How to Write a Strong Essay for Ivy League Schools


Kate Sliunkova

AdmitYogi, Stanford MBA & MA in Education



13 min read

How to Write a Strong Essay for Ivy League Schools


When it comes to Ivy League admissions, the stakes are high. These schools receive thousands of applications each year, and only a small percentage of applicants are accepted. That's why it's crucial to understand what admissions officers are looking for in an essay.One of the most important things to keep in mind is authenticity. Admissions officers want to see the real you in your essay. They want to know what makes you tick, what motivates you, and what you're passionate about. Don't try to be someone you're not or write what you think they want to hear. Instead, be honest and genuine in your writing.Personality is also key. Admissions officers want to see your personality shine through in your essay. This means that you should write in your own voice and showcase your unique perspective. Don't be afraid to be a little quirky or unconventional if that's who you are. Remember, the goal is to stand out from the crowd.In addition to authenticity and personality, strong writing skills are a must. Admissions officers expect essays to be well-written, free of grammatical errors, and easy to read. This means that you should take the time to revise and edit your essay carefully. It's also a good idea to have someone else read your essay to catch any mistakes you may have missed.Finally, it's important to show how you would contribute to the school's community. Admissions officers want to see that you have a sense of purpose and that you're committed to making a difference. This could mean discussing your extracurricular activities, volunteer work, or leadership experience. Whatever it is, make sure it's clear how you would add value to the school.In summary, writing a successful Ivy League essay requires authenticity, personality, strong writing skills, and a clear sense of purpose. By keeping these things in mind, you'll be well on your way to crafting an essay that stands out from the rest.## Part 1: Introduction to Crafting a Winning College Essay

The first step in writing a compelling essay is starting with a strong introduction. Everything that follows in the essay should be a natural result of the introduction. The introduction sets the tone for the rest of the essay and gives the reader an idea of what to expect. Always make sure that the introduction is creative, engaging, and relevant to your essay's topic.

One way to ensure that your introduction is engaging is to start with a thought-provoking question. For example, if you're writing an essay about the impact of social media on society, you might start with a question like "Have you ever stopped to consider how much time you spend scrolling through your social media feeds each day?" This immediately draws the reader in and encourages them to think about the topic in a new way.

Another effective strategy is to start with a personal anecdote. If you're writing about a difficult experience you've had, you might start with a story about how you overcame that challenge. This helps the reader to connect with you on a personal level and sets the stage for the rest of the essay.

It's also important to make sure that your introduction is relevant to the topic of your essay. Don't start with a long-winded story that has nothing to do with your thesis statement. Instead, focus on a specific aspect of your topic that you want to explore further in your essay.

Finally, remember that your introduction is just the beginning. It's important to keep your reader engaged throughout the entire essay. Make sure that each paragraph builds on the one before it and that your conclusion ties everything together in a meaningful way.

Unveiling the Secrets to Getting into America's Most Selective Colleges

When it comes to getting into America's most selective colleges, you need to know what ticks the admission's box. Demonstrable academic credentials and outstanding extracurricular activities can only get you so far, but showcasing your potential is a sure-fire way to crack the code. Identifying what makes you unique and linking it to the school community will capture the attention of admissions officers. Showcase your potential by reflecting on past experiences and projecting your future goals.

One way to showcase your potential is by highlighting your leadership skills. Admissions officers want to see that you have the ability to take charge and make a difference in your community. This could be through leading a school club, organizing a community service project, or even taking on a leadership role in your part-time job.

Another important aspect of getting into America's most selective colleges is demonstrating a passion for learning. Admissions officers want to see that you are not just going through the motions of high school, but that you are truly invested in your education. This could be through taking challenging courses, participating in academic competitions, or even conducting independent research.

It's also important to showcase your character and values. Admissions officers want to see that you are a well-rounded individual with a strong moral compass. This could be through volunteering in your community, participating in a religious organization, or even just being a supportive friend and family member.

In addition to showcasing your potential, it's important to do your research on the colleges you are applying to. Admissions officers want to see that you have a genuine interest in their school and that you have taken the time to learn about their values and mission. This could be through attending college fairs, visiting campus, or even reaching out to current students or alumni.

Ultimately, getting into America's most selective colleges requires a combination of hard work, dedication, and strategic thinking. By showcasing your potential, highlighting your leadership skills, demonstrating a passion for learning, showcasing your character and values, and doing your research on the colleges you are applying to, you can increase your chances of getting accepted into your dream school.

Part 2: Deconstructing the Costco Essay: What Made it Stand Out

In 2016, a high school senior wrote an essay that went viral after being accepted into multiple Ivy League schools. The essay's subject? The writer's experience working at a local Costco. Before we analyze what made this essay stand out, read through the essay for yourself:

*Prompt 1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Managing to break free from my mother’s grasp, I charged. With arms flailing and chubby legs fluttering beneath me, I was the ferocious two­ year old rampaging through Costco on a Saturday morning. My mother’s eyes widened in horror as I jettisoned my churro; the cinnamon­sugar rocket gracefully sliced its way through the air while I continued my spree. I sprinted through the aisles, looking up in awe at the massive bulk products that towered over me. Overcome with wonder, I wanted to touch and taste, to stick my head into industrial­sized freezers, to explore every crevice. I was a conquistador, but rather than searching the land for El Dorado, I scoured aisles for free samples. Before inevitably being whisked away into a shopping cart, I scaled a mountain of plush toys and surveyed the expanse that lay before me: the kingdom of Costco.

Notorious for its oversized portions and dollar­fifty hot dog combo, Costco is the apex of consumerism. From the days spent being toted around in a shopping cart to when I was finally tall enough to reach lofty sample trays, Costco has endured a steady presence throughout my life. As a veteran Costco shopper, I navigate the aisles of foodstuffs, thrusting the majority of my weight upon a generously filled shopping cart whose enormity juxtaposes my small frame. Over time, I’ve developed a habit of observing fellow patrons tote their carts piled with frozen burritos, cheese puffs, tubs of ice cream, and weight­loss supplements. Perusing the aisles gave me time to ponder. Who needs three pounds of sour cream? Was cultured yogurt any more well­mannered than its uncultured counterpart? Costco gave birth to my unfettered curiosity.

While enjoying an obligatory hot dog, I did not find myself thinking about the ‘all beef’ goodness that Costco boasted. I instead considered finitudes and infinitudes, unimagined uses for tubs of sour cream, the projectile motion of said tub when launched from an eighty foot shelf or maybe when pushed from a speedy cart by a scrawny seventeen year old. I contemplated the philosophical: If there exists a thirty­three ounce jar of Nutella, do we really have free will? I experienced a harsh physics lesson while observing a shopper who had no evident familiarity of inertia's workings. With a cart filled to overflowing, she made her way towards the sloped exit, continuing to push and push while steadily losing control until the cart escaped her and went crashing into a concrete column, 52” plasma screen TV and all. Purchasing the yuletide hickory smoked ham inevitably led to a conversation between my father and me about Andrew Jackson’s controversiality. There was no questioning Old Hickory’s dedication; he was steadfast in his beliefs and pursuits – qualities I am compelled to admire, yet his morals were crooked. We both found the ham to be more likeable–and tender.

I adopted my exploratory skills, fine tuned by Costco, towards my intellectual endeavors. Just as I sampled buffalo­chicken dip or chocolate truffles, I probed the realms of history, dance and biology, all in pursuit of the ideal cart–one overflowing with theoretical situations and notions both silly and serious. I sampled calculus, cross­country running, scientific research, all of which are now household favorites. With cart in hand, I do what scares me; I absorb the warehouse that is the world. Whether it be through attempting aerial yoga, learning how to chart blackbody radiation using astronomical software, or dancing in front of hundreds of people, I am compelled to try any activity that interests me in the slightest.

My intense desire to know, to explore beyond the bounds of rational thought; this is what defines me. Costco fuels my insatiability and cultivates curiosity within me at a cellular level. Encoded to immerse myself in the unknown, I find it difficult to complacently accept the “what”; I want to hunt for the “whys” and dissect the “hows”. In essence, I subsist on discovery.*

Breaking Down the Topic Choice

The writer chose a unique topic that wasn't typically written about in college essays. Costco isn't a glamorous or exotic location, but it's a place that's familiar to most people. Writing about an everyday location can provide insight into the writer's personality and perspective.

Analyzing the Underlying Theme

The essay's underlying theme was the writer's pride in their work and character. The essay showcased their values, their relationship with coworkers and customers, and how Costco's culture exemplifies the writer's core values. This personal connection to their work helped to demonstrate the writer's character and why they would be a valuable asset to the college community.

Examining the Quality of Writing

The essay's quality was exceptionally high. The writer used literary devices, had a strong command of the English language, and demonstrated a sophisticated writing style. Their prose was engaging, conversational, and rhymed, making it easy to read and understand.

Decoding the Tone

The writer's tone was genuine and showed a clear passion for the topic. They wrote in a way that makes the reader feel connected to the writer and the experiences they were describing. The tone was humorous, descriptive, and conveyed their personality.

Part 3: Crafting Your Own Unique Essay

The secret to writing a standout essay is to choose a topic that sets you apart from other applicants. To do this, choose a topic that you are passionate about, that showcases your unique qualities and demonstrates how you will be a valuable asset to the school's community.

Choosing a Topic That Sets You Apart

Choosing the right topic is one of the most important steps in crafting a winning essay. To do this, reflect on your past experiences, interests, and values, and use those to inform your topic choice. Make sure your topic is unique, memorable, and that it speaks directly to the admissions committee.

Linking Your Topic to Your Personal Qualities

Your essay should also demonstrate the personal qualities and core values that make you unique. Use anecdotes, stories, and life experiences to show how your character embodies those qualities. Don't shy away from being vulnerable and honest- it'll make your essay stand out and show admissions officers the real you.

Mastering the Art of Exceptional Writing

There's no substitute for good writing. Mastering the art of exceptional writing is one of the best things you can do to improve your chances of getting into an Ivy League school. Your essay must be grammatically perfect and free of errors. Make sure the wording is clear, concise, and does not use jargon or overly technical language. Your essay should flow well, be organized and have excellent sentence structure.

Writing in Your Own Voice

Be yourself! Use the tone and quality of writing that reflects your personality and values. One of the worst things you can do in your essay is to try and be someone else. Authenticity is highly valued in the admissions process. Always remember, there's no one else quite like you, so let your voice shine through!

Part 4: Why the Costco Essay May Not Be the Best Model

The Costco essay was widely successful, but it may not be the best model for everyone. Your essay must be unique to you, so it's essential to choose a topic and style that reflect your values, experiences, and personal character. Make sure to keep your ideas fresh and not force yourself to follow what worked for someone else.

Final Thoughts: Tips and Tricks for Crafting a Stand-Out Essay

Crafting a winning essay can seem like a daunting task, but with preparation and the right techniques, you can make your essay stand out. Always make sure to start with a strong opening and make sure that your essay showcases your unique personal qualities and strengths. Use descriptive language and be comfortable with being yourself. Lastly, always make sure to proofread your essay for errors, typos, and grammar mistakes.

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Yale (+17 colleges)

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Yale (+7 colleges)

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Jaden Botros

Stanford (+22 colleges)

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