How to Get Into Ivy League Schools

ESA would like to congratulate two amazing members of the Class of 2015, Grisel Isidor and Brianna Vizcaino, on their college acceptances! Grisel received full scholarships to Cornell University, Vassar College, and University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, and Brianna received full scholarships to University of Pennsylvania and University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Carla Cobb, class of 2016, sat down with Grisel and Brianna to find out what has helped them succeed in high school.

Question: What extra curricular activities did you partake in as a high school student in ESA?

Grisel:  I attended an NYU math circle my freshman year.  In the tenth grade, I was a part of WNYC Radio Rookies, which met every week at ESA. As a junior, I was a student ambassador who gave tours to prospective students, I attended a photography program every week, and I did an NYU course on Developmental Psychology. As a senior, I participated in the school\’s play, I attend the same photography program, I am still a student ambassador, and I participate in the big sib program.

Brianna: I was on the volleyball team and step team from freshmen to junior year. I did softball freshmen year and sophomore year. I was part of the ESA Ambassador program and the Big Sib Mentoring program my last two years. My junior year, I was able to take an NYU course called Argumentation and Debate, which was extremely hard. I interned for Sarah and Susie my senior year. I also worked at a senior citizen home throughout high school and was also working at Old Navy my senior year.

Q: What do you think made you a successful candidate for these schools?

G: I think what made me a good candidate for these schools was showing how well I was able to maintain my grades while also taking part in so many other activities.

B: I think the biggest part was being able to keep my grades a 95 and above throughout my four years of high school. All of my extracurricular activities were definitely a plus.

Q: As a high school student, what did you keep consistent throughout the past four years?

G:  During my four years of high school, I always did things after school. I learned how to balance these activities with the schoolwork and homework I was receiving.

B: I had to keep my grades up at all times, which meant keeping my work ethic consistent. I always tried my best to go above and beyond in my school work.

Q: What advice do you have for students aspiring to attend the schools that you have gotten accepted to?

G:  My advice to other students would be to always pursue their interests.  I would say to always continue to try and learn as much as possible.

B: Never say never. I honestly was not considering all the top universities and colleges I ended up applying to. It  was during my last semester of junior year where an old science teacher, Tyrone, had mentioned the possibility of applying to Ivy Leagues and told me I\’d have a good chance. Our college counselor, Meghan told me the same thing and that\’s how I ended up applying to so many colleges. Even during the time I was waiting for responses, I did not believe I would get in. Just believe in yourself. Also, don\’t be afraid to show off. You\’ve worked hard for a reason and it\’s a time where you should show off all your accomplishments.

Q: How did you make yourself stand out against the thousands of applicants for these schools and scholarships?

G: I tried to include a lot of background in my college essay and in any supplementals I did. I tried to include a lot of my personality and values in my essays in hopes that it would make me stand out.

B: I had to try and connect with the people that\’d be looking at my application, reading my essays, and also conducting my interviews so it meant I had to be very personal.

Q: What do you plan on studying at Cornell, Grisel, and at U-Penn, Brianna?

G: Although my intended major is still subject to change, I am planning on studying psychology with a concentration on neuroscience.

B: I\’ll be studying Criminology and hopefully be minoring in Marketing which is pretty cool.


Well, there you have it. The secret to getting into an Ivy League school: applying yourself. Grisel and Brianna are prime examples of how hard work, focus and not limiting one\’s self can get you far.

Remember, \”Opportunities don\’t happen, you create them.\” – Chris Grosser