Sprinting Down the Athletic Route: Part 2 In-Depth Timelines


Freshman and Sophomore Year (Grades 9 and 10)

  • Make sure you are on track to get the correct number and type of CXC/ CAPE passes
  • Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center to answer these questions
  • Think about whether you will be leaving at the end of Form 5, Lower 6, or Upper 6.

Until September 1st of junior year/ Grade 11, coaches can:

  • Send you sports camp brochures, NCAA information, questionnaires
  • Accept phone calls at your expense
  • Speak to you on campus if you are visiting unofficially
  • Give you a maximum of three complimentary tickets to a college sporting event

Until September 1st of junior year/ Grade 11, coaches cannot:

  • Call you on the phone
  • Send you any written recruiting information
  • Respond to your emails
  • Return phone call messages
  • Approach you or speak to you off-campus

Junior Year (Grade 11)

  • Check with guidance counselor on subjects you are taking
  • Register at Eligibility Center if you have not yet done so
  • Take the ACT or SAT and submit your scores to the NCAA using Eligibility Center code 9999
  • Ask guidance counselor to send official transcript to the NCAA Eligibility Center
  • Potentially receive offers by the end of Grade 11 or invited on official visits

Coaches can:

  • Send written information about the college and its athletic program
  • Answer emails and generate emails to you
  • Receive as many phone calls as you would like to make

Coaches cannot:

  • Contact you in person off the college campus until July 1st at the end of junior year
  • Call you more than once a week

Senior Year (Grade 12)

  • Register at Eligibility Center if you have not yet done so
  • Take the ACT/ SAT again (or for the first time) if necessary
  • Accept offers for official (expenses paid) visits at up to 5 different colleges
  • Request final amateurism certification from Eligibility enter
  • Graduate on time or talk to guidance counselor about options for summer sessions to catch up or increase your GPA
  • Get guidance counselor to send your final transcript and proof of graduation to Eligibility Center

Coaches can:

  • Make telephone calls or send written correspondence as per junior year
  • Make unlimited calls after you sign an offer or make a deposit

Coaches cannot:

  • Contact (face-to-face) you or your family more than three times during senior year

Other Important Notes

1. To be a college athlete, you must be an amateur athlete and not a profession. Any of the following can jeopardize your eligibility status:

  • Accepting benefit or inducement, letter, phone call, direct contact on or off campus with coaches before the prescribed time
  • Accepting payment for your participation in an athletic contest
  • Accepting payment for advertisements/ commercials
  • Accepting gifts for the above

2. There are nuances for each sport regarding timelines, contact with coaches, number of scholarships available, etc. Do not assume that this article pertains to your sport exactly.

3. Rules change every year and sometimes more often than that, so make sure that you are completely updated on your requirements and that your research is current.

4. Whether you leave at the end of Form 5, Lower 6, or Upper 6, changes when you are considered a “sophomore, junior or senior”, and therefore changes when coaches can contact you, etc. The earlier you make a decision, the more prepared you will be.


Whew. I know that this is a lot of information. Remember that the earlier you get started, the better. Remember that my first consult is always free, so schedule a consult to discuss your options.

When contacting admissions officers, what factors should you consider?

As usual, as the August to February admissions frenzy rolls back around, I find myself reading more and more college admissions blogs, thinking about what might be most valuable for my students.  Recently, I found myself on a USC blog post called “making the college admissions process about you”.  And I was struck, not by the words of the article, but by the student comments at the bottom.  And the first thing I noticed was, wow, I can identify the internationals right away!  The second thing I noticed was how unfair it was that an international’s lack of familiarity with the process might detract from his/her application. Here are some thoughts about any contact – big or small – you may have with a university: commenting on a blog, attending a presentation, asking a question in an online chat, etc.

First of all, universities file everything.

You email someone – it gets filed.  You make a phone call – it gets filed. You send in a poem – well, you get the idea.  What does this mean for you? Well, most importantly, this means that all contact should be treated as important.  You are making impressions on the admissions office as a single body despite speaking to a different person each time. Here are some big red flags that I’ve noticed with international students in particular:

1. Asking questions that can easily be answered on the university website

This isn’t fair to us as internationals.  The process is so overwhelming that when an admissions officer visits, or a phone call begins, and that person cheerfully says, “Ask me absolutely any questions you might have,” it becomes extremely tempting to use those people as guides to the process.  And often it is quite alright to ask a single question with an easy answer.  But when a student starts asking numerous questions like, “When are your deadlines”, “What tests do I need to take to get in” or “Do you have study abroad programs”, I see the admissions officers recoil slightly.  They want to answer intelligent, curious questions – questions about student life or campus culture or famous professors, for example.

Let’s look at this well-meaning response from Sam:

The unfortunate truth is that, apart from some of the most selective or diverse schools, (and USC is the 21st best in the country and very selective by the way!), many US universities assume that students have dedicated guidance counselors at school.  So, sometimes, unfortunately, they think these questions are just laziness or a lack of desire to do the research (with a counselor or without). So, ask lots of questions, but not the ones that can be answered with a little more effort on your part.

2. Pay attention to your use of language

The student question above also brings me to my second point. This student is from India.  Being bilingual is a fantastic achievement.  But even though we should be appreciative of her ability, we notice instead her spaced out punctuation, grammatical mistakes, and poor sentence structure.

Here, in the Caribbean, we have it worse in some ways.  We don’t even get the tiny amount of respect afforded to someone for whom English is a second language.  And yet, for many, that is exactly what speaking proper English is.  Creole/ patois/ pidgin languages have their own sets of rules and studying Caribbean Studies, which codifies and applauds these rules, can make speaking standard English even harder.  Just remember, when you write or speak to university representatives, use standard English where possible, even in a simple web chat or quick conversation.

These two points can be daunting and students may already be thinking that they just won’t speak up. You definitely should ask questions! Admissions officers love seeing genuine interest.

3. One easy mistake to fall into is to let your counselor or parents do the talking and emailing for you.

This isn’t really a good look.  College is the time in your life when you are supposed to become independent, successful adults.  And one indication of that is your ability to handle communication on your own.  Get lots of guidance if you need it, but always take responsibility for being proactive about following up.

4. As you put yourself in front of admissions officers in any capacity, be aware that they may look you up.

Make your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. private if there is anything inappropriate there.  Better yet, pull everything inappropriate down completely until this period is over. Make sure your email address is something normal.  Ladiesman1234@xyz.com is not someone to be taken seriously. Create a new email address if you need to – in fact, this can be fairly useful for keeping all your university related information completely separate.

5. Don’t reach out to a lot of different people in the admissions officers with the same question.

Remember, you should be treating all the admissions officers in a school as one body.  I remember being so excited, at first, when a prospective student asked me some insightful questions about the application process for Wharton.  That same night, I discovered that he had emailed almost all of the other thirty-nine Welcome Committee members (then current students who helped prospective and admitted students to navigate the process).  We were all extremely put off and one person was tasked with replying politely to convey how serious we felt about crafting thoughtful answers and how irrelevant we felt when students solicited advice from too many similar sources.


My final takeaway – part summary, part new advice, as conclusions should never do – is that you should never make the mistake of assuming that anyone who works in an official capacity at these universities is your friend.

Treat them with the genuine respect and affability they deserve – be friendly and engaging – but never devolve into the speech patterns or topics that you explore with your peers.  I look forward to comments and questions below!


Seven Ways US College Admissions Differs for International Students

Being an international student can make an already difficult process even more daunting. This article was based on unexpected sources of stress that cropped up for my former students during their application processes.  It was supported by further research into top US universities and their specific international procedures.

First of all, who qualifies as an international student?  A good rule of thumb is that if you need a visa to study in the United States (even if you have a pending Green Card application, for example), you are an international student.  If you already have a Green Card, then you typically qualify as domestic, but should check each of the following factors at each university of interest to be sure.

