Case Studies

Jake’s Case

He was unsure about his interests and educational intentions. His love for animals led him to Dartmouth.


Jake came to Ivy Coach in 9th grade. His two older siblings had previously worked with Ivy Coach and had since enrolled at Stanford and Dartmouth. During our first few meetings with Jake, getting a word out of him was difficult. As we tried to gauge his interests to zero in on a potential hook — and activities that he could get involved in throughout high school — he kept repeating the refrain, “I don’t know.” On his last utterance of this phrase, he began assuaging his anxieties by petting his dog. “Do you like animals?” we asked. Jake’s face lit up. His hook would be animals.


Jake was a bit stubborn, and despite our advice that he take BC Calculus as a junior and Multivariable Calculus as a senior, he hemmed and hawed and decided against it. He also didn’t take the SAT or ACT even though we told him that test-optional schools, all else being equal, would always favor students with excellent scores over students with no scores.


Jake didn’t listen to us on his math trajectory. And he didn’t listen to our advice on continuing to take the ACT after an early low score. But he did listen to us when it came to getting involved in the specific extracurricular activities we recommended he get involved in through high school, from herding sheep in a nearby town to working part-time at an animal shelter to researching the communication of ants. Jake truly demonstrated his passion for the animal kingdom.

And Jake listened to us on applying Early Decision to Dartmouth rather than Duke. While he liked both schools very much, he had a sibling at Dartmouth — which is always helpful in the Early round. We pushed him away from Duke towards Dartmouth.

But would his wow activities, storytelling, and awards be enough to overcome no SAT or ACT score and other limitations to his candidacy?


Jake earned Early Decision admission to Dartmouth College. The sheepherder also earned Early Action admission to the University of Chicago, though he was bound for Dartmouth (which he preferred anyway!). There are, after all, more sheep in New Hampshire.

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