So, you want an Ivy League education? Well, this could be a difficult undertaking. In general, less than 1 out of 10 Ivy League applicants are accepted. To give you an idea of how tough it really is, for the 2007 school year, Harvard received 22,955 applications. They accepted only 2,058. Not very good odds are they? The question is - how do you stand out from the crowd? What will make you the 1 in 10 that they choose?

The answer: a well-refined and organized application.

Think of your college application as a full-page advertisement. An Ivy League application will include your transcripts, letters of recommendation, an essay, and test scores. These items are what the college admissions office sees as your profile or overall impression. Opinions are formed by what is contained in that admissions package. How do you make a lasting impression? Just like as in marketing - it's all about the packaging. Here is how to make your admissions package stand out from the crowd.

First, don't just apply to an Ivy League School for the sake of applying. A better tactic is to decide on why you want or need to go to an Ivy League School. Once you have the answer to that question, start researching what the Ivy League schools are looking for in a successful candidate. A great way to do this is to visit the schools you are interested in. Talk to everyone you can on campus about college life and whether they enjoy their experience. Ask for college brochures and admissions materials. Be sure to know what they expect as far as grades, extracurricular activities, and community work. It takes a lot more these days than a perfect SAT score and straight A's. Know that you need at least one letter of recommendation, so start building meaningful relationships your sophomore year with school instructors and administrators.

Second, let's talk about getting you to stand out from the crowd and making you the 1 in 10 who gets accepted. You may have heard the phrase "organization is the key to success." This holds true for your college application process. Start by making a chart of the schools you desire to attend. You will be tracking their admissions requirements.

Be sure to note the following:

A. Application deadline

B. Applications requirements

  1. standard forms
  2. scores
  3. transcripts
  4. recommendations
  5. essays, etc.

C. Letters of Recommendations

  1. deadlines
  2. who you want to write the recommendation
  3. exact number which you'll need

As you complete each part of the application process, check it off your chart. Remember that many colleges have a January deadline for applications. Start asking for recommendations no later than the previous November. You want to give the person writing the recommendations plenty of time to get it done correctly. If they feel rushed, your review may not be a dazzling as you had hoped. In order for your recommender to write a really good review make sure:

  • That your recommender knows you well. Be sure to give them enough information about why you want to attend this particular college.
  • Inform your recommender of the deadline.
  • Make sure he has your full name, address, email, home and cell numbers, and any IM or instant messaging info you may have.
  • Provide him with at least two copies of the forms, just in case of a mistake.
  • Give the complete name, mailing address of the college or university you are applying to, and include a stamped addressed envelope.
  • A copy of your completed application form and essays.
  • Information about the school you are attending. This could be a brochure or other pamphlet.
  • A list of all activities, awards, achievements
  • Your resume if you are employed.
  • Do not forget to send your recommender a thank you note once you are admitted.

So, you've organized yourself and lined up a few people to write letters of recommendation. What's next? You need to write a killer essay. Why do you want to go to college and why should this college select you? What do you have to offer the college admissions offices? The essay is your voice to the admissions committee. Make it believable and sincere. Don't beg or plead - illustrate your voice and vision.

Also important are interesting extracurricular activities, great grades and test scores, and a well organized application that is complete and well written will lead you to admission. If you can offer these things to the admissions committee, you stand a good chance of getting in - you might even receive a scholarship or higher grant-based financial aid. And these rules apply to all colleges and universities, not just those Ivy League schools.

Aim high, but be fully prepared, organized and committed to enriching your application completely. Applying to the Ivy League is a challenge, but taking the process step-by-step will enable you to achieve admissions success.