Deadlines: Applications, Financial Deadlines, Standardized Testing

  • 1. Applications: Typically, deadlines for applications are the same for international students as for domestic students except in a few rare cases. However, since internationals need to apply for and await approval of their student visas, I still recommend applying by the end of March, even for schools that have rolling admissions until May or June for admission that September.
  • 2. Financial deadlines: International aid has different considerations, so the deadlines for aid or scholarships may be sometimes take place earlier for foreigners. This will differ by university.
  • 3. Standardized testing: Any candidates testing at a non-US center must register by the registration deadline: the “late registration deadline” only applies to US centers.

Fee Waiver Eligibility

  • Some fee waivers are easily available to international students if approved by your school guidance counselor e.g. Common App.  Other waivers, such as those for the SAT and ACT are only available to U.S. citizens.  Still others, such as individual school applications, can be obtained by internationals but with considerably more difficulty.

Financial Aid: Grants, Scholarships, Loans and Work Study

Understanding the ins and outs of financial aid is a time-consuming process and more stressful for internationals.

  • 1. Some schools are need-blind and/ or need-based for citizens but not for internationals. For example, some might be need-based for internationals but not need-blind (i.e. identical domestic and international applicants would have different chances of getting into those schools.)
  • 2. Some scholarships are only open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
  • 3. Some loans, e.g. federal loans, are only available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
  • 4. The process and forms that need to be filled out are slightly different. FAFSA for example is a federal aid form that internationals should not submit, although some universities may ask candidates to fill it out and submit internally as part of the application process. Internationals on the other hand need to fill out the CSS profile if they are applying for financial aid.

Extra Application Requirements

  • There may be some extra requirements that are requested either in the application.  Universities may also contact you, after you submit an application, to request more information.  Always monitor communications from your universities closely.  Examples of additional requests include: Proof of English language proficiency (usually waived), certification of finances (usually one-year’s tuition), transcript evaluation.

Contextual Chances of Admission

  • Schools typically have approximate quotas of internationals as a whole and by different regions.  This may work for you or against you, depending on the college and depending on your competition in the region within a particular year.  Reading about a college’s diversity initiatives and international acceptance rates is a useful measure of what your chances of acceptance might be.

Post-Acceptance Requirements

  • Joseph Herrera laid these out well in his IvyEdge Global article.  Internationals are required to obtain visas, immunizations, and sometimes more information even after they have accepted a school’s offer of admission.

Sports recruiting

  • If you are being formally recruited to colleges or eventually want to take this route, there is too much that would have to be included in this article.  The college coaches should have all the information that you need; I simply wanted to make future student-athletes aware of their international status as a potential consideration.

Once students arrive at college, there are culture shocks to be overcome, questions about internships and jobs to be answered, and resources to be explored.  This article does not address the aspects of what being international in college means for a student.  I will do so in a future article.

Some disclaimers.  First, while this article sheds light on some of the finer print of being international, remember that each university has its own nuances. It is therefore important to check the international requirements at every school to which you are applying.  Second, this article focuses on the differences between regular and international admissions, which assumes that the reader already has some advance knowledge of the application process e.g. typical application deadline dates (between October and June), or the differences between need-based and need-blind financial aid.  Third, this is meant for first-time undergraduate applicants.  The policies for graduate schools and transfer applicants may be similar but not entirely the same.

I hope that this article will make or has made the application process easier for internationals out there. As always, questions and comments are welcome!

Spend Your Summer Meaningfully

Note: Scroll down to the numbered items if you want to just get to the ways in which you can spend your summer.

I was thirteen years old and the end of Form 2 (Grade 7) was quicklyapproaching. My seventeen-year-old sister came home bursting with excitement.  She and her friends were going to start a summer camp to make some extra money and please, please, could she do it at our house? Always on the lookout for a sibling bonding moment, my mom agreed, with the non-negotiable stipulation that I would be made an equal partner and a full-fledged camp counselor.  The quintessential second child, I saw nothing unfair or unusual about this. I was immediately on board.  When the dust settled, my sister was left with the difficult task of founding a summer camp with a person who had no inkling of business fundamentals, and who was only three years older than the oldest camper.  Somehow, past the inevitable disagreements and repeated vows that we would never, ever do something this crazy again, we hosted that summer camp for two years together and I continued for two more years when she left for college. In the summer after Lower Six, I got a more conventional job, where I learned an entirely different, but equally useful, skill set.

