The prompt of Stanford's "intellectual vitality" essay is as follows: This is one of the most notoriously difficult essays to write -- of all elite schools.
No doubt the admission officers use this essay to quickly toss out most applicants.
I have uncomfortably seen some of the truly amazing kids -- valedictorians with a perfect 2400 on the SAT, a 4.0 unweighted GPA with strong curriculum rigor, lots of extracurricular activities, and honors and awards -- get flatly rejected by Stanford or a top Ivy. I have had the good fortune of learning many of the secrets to success by counseling hundreds of students who have been admitted to the Ivy League institutions (i.e.
Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Penn, Brown, Cornell, and Dartmouth), Stanford, MIT, Caltech, UChicago, Duke, Northwestern, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Johns Hopkins, Washington U in St.
In advising these students and their parents, I always encourage the kids to aim high and do something that will not only make them stand out, but more importantly, will genuinely fill them with pride.
"Dude, I think you'll make a great tech CEO," I advise Chris. I want to make it as an environmental engineer." I continue: "Your passion in alternative energy stuff is quite clear.I've found that a consistent pattern among my former students who now attend Stanford or an Ivy League school is that they have exhibited sound study habits, including good time management skills, and have gone deep within and built on one or two (in rare cases, three) sustained, genuine causes or interests (some would call these "passions") through the bulk of their high school years.They have learned to express themselves effectively and write cogent college app essays.Also a quirky political junkie, Chris went on to boldly write "CEO of an alternative energy company" as his longer-term career interest on his Stanford application.A Stanford freshman today, he has vibrantly begun to make a difference on and off "The Farm," as the Stanford campus is customarily known. His academics were in Stanford's ballpark: loaded up on lots of APs and honors courses, above 4.0 weighted GPA, a score of 2260 on the SAT Reasoning Test, and reasonably strong SAT Subject Test scores.The problem is that from the perspective of an elite school, booksmart high achievers with lots of extracurricular activities are a dime a dozen.Stanford and the Ivies, unfortunately, can only accept a tiny fraction of their highly qualified applicants.Many in the Bay Area view Stanford as an elite school that is even more coveted than the widely perceived King Kong of universities, Harvard. Harvard and Columbia "shone" with even lower admit rates of 6.2% and 6.9%, respectively.Last season, the freshman admit rate at Stanford dropped to an all-time low of 7.1%, the third lowest admit rate among all U. Stanford's Office of Undergraduate Admission has tackled the uneasy job of rejecting 93% of the high-achieving souls who pursued their dreams and applied to the coveted school.My colleagues and I at an independent in-center and online upper-tier college prep and counseling service provider already sense that the current 2011-12 college app season will brutally set another low water mark in admit rates, largely because more applicants will come their way while the number of matriculants will stay steady (partly because of housing constraints).I believe strongly in bridging the gap between what's available at high schools and what's truly required to match the level of competitiveness for admission to elite universities.