The application season never gives you breathing space; whether it’s the UC on November 30 or the RD after that, it’s something to prepare for. Compared to the careful selection during the ED, students in the RD stage can undoubtedly choose and apply to more schools. If the essays are well-written, many students may apply to top-tier schools.
In addition to rankings and reputation, what aspects should you evaluate to determine which schools are most suitable for you when applying to multiple top American universities?
In fact, in the university admissions office, especially at top-tier schools, admissions officers also face the same problem: among so many outstanding and almost perfect applicants, how to select the students who are most suitable for the school to ensure that the composition of the new intake reflects and embodies the school’s values and characteristics?
The relationship between students and schools during application season is a two-way choice. To optimize the application results, it is necessary to correctly position yourself and understand the types of students that each American university needs(quotes from usms).
Today, we will share the admission preferences analysis of 7 American universities summarized from previous application seasons.
Harvard places exceptionally high importance on SAT scores, and international students with SAT scores below 1540 are generally only accepted if they have very impressive competition awards or strong recommendations. After all, Harvard is at the world’s top level, and it would instead give up some of the most potentially talented students to ensure the overall quality of the student body.
Of course, SAT scores are just the foundation; you must also have international or nationally recognized awards to be competitive.
In addition, the submitted essays must be of very high quality, reflecting the student’s mature thinking and artistic qualities.
In summary, Harvard prefers to admit two types of international students:
Students who are highly unique in a particular field (which should be reflected in essays, recommendation letters, and awards) or the most outstanding person in a field.
Students with exceptional intelligence (perfect SAT scores or GPA of 4.0). Star students typically have high-quality awards in many fields, strong recommendation letters, and essays that demonstrate thoughtful reflection.
The principle to challenge Harvard is: With significant awards and close-to-perfect SAT scores, it’s almost possible to get admitted!
Additionally, Harvard’s interview is crucial, serving as the gateway for international students, and should be taken seriously.
Yale also values SAT scores and admitted students at Yale generally have SAT scores of 1550 or above, along with prestigious awards. Of course, Yale also provides opportunities for slightly more ordinary students each year. Their essays often focus on reflections on life or society or vividly portray a small event.
Yale prefers to admit socially oriented young leaders and students with a philanthropic spirit. If you feel you can fit into Yale, you must reflect on what you can do in your essays.
In short, if you lack thoughts, ideas, or leadership, you might be accepted at Harvard (which has many stereotyped students), but peculiar individuals won’t find a home at Yale. It is also why Yale has produced so many presidents. Harvard ≈ Yale + MIT.
Princeton is widely considered the most accessible among the HYP trio. It gives interview opportunities to at least 98% of applicants through phone interviews. Princeton is less SAT- or award-focused (somewhat) but has a slightly higher TOEFL requirement. Princeton’s official standard for students to have “no disadvantage in language” is a TOEFL score of 115 or above(sources from usms.ac.ma).
Princeton favors students who are not dazzling stars in various situations but are down-to-earth, humble, academically rigorous, kind, and responsible. After all, the atmosphere in the Princeton area is quiet.
Notably, Princeton highly values science students among international students, especially those in physics and mathematics. If international students want to challenge Princeton, remember to make your essays touching and straightforward.
Stanford’s overwhelming geographical advantage attracts many outstanding students from California. California is a sunny, innovative, and open place, which are some of Stanford’s characteristics.
Stanford is neither SAT-focused nor TOEFL-focused. In the past, one or two mainland Chinese students with just over 1500 SAT scores were often admitted. However, Stanford’s essays can be challenging. Stanford values fit with the school to the extent that many outstanding students are unfortunately rejected. Therefore, Stanford’s essays must be innovative or sincere, or even the most exceptional students may not be successfully admitted.
As it is not need-blind, and the tuition is relatively high, Stanford’s international student academic talent is less than Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. However, the quality of U.S. students admitted to Stanford is on par with Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Stanford admits both research-oriented and socially-oriented students, with potentially fewer restrictions compared to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
This school is a haven for international IMO (International Mathematical Olympiad) students. In previous years, international male students admitted had several national-level or international-level awards, such as first place in the IMO theory, overall first place, IMO gold medals, etc.
International students applying to MIT may not necessarily have super prestigious awards like Intel or ISEF, but their essays must be unique and demonstrate a great passion for science.
In summary, international students applying to MIT must remember that Super prestigious awards are crucial. Pay attention to four principles: Essays and awards must have a certain quality, essays > awards, experimental awards > theoretical awards, and you must showcase your innovation.
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
In general, for international students, Caltech is easier to get admitted to because it is mainly theoretical, and many international students excel in academic abilities, even though their experimental and innovative capabilities may be average. Caltech can cater to this demand.
SAT scores, prestigious awards, and outstanding recommendation letters are crucial for Caltech, while essays are relatively secondary. However, the personal statement must emphasize a passion for science. In recent years, Caltech has provided generous scholarships for international mainland students, so concerns about study expenses can be avoided.
Columbia’s requirements are unique, and many students with SAT scores approaching perfection may be rejected. The personal statement must reflect one’s thoughts and maturity to get into Columbia. There is a risk if it only describes ordinary experiences and things or if the overall writing style could be more commonplace. Generally, a personal statement that Columbia’s admission officers value is concise throughout, exuding a powerful aura, allowing people to see the applicant’s immense potential at a glance.
In addition, Columbia’s “why essay” is also crucial. Many people choose Columbia because they love the city where Columbia is located—New York. Columbia’s admission officers understand this, so do not repeatedly emphasize how much you love New York in the “Why essay.” The key is to analyze why you love New York and Columbia deeply, find the connection between yourself and the city, convince the admission officers that you can fully utilize the resources provided by Columbia and New York, and flexibly navigate them. For example, art students can mention the museums in New York.
Furthermore, Columbia places a high value on recommendation letters because New York is a vibrant city with various activities. Thus, recommendation letters reflecting leadership can indirectly show how you can contribute to Columbia’s activities in the future, as Columbia is a socially-oriented university.