I chanced upon this question in Quora and the answer provided by someone who seemed to have experience working with 'average' student who got admitted into Ivy-league varsity. His answer may be of interests to any regular student-readers of my blog (this blog) who somehow failed to get the excellent results for Ivy-league entry that they were aiming for in the first place - say, due to being sick on exams day.
Hope this helps:
The Personal Statement: The Holy Grail of College Admissions - Ivy College Admit
Hope this helps:
I’ve seen students with perfect 1600 (or 2400) SAT scores and 4.0 GPA’s get turned down by the Ivies. I’ve also helped and worked with lower achieving students with 1800 (out of 2400) SAT scores and 3.3 GPA get accepted into an Ivy League (Yes, 3.3 GPA - you heard that right - and he was Asian American too).
What it all comes down to is how you demonstrate your personal qualities, leadership, and commitment to your community through the application. This takes the form of personal statements, extracurricular activities, and recommendation letters that help the admissions officers determine whether to accept or reject you.
The biggest mistake that students make is not taking their application seriously enough. This tends to happen with overachievers, who believe that their grades, test scores, and even national academic awards are enough to get them in.
So yes, do pursue your passions and your interests, and work as hard as you can during your four years of high school. Just remember to capture and express all of your personal qualities in the college application itself, and write a genuine, palpable personal statement that helps the admissions officers understand the qualities that define you.
Because at the end of the day, the bitter truth is that admissions to Ivy League schools is highly dependent on how well you present yourself on paper and draft your personal statement.
Please read my blog on what the Ivy Leagues are looking for: