Class Of 2028: Applications Up, Acceptance Rates Down

An Inside Look at the Ivy League Admissions Process

Getting into an Ivy League school isn’t easy. Acceptance rates for each of the eight institutions are all in the single digits.

But there are tactics to help increase your chances. Yale student Brian Zhang recently gained access to his Yale admissions file, shedding light on the evaluation process. In a conversation with Business Insider, Zhang shared his discoveries and discussed what truly contributed to his acceptance letter. 


According to Zhang, each aspect of the application is rated out of nine points.

“My readers gave me a six for my extracurriculars and for my first teacher recommendation,” Zhang says. “They gave me a seven for my second teacher recommendation and my counselor’s recommendation. I received an ‘outstanding’ for my interview and a 2++ for my overall rating. The overall rating is given on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 being the highest, and pluses were a good sign.”

Reading the numbers, Zhang says, felt cold, formulaic, and transactional.

“It felt strange to be reduced to a system of numbers, knowing that something as qualitative as extracurricular activities could still be broken down and scored,” he recalls.


What did bring Zhang comfort, however, was reading the comments left by admissions officers on his admissions essay. One admission officer even said they teared up reading Zhang’s essay about his family’s financial struggles.

“All the memories of writing that essay came flooding back,” Zhang recalls. “I remembered how difficult it was to start it. I knew there was no easy way for someone to understand me without first knowing my background. I wanted to prove that I deserved a seat at the table where legacy students and the wealthy continue to outnumber their first-generation, low-income peers like myself.”


Applying to an Ivy League can be daunting. For someone like Zhang, a first-generation low-income student, the process of applying to such as school may seem impossible.

“Coming from an underserved household where no one had gone to college, I had always looked at the Ivy League application process skeptically,” Zhang says. “Without the resources to enroll in SAT test prep and the financial safety net to pursue unpaid leadership positions and resume-boosting activities at school, I had doubted the ‘holistic’ admissions process many colleges boast.”

But, Zhang says, reading admissions officers’ comments gave him hope that the admissions committee really did take into consideration his circumstances and background.

“I might never know exactly what happened in that reading room,” Zhang says. “Still, a couple of lessons ring true, based on my own viewing experience and my conversations with others who had done the same: Good character and potential are the key; I didn’t need to be perfect.”

Sources: Business Insider, Ivy Coach

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