College Application Booster​®: Get ahead on your college application!

How to Prepare Your Student For the Competitive World of Ivy League Admissions

Navigating the application process at elite universities can be overwhelming for parents and students alike. This guide equips parents with the tools they need to help their student kickstart the process and pursue their collegiate dreams!

The Ivy League represents the pinnacle of academic achievement, attracting the brightest and most ambitious students from around the world. However, within the last decade, earning a coveted spot at an Ivy League school has become increasingly competitive. The 2022-23 application cycle brought in a record-breaking number of applications and saw acceptance rates plummet to historic lows at Ivy League schools. In light of these mounting challenges, many parents struggle to know where to begin as they help their student(s) to prepare for the rigors of the college admissions process.

Perhaps the most critical component of building a compelling application profile is starting early. The college admissions process does not begin when your student creates their college list or embarks on their first college visit—it begins the first day of your student’s freshman year of high school. In fact, the most substantive and important components of a student’s college application are developed long before they open the Common App. Strategizing and executing meaningful action steps early in a student’s high school career will ease stress in the long run and set students up for success.

But what should this strategic planning look like for parents and students? What are some meaningful activities that students should engage in throughout high school to set themselves up for success? And how can parents keep their students on track and support them in building their admissions profile?


The first step in the process requires assessing the resources available to your student. Students with Ivy League dreams must take the most challenging courses available at their schools and maintain excellent grades—but this is only the foundation of their candidacy. Top colleges want to admit students with a clear and unique passion that they have pursued in meaningful, community-oriented ways over the course of their high school careers. While every school will have a rigorous curriculum—whether AP, IB, or honors—extracurricular opportunities will vary from school to school. As Command Education CEO Christopher Rim notes for The New York Post: “Private schools typically bake into the cost of tuition a variety of extracurriculars and activities outside of the classroom, such as tutoring, opportunities for research, service projects, and internships, and employ a team of college counselors to guide students through the application process. However, depending on the particular region and school, students at public or charter schools may have to do research and seek out those resources independently.”

Regardless of the type of school they attend, students should approach their first year of high school with a sense of openness and a willingness to try the various clubs, activities, and student organizations available to them. Parents should not only encourage their students to experiment and dive into their school community, but help them to reflect on what their experimentation has taught them about their interests, personalities and goals. It is not necessarily intuitive for high school students to self-reflect, but doing so is a critical component of planning for the college admissions process.


When it comes to extracurricular involvements, colleges are looking for applicants who have a depth of engagement with their subject of interest rather than a variety of unrelated involvements throughout high school. More importantly, colleges are looking to admit students who made a demonstrable change in their communities through their passions. By helping their students to identify the activities or disciplines that excite them, parents can help their student gain a sense of direction from which to develop a strategic plan. If a student discovers during their freshman year that their core interest lies in politics and public policy, their strategic plan will likely consist of running for student government, serving in a leadership position in the current affairs club, taking AP Economics and related courses, and attending a competitive merit-based summer program in political science. If their school lacks a club or organization that aligns with their passion, students should feel empowered to take the initiative and create one.

As they help their students set goals that align with their core passions, parents should keep in mind that this process is fundamentally student-driven—while parents are critical figures in helping their students gain motivation, stay on task, and feel empowered to achieve their goals, the path that a student takes is ultimately up to them. Parents can offer valuable advice, ask questions that prompt their student to think about their futures, and connect with a student’s school counselor to ensure that they are on the right track with their grades and course selection. However, they should also increasingly encourage independent thought and self-motivation in their students as they journey through high school.


One of the best ways for students to develop a sense of independence and initiative, and to make an impact in their communities is creating a personal passion project. During the summer after their sophomore year, students should begin to consider unique ways that they can mobilize their interests in service of their community. This could include starting a small business, founding a nonprofit, or conducting independent research. Whatever a student chooses to do, it should not only reflect their guiding passion, but should contribute something to their local community. Launching a passion project demonstrates to top colleges that a student is serious about their interests and dedicated to seeing their passions come to life, and will contribute positively to their future campus community.


Finally, keep in mind that preparing a student for the world of Ivy League admissions and building a competitive application profile is an enormous responsibility—and parents don’t have to do it alone. College admissions consultants provide students with invaluable expert, non-parental guidance throughout the process, saving parents and families from the stress of navigating the stressful and intricate process with their students alone. Wherever your student is in their high school career, our expert mentors are poised to support them in achieving their collegiate dreams!



Command Education’s experts take the guesswork out of the college admissions process.

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