Crafting Your Best Application: Tips from a Harvard/MIT Alum

In College Admissions by Peter PengLeave a Comment

Today’s insight comes from a very special place dear to me heart…Cambridge, Massachusetts! And I’m not saying just that because it’s home to Harvard. I mean…*cough cough* c’mon, there’s a reason I still wear this shirt to this day, right??!

Harvard. Because not everyone can get into Brown.

Harvard. Because not everyone can get into Brown.

Just kidding. The only piece of Brown apparel I’ve ever bought was an umbrella because it was raining hard, and I was trying to be a gentleman to the girl I was bringing to the Senior Gala. Well, that and the $125 they charged me for a piece of the actual mailbox I used while I was still attending school. What can I say? I’m sentimental. They literally ripped out the old mailboxes and sold it to the alumni before upgrading to some more modern mailing system.

And can you believe Brown was still using paper course registration for the first year or two I was there? Then they needed to pay a $1 million (or something ridiculous) consulting fee to determine that yes, it was worth going digital for class registration lol. Geez, get with the times, Brown!

But all joking aside, truly, you’re in for a real treat today.

Allow me to introduce Jessica Yeager, founder of Impress the Ivies. She hails from Harvard (undergrad) and MIT (grad). She also had Yale, Stanford, Columbia, and Cornell flinging their arms open for her, so listen up to her sage words!

Alright, take it away, Jessica…

Your Best Application

Jessica Yeager

Check out those cool ceiling lights.

by Jessica Yeager

I was on College Confidential (which I love to peruse) when I came across a thread that broke my heart. “I worked SO hard in high school and I had big goals for my future, but I have been rejected by so many places and I do not know what I did.” Isn’t this everyone’s worst fear? That all that effort will be for nothing. Now no one can promise to get you into Harvard, but I want to share with you my tips to creating a truly impressive application that tells your story so that hard work isn’t wasted.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Schools Want Well-Rounded Student Bodies NOT Well-Rounded Students!!

I’m not sure exactly where this myth of the well-rounded student came from, but I see so many students running themselves ragged doing a million activities in an attempt to be “well-rounded.” They don’t really go deep in any of them, though. This isn’t going to impress anyone. Schools, especially selective schools, are looking for depth over breadth, quality over quantity. Your activities should tell your story.

So how do you achieve this? Pick something you really love, enjoy, and are good at. Maybe it’s math, maybe it’s journalism, maybe it’s social justice. That’s your base. The rest of your application should build on that base. If your base is STEM, your entire application should reflect that. Join the STEM clubs at school, compete at regional and national competitions (and win!), start a coding club at your school or in your city, organize a hackathon or science fair for a low income middle school in your area, start a math tutoring company, start a blog about being a girl who loves math. You can see there are a million ways to tell your story around your base. Think outside the box. You want your application to tell your unique and memorable story. Don’t forget that!

The key to building on your base and creating a truly impressive application is starting early. Ideally, that means finding your base Freshman year and planning your activities starting then. If you can do this, awesome. You’re ahead of the game and have plenty of time to craft your story. Maybe, though, you’re a junior. You can still use this advice! Starting your applications early is critical to making them as good as they possibly can be. One of my favorite tips for this is to ask for teacher recs at the end of your junior year. Your teachers won’t be overwhelmed by a million requests, and you will be really fresh in their minds. You can also start your essays during the summer, giving you plenty of time for editing. The most important thing is not to feel rushed to submit your applications. That’s when mistakes and sloppiness can sneak in.

So, what’s your base? Leave a comment with your base and one outside the box activity you’re pursuing related to it.


Jessica Yeager is a college coach and tutor for high-achieving students and their parents. Click to get her exclusive GPA Boot Camp and 4-Step Base Brainstorming Workbook – free for Young Prodigy readers.

Leave a Reply