Getting Into an Ivy League from the Bay Area

Empowerly Team
Empowerly Team

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.

It’s springtime, admissions decisions are being released, and seniors across the nation are celebrating their future college adventures. Like many of our underclassmen students around this time, you may be thinking to yourself: how do I get into an Ivy League university? Or more specifically, how do I get into an Ivy League university from the Bay Area?

You’re not alone. And there is good reason to wonder. The Bay Area is often regarded as the most competitive region for college admissions in the United States, and there is a plethora of misinformation often circulating among students regarding how to get into an Ivy League university as a Bay Area student. However, there are 3 key strategies to remember when crafting an elite college admissions profile.


Though there are many factors that impact admissions decisions, the 3 primary areas students can focus on improving to boost their chances can be summed up as this:

  • extracurricular activity selection,
  • excellence in your chosen field,
  • and academic performance.

We’ll unpack those next, to explain what they each mean. This isn’t meant to be an end-all-be-all guide; do keep in mind that each student’s journey is a little bit different, and you will benefit most from one-on-one attention that is tailored to your past and goals for the future. But with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get started!

Extracurricular Activity Selection.

Typically in the Bay Area, high school students can feel pressured to go into certain genres of extracurricular activities that can be broadly defined as:

  • business,
  • pre-med,
  • debate,
  • and computer science.

For instance, as impressive as the activity may be, it may be more common than you think. We often hear a student is doing medical research at Stanford or is competing in a hackathon. These activities can be great and intellectually stimulating! But the key to approaching college admissions is to not feel forced into participating in these activities. You can pick any activity to participate in as long as you’re passionate about it.

In fact, something that is unique or out of the box can actually make you more appealing. Admissions officers like to see continuous engagement in the same kinds of activities. Even if you choose to pursue one of the aforementioned Bay Area cliches, there are countless ways to put a unique spin on those areas. For instance, are you a fan of medicine? Rather than solely competing in Biology Olympiad, perhaps you make a podcast where you interview doctors regarding various health conditions!

Always think about how you can put a unique and creative twist on any extracurricular endeavor you engage in.


Excellence in your chosen field.

Another critical aspect of a competitive Bay Area college application is excellence in an extracurricular field. There are two ways to demonstrate excellence:

  1. Awards.
  2. Impact.

If you are engaged in a competition style event such as DECA, FBLA, or debate (among many others), try to win! Awards at the state or national level differentiate you. Remember, you are competing with countless students around the country and world who participated in the same events as you. To show selective colleges why you deserve one of their limited spots, you must demonstrate you are truly one of the best in your field (i.e. compete at the state and national level). If you choose to be entrepreneurial and start your own club/non-profit/business, you must show excellence through impact. For example, if you created a cooking club at school, have some solid numbers to show your impact. Did you do X number of workshops or grow the club from 5 members your freshman year to 50 your senior year?

Specific, concrete, or tangible numbers help demonstrate your impact on your environment and can tell colleges what kind of student you may be on their campus.


Academic performance.

Finally, a common trap many Bay Area students fall into is taking AP classes they aren’t comfortable in. Bottom line, you have to have the grades to back it up. For instance, if you hope to be a political science major in college and be a lawyer later down the line, don’t be afraid to take a lower-level math class even though all your friends are in advanced calculus. All too often, students feel the peer-pressure to take every AP class their school offers—including subjects that have little relevance to what they plan to do in the future. Unfortunately, this can lead to a low grade point average which can hinder a college acceptance.

Thus, only take AP classes you are interested in and feel that you can succeed in regardless of what your peers do, so you can ensure you excel academically.

College admissions are an extremely complex and tricky subject that takes years to truly understand. Naturally, all the tips and tricks to get into an Ivy League college from the Bay Area can’t be summarized in a single blog post but the aforementioned tips should give you a great starting point. For more tips, seek out a college admissions professional!

Our counselors and enrollment team are available to help you along this journey, and will assist you in standing out among other strong applicants so you can stand above the rest. If this sounds good to you, book a consult with our team to discuss further!

Questions? Let us know!