Parents with children of all ages, including, sadly, infants, regularly ask me about Ivy League admission.  

As an alumni interviewer for an Ivy League school as well as an educational consultant who regularly speaks to college admissions experts, I carefully track what schools desire from applicants.  

Elite colleges seek students who take the hardest classes their schools offer, earn superb marks, get top scores on standardized tests, are well liked by teachers, interview well, and show demonstrated and remarkable achievement in their areas of passion.

Unfortunately, the bar for admissions to Ivy League schools gets higher every year.  In 2015, Harvard’s acceptance rate dips to record low:  5.3% of an exceptionally qualified pool.  

Other Ivy League and equivalent schools posted similar numbers.  Many very bright students were disappointed by a process that may seem arbitrary and unfair.

As a parent, you want to enjoy parenthood.  Spending your child’s early years worrying about Ivy League gatekeepers can be a real killjoy.

Fortunately, we live in a society where graduates of all kinds of colleges can be highly successful.  In fact, research indicates that going to a less prestigious college may increase your chances of graduating with a highly sought-after and marketable science, technology, engineering, or math degree.   This is because when you’re not surrounded by the best of the best who seemingly ace every course, you have more patience with your own learning curve approaching a new and difficult subject.

Ultimately, our goal is for our children to be happy, academically successful, and prepared to have an impactful, rewarding, and meaningful career.  Happily this can happen at many colleges, both in and out of the Ivy League.

Frank Bruni and Malcolm Gladwell explore these points in their insightful books: