to our diverse learning environment?” Some schools also allow art or athletic supplements. Such supplements should only be submitted by prospective students who excel in the given field and who would like to pursue the arts or athletics while attending college.
Interviews are not required at all schools, but they may be a good idea if not too cumbersome for the admissions officers and alumnae to conduct. Essays, transcripts, resumes, and application materials can only provide the readers with so much. A personal interview gives students the opportunity to express themselves in person. It allows the applicant to become more than just a name on a paper and more than the sum of the application. An interview may be an especially good idea for sociable, charismatic students who shine in personal interview scenarios.
Letters of recommendation are required for all of the schools we visited. The letters must come from core academic classes taught by teachers you have had. The teacher writing your recommendation should, ideally, know you well. The teacher also needs to be able to write about you in a positive manner; several admissions officers I spoke with mentioned reading letters of recommendation from teachers who clearly did not get along well with or have anything nice to say about the student under consideration.  It is best if you are able to find teachers who like you and can speak of you in the best possible light.  This is why it is important to pay attention, be courteous, and be well-behaved during class!  Many schools also ask for letters from guidance counselors or other secondary school personnel.  Get to know your teachers and administrators well and try to make a positive impression, so when the time comes, they will be able to write glowing and personal letters of recommendation for you.