The Ironic Truth about Education

With a growing number of college bound students every year, the college admission process has become more cut-throat than ever. We are all told by our peers, teachers, counselors, and parents to diversify ourselves. To engage in activities to show our well-roundedness. To become the yellow umbrella in the crowd of black umbrellas.

Everyone wants to go to Harvard. Or Stanford. Or any ivy for that matter. These are obviously the top schools in America. The cherries on top of the frosting on top of the fruits on top of the sundae’s of higher education.

This simple, scientifically proven 4 step formula can get you into any college of your dreams such as Harvard.

Step 1: Background

One of the most important categories is the box that marks “ethnicity.” This single word can make or break the acceptance. Now most applicants are going to be part of the richer middle class whose parents have nice homes, stable jobs, enough money to pay the college tuition, and most importantly, college degrees. Most applicants will be Caucasians with very little ethnic diversity. Granted, there are applicants from these ethnic backgrounds that will get accepted, but if you are of this ethnicity, why stack the odds against yourself?

In order to maximize your chances, you have to know that colleges preach one very important word when it comes to decisions: diversity. Diversity is what can set you apart from the rest of the applicants without much effort.

Imagine this. Two students are competing for a spot at Harvard. They both have the same grades, SAT scores, GPA, extracurriculars. But one is a middle class Caucasian whose annual family income is around $200,000. The other is a lower class African American whose family income is around $60,000. Its obvious who will get in.

You may say, “But how can I change my background?” It’s quite easy, since colleges have gotten relatively good at guessing students' entire backgrounds just based on their ethnicity. Here’s how you do it.

1) Change your first and last name. Make your name the most racially defining name possible. For example, if you want to be an Indian, make it something like Rajesh or Samir. Change your last name to be racially defining as well. Make it obvious.

2) Make sure your religion is also very unique. Remember, you want to stand out from everyone. How many Indian Jews does an admissions officer come across? Not many. That is why it is important to be very creative.

Step 2: Numbers

This is probably the most straightforward and well-known part of the application. The process is simple - take as many AP classes and Honors classes as can fit your schedule, even if you hate everything about the subject. Additionally, minimize the number of non-5.0 classes you take. Get straight A’s to maximize your GPA, get a 2400, get a 36, get all 5’s on AP tests, take as many SAT subject tests as you can and get an 800 on all of them.

All the scores you have received added up is what I like to call the Test Score Transcript Constant (TSTC). The maximum TSTC is 8,881, and it is what you should be aiming for. But if you are within 10 of the TSTC, you should be okay.

If you are struggling to receive your desired score on any of these elements, you should just hire a tutor, and your scores will automatically shoot up. Even the College Board themselves did release a statistic that those with more money, and therefore those who spend that money on tutors and professional help, get higher scores.

Step 3: Your Persona

Test scores are important, but everyone knows you need more than just extremely high numbers to get accepted into Harvard. Harvard and other colleges have glorified the “holistic” approach, in which the desired student has to have an interesting and unique quality, an insatiable desire to explore and learn.

You have to stand out. You have to be real. Not just some number. You may be thinking, “how can I get insanely high scores AND be an interesting individual?” The answer is you don’t have to be interesting, unique, or real. You just have to make yourself seem so.

Heeding the following advice will make you seem like a well-rounded applicant, even if you honestly don’t give a crap.


Instead of carefully picking your extracurriculars to adhere to what “looks good” on a college resume, you just need to show you’re interested in a variety of subjects.

Join a community service club. You will look like you care deeply about society and want to help other people. Get a leadership position and “lead” a sincere, seemingly heartfelt community service event. Exaggerate your experiences so you can write about the experience in one of your essays.

Have a high number of volunteer hours. If you have even a slight interest in something, make sure you volunteer for something that has a relation to that interest. For example, if you are interested in pre-med, volunteer at a local hospital and try to learn as many things as you can while organizing papers that were most likely printed just so you would have something to do. If you have no interests, volunteer at a library and hope that you’ll find one of your interests while placing books on shelves hour after hour in dead silence.

Join a business or entrepreneurship club. There are many large scale “business” competitions for high school students that the club could participate in, and competing with thousands of other high school students is a great way to show your capability of becoming the next Bill Gates. Because wearing your parents' 20 year old suits along with thousands of other pubescent high schoolers and answering “entrepreneurship” questions is basically the same as innovating and starting a company.

Join humanities clubs. Or as I like to call them, “filler” clubs, because they are fillers for the extracurricular segment in the Common App. These clubs rarely meet, and when they do, you get free food. It’s a win-win.

Play a sport. Nothing embodies a well rounded student more than a sport. It shows drive, teamwork, and variety in your resume. Play for all four years and become a captain so that you can add to your long list of leadership activities. If you don’t make any school teams, pick an obscure, bizarre sport such as archery and win some competitions by beating the other 10 players in the entire state.

Start your own club. It doesn’t matter what it is, just start something - because Founder and President sounds pretty good. No need to stress about the time commitment, just gain as many signups as possible during club rush, and for the first few months, get your friends and freshman to come to your bi-weekly (but mostly canceled) meetings by offering free food. After that it’s fine if the club is inactive, it will be like 90% of all the other clubs at school, and you can still write that you led a club of 50 people on a common interest of yours.

All of these convey to Harvard the philanthropist, entrepreneur, athlete, and natural born leader that you are. What more could Harvard want?

Step 4: Writing

Admissions Essays

Did you travel to another state during the summer that helped you gain a new perspective and understand the entire world? Did you help organize a volunteer event one time during freshman year? This is where you can convey to Harvard how many life changing experiences you’ve encountered in your seventeen, arduous years of life in Orange County. To further streamline this process, there are many books such as “Acing the Admissions Essay” by Mark S. Mooney that formulaically explain this process in more depth.

Letter of Recommendations

Students often believe this is not in their control. However, this 6 step process explains exactly how to maximize your chances for a strong letter of rec.

  1. Pinpoint two teachers who you discern not to despise you completely.

  2. Participate as much as you can in the class. Raise your hand for every questions, make sure you don’t wait for the teacher to call on you. This process makes you seem even smarter because when you don’t know an answer and don’t raise your hand, the teacher won’t call on you and instead pick one of the more quiet students.

  3. On the first test or quiz, deliberately score slightly lower and get a B+ or A- to demonstrate that you are not flawless. Beware though, you must still score high enough not to lower your TSTC from part 2.

  4. Now you need to act like a hard-working, driven student who enjoys the subject and strives to learn. Go to the teacher’s tutorials frequently and “request” help and advice so it seems as if you care.

  5. For the next tests and quizzes, progressively score higher until you can start acing tests. Additionally, show your interest in the subject by asking how you can your learning a step higher. Improvement is key.

  6. You must show your “human” side, so in a modest manner, bring up one of the various extracurriculars you do.

That’s about it, really. It’s that easy to get into any Ivy League School, Stanford, MIT, or Caltech.

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Shalin Shah

Shalin Shah I'm a high school junior living in California. I enjoy building iOS and Web apps. Besides coding, I like running, travelling, and listening to good music.