The Mental Misadventures of Applying to an Ivy League School

Not only are Ivy League schools private, they’re also prestigious; if one applied to all eight schools, there’d only be a 10% chance of getting accepted into just one of them. From Harvard to Cornell, each school boasts a level of prestige and value that transcends the typical United States education.

91% of American children go to a public school. With this in mind, it’s safe to say that most students are not being prepared to even apply to the Ivy League, much less attend one. Yet, as if playing some twisted joke on myself, I have decided to apply Early Decision to Columbia University.

When asking others what they see when they think of the typical Ivy League student, a multitude of answers will arise, answers that slowly begin to melt into one stereotype. Smart, of course—but smarter than just smart. They must be Valedictorian-level smart. Dignified, reserved, too shrewd and dedicated to their studies to focus on the menial acts of being a social teenager. White and rich, considering a good portion of admits are “legacy” students, and half of those students’ parents “bought” their way into the institute—such as Jared Kushner’s admission into Harvard University. Asian, of course, because their academic rigor precedes them, even though it’s proven to be harder for Asian-Americans to get into the top Ivy League schools.

I will relent that I’m smart, even though my over-performing classmates sometimes make me feel less than. I’m taking the hardest classes offered at my high school, but that’s barely a prerequisite when considering the Ivy League. Also, while my Evidence-Based Reading and Writing SAT score was at the 99th percentile, my Math score is crippling. I’m not White, I’m definitely not rich, and my goal-oriented personality focuses more on creativity and literature than it does math and science. On one hand, I do believe that I can withstand any amount of rigor thrown at me, especially having to deal with my school’s hastily-made IB Program. On the other hand, a classmate would probably quirk a brow at hearing my aspirations of being apart of the Ivy League.

These conflicting thoughts flow throughout my brain, day-in and day-out. Even before hitting submit on my application, I stressed over every single detail, over every single attribute of myself. I lamented over not doing this, over not being apart of that—over everything about myself and my academic record that wasn’t perfect. Yet, my complete and utter adoration for Columbia University did not waver and instead intensified with each passing day.

More than anything in this world, I want to attend that school. I’ve spent hours and hours of research, of reviewing past and present students’ testimonies, of scouring YouTube for any glimpse of the New York institute. I’ve even stooped so low as to start reading the articles posted on the Columbia Daily Spectator, their weekly student newspaper.

It’s safe to say that I’m obsessed—and this is where the confliction comes in, because becoming obsessed with a school that has a 6% acceptance rate is the epitome of foolish. Statistically speaking, I will end up very heartbroken when December 15th finally rolls around. With these facts in the air, I have to continuously convince myself that statistics don’t mean anything, that the holistic review will save me, that my pure adoration of the school will be the final factor of me getting in. With this skewed cognition, it’s easier for me to get through this final month of waiting, because I’d otherwise drive myself very crazy.

Lastly, I want to impart a tip to the soon-to-be seniors, who may find themselves feeling the exact same way as I am now. If you are thinking of applying to the sacred Ivy League, do not tell everyone. A lot of my anxiety comes from the fact that everyone knows about my conviction for Columbia University, from my peers to my bosses to my mother’s co-workers. Everyone is waiting—waiting on me to succeed or to fail. As one could imagine, their expectations are now resting on my shoulders. The fall of a rejection would hurt enough, but their added weight would absolutely crush me.

Now, above all, I have to succeed, because everyone’s eyes are on me.



  1. I feel like I was in your same shoes just a year ago! Honestly, reading this was like reading a diary entry from senior-year-me right down to the anxiety about everyone knowing I applied ED! And now I’m sitting in my dorm in John Jay Hall, here at Columbia! I wish you the best! From one student of color to another, you got this!

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