Getting into the "top" colleges (grades and "interestingness") Hey, I recently came across a comment by the blogger Cal Newport on his website. When asked what kind of grades were required to get in, he responded saying that if one's "grades and test scores were in the middle 50% of accepted students" (for past years, I suppose), then they have a shot. Actual quote: (source) To those who went to such colleges and/or those who worked in the admissions' office there - top 50, I guess? - would you say that this is correct? If one's grades and SAT scores fall within that range, then that's a "tick in the box" and at this point, it's the "rest of the application" that matters? At least, this seems reasonable. From what I can recall, the minimum SAT scores of admitted applicants at various colleges (most of the Ivy League, MIT, Stanford) is usually around 650 on each section. Then, why do so many students freak out about the SATs? Another question, can excellent SAT scores (say, close to 800 on every section of the reasoning test and on the subject tests) trump a below average GPA? From what I recall, the majority of admitted students are in the top 10% of the graduating class. So, by poor GPA, I would say one that places one slightly below the top 50% of their graduating class. My first guess is that it would not, for it wouldn't fit the criteria of "test scores and grades being in the middle 50% of admitted applicants" but then again, what do I know? ;) Now, in your opinion, what would an "interesting" application look like? I'm not asking you what you think I should do, rather just what you think on the subject. (I think my application is fine, and if it's not, then I guess I'll rejected :-)) According to Newport, what makes one stand out is if the activity they took part in is one which is hard to imagine. If one were to "simulate the steps to get to that eventual aim", they would not be able to! Now, as it turns out, this is not very hard to do. It requires participating in X activity, keeping an eye out for something interesting that one can do and then doing it. For example, if one knows a professor, they could casually talk to them and eventually use that relationship to land a research internship, which supposedly looks more interesting than being a member of twelve clubs. Thoughts?