So, when college application essays asked what I had done for my summer and what my most rewarding summer experiences had been, I had an excess of stories.   I eventually focused on the challenge of managing thirty campers with varied interests, from the initial phases of marketing and registration, to organizing transport and permission slips for outings, to the grand finale: a dance show for the parents and take-home CDs with pictures of the children’s exploits (both my sister’s brilliant ideas).

At the time, I had no idea how lucky I was: that my sister had been entrepreneurial, that my mother had demanded my involvement, that she had also allowed us to use our house as a base, and that I had continued down the path they paved for me.

Universities looked at my application and thought: entrepreneurial, self-starter, passionate, creative, leader, management skills.  My primary thought, on the other hand: super tough for three weeks, but more money than I could make in six.

Now, as an admissions consultant, I speak to Form 6 students, who want to know how to craft fantastic applications.  And, without freaking them out, how can I explain that one of the keys to my success was accidentally handed to me at age thirteen?

Snapshot of the activities section of the Common App


First of all, how important is the non-academic part of your application?  Speak to colleges, listen to webinars, google “factors affecting undergraduate admission” and, for the more selective schools, you will come up with similar results:

Academics 30%
Extra-curricular activities (and summers) 25%
Essays 25%
Letters of Recommendation 15%
Interview 5%

What this quick breakdown fails to point out (shout out to a College Vine webinar that explicitly focused on this) is that your essays often focus on one of your extra-curricular activities, so extra-curricular may affect as much as fifty percent of your application.


Snapshot of a supplemental short essay topic required by Amherst University


What does this mean for current Form 6 students? Is it too late to supplement your application? Of course not.  My sister founded the camp when she was in Form 6; she subsequently attended the University of Pennsylvania, at the time ranked fifth in the U.S. alongside MIT and Stanford.  Does it mean that you should start a summer camp? Also no.  Many people do not have the resources to do this.  More importantly, you are trying to create an application that shows your personality and how that personality will contribute to college and beyond.  I was applying to a major in Economics, so starting a business made complete sense.  However, there are many summer activities that may supplement your specific application in a more cohesive manner.  Finally, I am writing this primarily for internationals and, this year in particular, applicants from Trinidad and Tobago.  Although universities see thousands of applications, those from Trinidad and Tobago tend to be few and therefore unique, and it might look a little strange if this year’s applicants all founded some version of a summer camp.

So let’s focus on how you can make your application as strong as possible this summer.  (I will address school term extra-curricular in a different post.)

Selective colleges are searching for students who enhance the school community.  They are also looking to find students who will be successful well after graduation.

Below, I have broken down four ways in which you might signal to colleges that you are one of those students.

1. Pursuing passion

One of the key indicators of community participation and future success is passion. And passion is observed in activities that go above and beyond the normal.

Examples include an aspiring writer successfully creating and marketing a blog, a musician teaching music to younger children in his free time, a future lawyer spending time at court listening to court cases, a student-athlete attending a specialized, technical summer camp, or a potential doctor doing work at a research lab or in a pediatric ward.

In these examples, students aren’t just happy doing what interests them.   Instead, they feel the need to share, teach, expand upon, or practice these interests.

Since students have so much more free time during summer vacation, this is where admissions officers can identify students with passion according to how they spend their time.

2. Showcasing talent

Another key indicator of future success is talent and strong performance of that talent.  Examples include regional or national team tournaments, dance performances, music recitals or competitive academic pursuits.


Think about cataloguing your performance, from MVP in a specific game, to bronze medalist of the league.  Keep videos or pictures of your performances and document events that might be significant to universities.



3. Stepping outside your comfort zone/ broadening your interests

A third indicator in identifying strong applicants is looking at instances in which they have tried something unique.  Athletes are a dime a dozen, but an athlete who has also learned to play the violin well is much more difficult to find.  Again, summer is when students have more free time, so while a deep focus on one extra-curricular may be understandable during the term, candidates who use their summers to explore other interests are considered more desirable. Other examples include traveling alone for the first time, taking a coding class, or learning a new language.

