For high-achieving high-school students, getting into an Ivy League school can seem like the holy grail of college admissions. Although Ivy league schools are known for high academic standards, the term Ivy League originally referred to the collegiate football league to which member colleges belonged. Although all seven schools--Harvard, Princeton, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Brown, Cornell and Dartmouth--have their own admission requirements, students eager to attend these schools typically share common traits such as high test scores, excellent grades and well-written admission essays.

Standardized Test Scores

Although not all admitted students to Ivy League schools have perfect SAT scores, the top 75 percent of admitted students to Ivy league schools scored above 1,980 on their combined math, critical reading and writing SAT I test. In addition to taking the SAT I, students must also take SAT IIs in subjects such as math, foreign languages, history and science. To achieve the highest scores, students should take these tests at the end of their junior year when they have completed courses in SAT II subjects they plan to take. Applicants must submit their standardized testing scores to each school where they apply.

GPA

Considering that most students admitted to Ivy Leagues schools have close to 4.0 grade point averages, high grades are a definite requirement for admission. Admission to the Ivy Leagues is so competitive that students with anything below a high "B" average will likely be cut out by competing students with better grades. That being said, Ivy League colleges also look at the strength and difficulty of a student's schedule over all four years of high school. Although each university is different, getting straight A's in easier courses won't look nearly as impressive to an admissions counselor as more difficult honors and accelerated placement courses, even if a student failed to achieve perfect grades. Applicants must have their high school submit an official transcript to be considered for admission.

Essay

In the extremely competitive world of elite college admissions, Ivy League schools require that students have more than just top SAT scores and a high GPA. Ivy League colleges want their students to be active in the campus community, which means that admissions counselors seriously weigh intangible elements on an application such as extracurricular activities. The required essays for each school's application are a great place for prospective students to highlight out-of-school work. These essays help individual students stand out from the pack from other highly qualified candidates. In addition, well-crafted essays also show college admissions counselors that an individual student can think critically and express himself eloquently.

Deadlines

To be considered for admission, prospective students are required to meet application deadlines and pay processing fees. Typically, early admission deadlines are Nov. 1 of each year; students who are accepted to schools through early admission are typically bound to attend that school. Most regular decision applications are due Jan. 1 each year.