Ivy League admissions

College Coach Survey Discovers Key Commonalities in Ivy League Admissions Success

April 1, 2016—College Coach’s annual survey of high school students turned up some surprising common themes in students accepted to Ivy League institutions. Perhaps the most surprising was that students living next door to Harvard and Princeton graduates were the most likely to have success at all eight of the Ivy institutions, with their applications accepted at more than six times the average rate.

Other similarities amongst applicants accepted to Ivy League institutions:

  • Students who played the triangle in their high school orchestra were accepted at five times the average rate
  • Those participating in competitive lawn dart teams (popular in the South and mid-Atlantic states) were 25 percent more likely to be admitted than students playing more common sports
  • Writing essays about shoveling snow, practicing good skin care, or favorite candy choices resulted in acceptance rates 15 percentage points higher than average
  • Interestingly, only five percent of accepted applicants wrote about having a mother who returned to college to complete her degree more than 20 years after graduating from high school, despite being one of the most popular topics in previous years.

“We have always suspected that having a neighbor who attended Harvard or Princeton positively affected admission to all of the Ivies, so it was great to see this corroborated by the survey results. It’s just one of those random things,” stated College Coach spokesperson, Elizabeth Heaton.

Takeaways for families and students looking to increase their chances of acceptance at the Ivies? Start spending summers perfecting your lawn dart game, make some early decisions about whether Twix, Snickers, or Mars is the best candy bar, and be sure to check out your neighbors’ alma maters before buying a new home.

One student, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “When we moved last year, we had our pick of Ivy League grad neighbors. I really wished we’d gone with the guy and his wife who both attended Princeton. Maybe I would have gotten into Cornell.”

College Coach emailed more than 200,000 students across the country who graduated in 2015 or 2016, asking them a series of questions about their personal habits, activities, and circumstances, and the topics of their college essays. Final results were tabulated in the wee hours of April 1, 2016, as the Ivy League schools, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania, released their decisions to the class of 2019.

The primary takeaway from the survey results is… APRIL FOOL’S!

The truth is, no such survey exists. There’s no magic formula to getting into college, but there are some key ways to try and stand out.

On our radio show, Getting In: A College Coach Conversation, we ran two segments on this very topic. For tips on Ivy League admissions success, listen to this episode: Ivy League Admissions: How to Stand Out.

Written by Elizabeth Heaton
Elizabeth Heaton is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Before coming to College Coach, Beth worked as a senior admissions officer at University of Pennsylvania and an alumni admissions ambassador at Cornell University.