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Planning to study in top US universities? Here are the secrets to increase your chances of admission

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Nov 28, 2022 2:02 pm

While most Filipinos would aim to be admitted in the top colleges in the Philippines, others would reach for even higher and brighter stars by applying in prestigious universities in the US such as Harvard, Princeton, or Yale.

However, getting admitted into these distinguished schools is not a course for the faint-hearted. Those that are a part of the Ivy League are known for their highly selective admissions processes and low acceptance rates of only 3.9 percent to 8.7 percent.

In a webinar organized by global admissions consultant Crimson Education, PhilSTAR L!fe got to know some of the secrets on how to increase your chances of getting into these schools from former senior admissions officer Devery Doran.

Here are some insider knowledge that you need to keep in mind to move the needle in your direction:

Be well-lopsided or well-rounded in extracurricular activities

While extracurricular activities may just be considered, well, extra, here in the Philippines, these serve as a very important ticket into getting yourself accepted into the big leagues.

According to Doran, admission officers often look for students who have done meaningful and significant extracurricular activities in the past years. This is because they want to see what you've done outside of the classroom and how you have had an impact within your community. They want to make sure that you contribute to their campus life.

"When you're trying to figure out, 'What do I do for my extracurriculars when I get into high school?', I think it's important for you to start early. It's a good idea to do things that you care about, instead of doing things that you think you should be doing," Doran said.

She shared that you can go about this in two ways: you can either focus on one extracurricular activity but have attained national or international recognitions, or you can do a handful of activities but have taken them all to the next level by making a significant impact in them.

This is so you can appear more competitive and compelling when you apply to these highly selective schools. 

Apply more and apply early

The importance of submitting applications to more than just one college was also highlighted in the webinar. This doesn't mean that you have to apply to 50 colleges or anything like that, but you also have to consider a few more schools than what you're expecting.

Doran advised that it's best if you don't just apply to the same university as your classmates are eyeing as you will be directly compared against them.

"Colleges are always looking at the context of where you come from. They want to understand your school, your curriculum, your culture, all of that, [b]ut when they're looking at your application, they are going to be looking at your classmates who are applying along with you and possibly your countrymates," Doran explained.

"If the majority of students are applying to the same five schools, then you are constantly going to be compared against the same people. So you do actually want to expand your list of schools [and not just apply to the top-ranked schools or the Ivys only]," she added.

You also have to explore more about which schools are competitive for you and you believe are going to give you an advantage when getting a career.

Demonstrate introspection in your essays

In case you don't know what that means, introspection is an examination of your own thoughts and feelings.

This is important as these prestigious schools require you to submit college essays not for the sake of showing how smart you are or how extensive your vocabulary is, but rather, to give the admissions officer new information that's not covered in the application.

These essays focus on how much you've changed or grown in the previous years. They are asked by schools because they want to get to envision you as a person and help them imagine you on their campus.

Doran advised that to write a good personal statement, you need to cite some concrete examples of your lived experiences. Simply put, you need to show and not tell.

"If you're saying that 'I really want the admissions officer to know that I'm a good friend and that I'm deeply empathetic, then you're going to fill in the essay with examples of why you are those things," Doran said.

"There are lots of things to write about, but really, it's what's going to add more information and what's going to help me get to know you," she added.

Prepare for interviews, but keep it casual

At first glance, interviews always seem intimidating for people since they never really know what's going to be asked of them and how they should properly and flawlessly respond to the questions.

But Doran emphasized that these 30 to 45-minute interviews aren't going to expect presentation-level answers from you as they're only going to be casual and straightforward.

However, she emphasized that the interviewer will absolutely ask why you chose to apply to their university so it's crucial that you have to be really specific on your reason and demonstrate to them that you have been thoughtful about this.