How can I get into the Ivy League to pursue political science or international affairs?

Posted: July 25, 2016

How Can I Get Into the Ivy League to Study Political Science or International Affairs? A Quora Answer from Your College Your
Getting into an Ivy League college is difficult

​The first question is: why do you want to get into only the Ivy League for these majors? The best poli sci and international affairs programs are at George Washington University and Georgetown. See also Berkeley, Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis. Or even the University of Denver, which has produced two Secretaries of State.
But I digress. Whichever high-powered political science school you apply to, you will need:
  1. Exemplary grades in an extremely difficult program. This means more than a 4.0 gpa and tons of AP, IB or actual college classes. Excellent grades in social science and economics classes are also important. You should be in the top 5% of your class or better.
  2. Your SAT or ACT test scores should be pretty close to perfect. (1560/1600 SAT is 75th percentile for the freshman class at Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, which means 1 in 4 admitted freshman in that class have 1560 or better. [1])
  3. If you’re specifically looking for international affairs, speaking a couple different languages will help. Speaking diplomatically-important other languages (Arabic and Mandarin, for example) is even better. (The State Department runs summer programs for these critical languages. [2])
  4. Consider military service: West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs) are excellent training grounds for future government officials and diplomats.
  5. Your extracurriculars should be in the realm of politics or international affairs. This year is a perfect time to get involved in politics, either by working on a “get out the vote” campaign, making phone calls and going door-to-door for your favorite candidate or cause, or by volunteering some other way. If you are over 18, you can become an election inspector and work at a polling place on election day. Fun!
  6. You could apply to be a Senate Page [3] the summer after your junior year in high school.
  7. You could earn a Congressional Medal for Youth. [4]
  8. You need outstanding letters of recommendation from core academic teachers who know you well, like you, and are good writers.
  9. Becoming famous really helps. (You think I’m being facetious, but I’m really not. Having famous people, or the children of famous people, on campus increases the school’s prestige and media coverage. Malia and Sasha Obama can literally go to whatever school they want to.)
You’ll notice most of this stuff you need to begin long before senior year.
     The one thing you should not do is create an organization or program because you think you need one for college admissions. Just like joining all the clubs in school just to show you’re “involved,” admissions officers can see right through this. Showing true leadership—born of passion, not obligation—is what is going to make you a stand-out candidate.
     In addition, you need to research all the schools you are going to apply to and make sure each one is a good fit for you. Applying to every school you think is an Ivy simply because they are an Ivy is a recipe for disaster. You will definitely be rejected by some, just because the straight-laced student who fits in at Harvard or Princeton will not fit in at Cornell (the Ivy League ag school) or Brown. Don’t waste your time applying to schools that don’t fit you!
Good luck!
[2] National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y)
[3] United States Senate Page
[4] The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ award for young Americans.
This answer was first published on Quora on July 18, 2016. Follow me on Quora for more great content!

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