When admissions officers see international students trying new activities, they identify these students as more likely to easily adapt to a new country, unfamiliar classes and a different culture.

4. Supporting your community

Not everyone has the luxury of exploring an interest, or the depth of ability to perform at a competitive level.  Good news – the final indicator of unique, desirable candidates is how they contribute to the community, from strong service records, to getting jobs that helps support their families, to taking care of ailing relatives, to participating in political youth groups.  These candidates show that their communities – which can be defined in many ways, including family, neighborhood, race, gender, religion, country and more – are of paramount importance, sometimes more important than their own pursuits.  This signals to universities that the candidate will both value and enhance his/her college community.

Conclusion: Creating an application narrative

In the application, your summers will feature prominently in your essays and in the extra-curricular section.   Universities are not looking for students who pad their resumes with a million summer activities.  They are looking for genuine students, and this will be apparent in the way you write and the emotions evoked by your summer activities.

Summer should complement your existing resume, either by deepening and exploring current passions and talents, broadening your existing pool of interests, or contributing in a meaningful way to your community.

I had one student who spent his entire summer reading philosophy and getting his life back on track.  I had another student who spent her summer struggling with remedial classes to cope with a recently-discovered learning disability.  There is no “right way” to spend your summer.  Simply make sure that what you do makes sense in the narrative of who you are and what type of college student you want to become.

Looking forward to comments and questions below!


You Got In! Now What?

There is a variety of feelings that candidates may experience after they receive their final college responses: pride, excitement, anticipation, disappointment, numbness.  But in the following week, one feeling dominates in particular: relief that the process is finally over.  In the few weeks after that, however, there is a sneaking realization that more decisions need to be made and preparations begun before the journey can actually start.

The good news is that I will continue doing my best to present the pertinent issues to you clearly and engagingly.  The better news is that if you are a college admit, these decisions foreshadow a golden summer – the best of your life so far: a final period in which you face no real responsibilities or worries.

Over the coming weeks, I will dive in-depth into each of the following topics.  For now, focus on the key points that should inform your decision-making.

Decision 1: Finalizing Your College Selection

So you have a general idea of what is important to you. But, as other people begin to weigh in on what school you should pick, you realize that there is so much more at stake than “choosing somewhere with good weather”.

When I was trying to decide between colleges, my dad gave me some very helpful advice: use a “matchstick method”.  First, I made a list of the key attributes that were important to me. Then, I weighted those factors.  Finally, using matchsticks, I scored each college (out of the assigned weighting).  When I counted total matchsticks, I had found my college! Now obviously you can use a fancy excel sheet (see below), a disposable napkin, or anything other than match sticks, but I had a lot of fun doing it this way and was genuinely surprised by the result in the end.

Factor Weight College 1 College 2 College 3
Academics 10 7/10 9/10 8/10
Student Life 15 13/15 12/15 11/15
Campus 5 5/5 3/5 4/5
Student Body 7 6/7 5/7 6/7
TOTAL 37 31/37 29/37 29/37

Table 1: Example of the “matchstick method” at work

Below, I have broken down most of the considerations behind selecting a college.  Browsing through the questions should help you to figure out what factors are important to you.

1. Academics

  • Is the major you want to pursue offered at the college?
  • When do you have to declare your major?
  • Can you switch majors easily?
  • Does the school have good resources (e.g. professors, labs, career services, internships) in your areas of interest?
  • How big are the classes?
  • Is it easy to add a minor, a double major or a certificate program?
  • What electives (classes not required for your major) are interesting?
  • How difficult is the course work? / What percentage of students graduate within 4 years? / What is the average GPA of a graduating student?
  • Can you do a study abroad program fairly easily? What grades are required to do so? Is it feasible to study abroad as an engineer/ pre-med student for example?
  • Can your CAPE/ A Level/ IB provide credits to graduate early? (Article at a later date on whether you should do this or not)

Key Takeaway: Choosing a school with the best academics may not always be the right choice for you. As an international, you will also be coping with new classes, different teaching styles and unfamiliar study methods.  Make sure you think carefully about what you can handle before selecting a school for its academics only.

