The Ivy Coach Daily

February 1, 2014

Electives and Ivy League Admission

Taking courses on creating computer games and apps in your high school is not going to significantly help your case for admission to an Ivy League college.

Ivy Coach is featured in “The New York Observer” today in a piece entitled “Can Video Game Classes Get Kids Into College?” written by Helaina Hovitz. In the piece, the question is raised whether or not new high school courses on creating video games and apps — generally offered at some private high schools as opposed to public ones — will help students gain admission to top colleges like the Ivy League colleges. In the piece, one private college counselor argues that “anything that makes the transcript look different tends to be valuable, because it allows colleges to differentiate more easily between students.”

Our response? Absolutely not! One of the purposes of our college admissions blog is to debunk common misconceptions and myths related to the highly selective college admissions process. When we read quotes that are inaccurate or that we don’t agree with, we’ll speak up. First of all, not everything that makes a transcript look different is valuable. A student applying to Harvard with mostly ’D’s’ and an occasional ’F’ is certainly “different” from most applicants to the university. But the counselor did say “tends to be” so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. But he also goes to bat for these electives, stating that “colleges are always looking for ways to differentiate students from one another.” Well, yes, but while a prison sentence might differentiate you, it’s not going to help your case for admission.

Ok, we’re being a little silly. But the fact of the matter is that students would have better chances of getting into the most highly selective colleges if they stuck to the core courses. As stated in the article by our Founder, “’If they want to become an entrepreneur or a video gaming expert and sell apps, maybe that course is going to help them to do that,” she added. “I just don’t see how these classes are going to help kids get into highly selective colleges or help them stand out in applying.”

Bev continues, “’My fear is that taking this type of course is taking away from a course that could have a lot more weight, like English, math or social science,” she said. “These highly selective colleges aren’t interested in seeing technology courses or entrepreneurship. If you enjoy it, then do it on your own time. Don’t do it instead of a core subject. Even as an elective, students who are applying to these schools are ’wowing’ colleges with core subjects across the board, even as electives. I think a college would refer to these electives as less rigorous and, yes, undisciplined.’” And therein lies your answer. Don’t differentiate yourself with electives. Differentiate yourself with your grades, with your core courses, with your activities, with your personal story, with your essays and letters of recommendation.

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