2. Athletics

  • What level of competition will you be playing at e.g. D I/ D II/ D III?
  • Will this school help you to achieve your athletic ambitions e.g. going pro?
  • How much playing time will you get? / Are you ok with being on a great team but not getting to play often?
  • How often and at what times during the day do student athletes train?
  • Can you maintain a sport/work/life balance at this school?
  • Is there academic support e.g. study hall for athletes?
  • Does the team go dry (no alcohol) for a portion of the season?
  • Did you like the coach/ team if you met them?

Key Takeaway: Selecting a college for athletics is largely dependent on how important the team will be to other parts of your life.  Some teammates are best friends, get housed together on campus and join the same fraternities/ sororities.  Other teams just train together.  Try to meet the team or speak to a past/ current athlete to get a sense of how a particular college matches your preferences.

3. Student Life

  • What does student life revolve around e.g. dorms, Greek life (sororities and fraternities), residential colleges, football games, city life, etc?
  • Can you become a student athlete by ‘walking on’ to a varsity team?
  • Are there club (between colleges) or intramural (within the school) sports that you want to join?
  • Are there other clubs that look interesting e.g. dance groups, singing groups?
  • Does the school have a religious affiliation that affects student life?

4. Campus

  • Is the campus located in a city or near a city?
  • How big is the campus? / How far away are the classes? / How do students get from one class to another e.g. bike?
  • What is the weather usually like?
  • Is it a scenic campus?

5. Financial

  • How much does the college cost?
  • What are the averages costs of living?
  • Are most activities school sponsored or will you be paying for most of your socializing?

6. Student body

  • What is the size of the undergraduate body?
  • What is the ethnic makeup of the students? Are you comfortable being a minority?
  • What are the political leanings on campus?

The best way to answer some of these questions is to talk to past students or to visit campus.  If you visit, make sure to let the university know so that they can welcome you and put you in touch with the right people.  Reach out to me (paige@ivyedgeglobal.com) if you don’t know any alumni and want help getting in touch with someone. If you call the universities, they will usually be very accommodating with finding students for you to ask questions.  And, of course, you can find information on their official websites or blogs like College Confidential.

Decision 2: Square Away the Legal Stuff

This portion is especially relevant for international admits.  Take care of immigration early since the visa process can have many unforeseen delays!

1. Immigration


  1. Accept school offer
  2. Follow the process outlined by the university: something like this
  3. Pay the fee, receive an I-20 and complete the application
  4. Make sure you are prepared for your visa interview


2. Financial Aid

  1. Determine if you need to send a separate acceptance letter for financial aid
  2. Figure out if you have to submit supporting information
  3. Understand what type of aid you are being offered: free money, free money dependent on meeting particular criteria, earned money e.g. work-study program, borrowed money
  4. Be aware that you do NOT have to accept the full size of your aid package, so if you think you can get by with a smaller loan for example, you should try to do so
  5. Understand the financial aid process in the future: can you apply for more aid in the following year? Do you have to reapply for aid or submit your financials every year to keep receiving aid?
  6. Consider scholarships that may be available to first year students

3. Transcript

  1. Your university may request your end of year transcript, so make sure that your grades do not lead to you losing your offer
  2. Know how your end of year transcript is linked to any financial aid package you have been offered

 Final Note: Don’t forget to contact the colleges you are not attending.  While this is not completely necessary, it’s a really nice gesture – remember that there are other students anxiously sitting on the waiting list, hoping to receive your spot at this school.

 Decision 3: Start Thinking About Dorm Room and Campus Life


There is a lot to consider when preparing to move into a dorm for the first time. Start thinking about whether you want a roommate, what you need to purchase in terms of clothing, furniture and essentials, how far in advance you should fly up to school, what computer you should use, what meal plan you should get, how much you should spend.  More to come in my next post!



To Ivy League applicants – today is the day…


Today is Ivy Day – a day that top US high school seniors have fearfully anticipated for almost four years. For most international college applicants, on the other hand, it is a completely unfamiliar or very recent source of anxiety.  The Wikipedia entry says something about the ceremonial placement of an ivy stone, but for nervous students and eager parents, Ivy Day is the day when Ivy League schools release their acceptance decisions to the rest of the world.

The clock is ticking and I only have a few hours left to post this before decisions are released (7:00 PM EST).  And there’s so much I want to say to my students and their friends: past, present and future. But this is Ivy Day for the Class of 2022, so past and future will have to wait.  To those of you, today, sitting by your computers, or keeping yourselves busy, or telling yourselves to wait a week before you check your results (so that you can sincerely tell friends and family that you don’t know the decision yet), I want to tell you how proud I am of you.  

The fact that you even took this shot means that you worked your butt off to get here, not just in the past whirlwind year of applications, essays and standardized tests, but in grinding out extra-curricular, founding clubs, filling leadership roles and pursuing academic excellence.  You should take these moments to appreciate how lucky you are and how much you have accomplished so far.

Today, some of you will get into Ivy League schools.  Most of you will not.  And while that may sound depressing initially, it shouldn’t be.  There is a phenomenon that happens all over the world: many parents and students approach the application process with the unspoken expectation that being the best in high school means attending the very best universities.  In my little island home of Trinidad and Tobago, this becomes especially worrisome when coupled with scarce knowledge of acceptance statistics.

Even when applicants come to terms with their slim chances, they still have to deal with the crippling pressure from well-meaning loved ones, who think they are being encouraging with phrases like, “Of course you will get into Cornell.  Fingers crossed for Harvard! But we will be proud of you no matter what.” From the moment the applicant hears “of course”, he/ she assumes that not getting into Cornell (for example) means falling below expectations – getting a B where she should have gotten an A.  And I can’t stress enough how untrue this is.  

Last year, for the class of 2021, 6,277 students were accepted to Cornell out of 44,966 applicants. And the numbers only look worse for the remaining Ivy League schools.  The number of valedictorians and club founders and prodigies that will not go to Ivy League schools is staggering.  The pool is intensely competitive and some of it is just sheer luck. But more importantly, getting into any of the other top colleges in America is NOT an under-performance.  In fact, many of those other schools are even more rigid about their standards, requiring higher GPAs, higher SAT/ ACT scores and more extra-curricular achievements.

I messaged some of my students today to wish them good luck. Student 1: “Oh, I got into all my other schools but they’re safe schools, so waiting for [Ivy] decision!” A quick search confirmed my suspicions – that two of this applicant’s “safeties” were top forty schools.  Student 2: “Not sure what time [Ivy] comes out. By the way, I got into my back-ups: [Top 30] schools.” As I spoke to more high-achieving applicants, a theme emerged: these students did not realize what they had already accomplished, had not even thought it worth mentioning prior to today.

I was once in the same boat. I took it for granted that I was a top student with her pick of universities.  I remember my parents’ outrage when I got waitlisted to two top programs – how dare they? Then, I remember how grateful I was when I learned that many of my peers, with similar accomplishments and grades, were refused admission outright.  Finally, when I stepped foot on Princeton’s campus, I was humbled by the bewildering array of talents that each of my classmates possessed. Had I known my chances prior, I would have been far more realistic.

My fingers are crossed for all of you.  I want nothing more than to receive phone calls, texts and emails that are like this, but the process is often mixed and looks something like this or this.  Either way, my fellow over-achievers, you should be extremely excited about every single one of your acceptances, not just the top ten schools.  You have achieved so much already. University is a stepping stone, not a destination (a big mistake I made in my own life – more to come in later posts).  What will you accomplish in the next four years and beyond? If an Ivy is still your ultimate goal (which it should never be), there are graduate school and post-bac programs that will be lucky to have you.  


Today is Ivy Day. It is not your list of acceptances or denials tonight that will shape your future, but how you respond to them and who you become from here.  

Good luck and congratulations Class of 2022!