Martin Altenburg, a 17-year-old from Fargo, North Dakota, achieved the impressive feat of gaining acceptance into every Ivy League college.
He also gained acceptance into Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, and four other schools. In all, he sent applications to 19 colleges.
Applying to just a few schools, never mind more than a dozen, takes time and patience. So Altenburg had to take a measured approach to the admissions process.
“I made a schedule for myself,” Altenburg told Business Insider. “I’m a fairly disorganized person so I only make schedules for applying for colleges and studying for AP exams.”
Altenburg began working on his essays, which were the most time intensive, at the end of the summer, and had finished his Common Application essay before September was up.
He was applying early action to Stanford University, which had a deadline of November 1. The school had shorter essays that he worked on during October.
Once he finished Stanford’s application, he took a look at his remaining schools and split up his time.
“I devoted one or two days to a school that had smaller short answer essays or only one essay,” he explained. “Then for schools, like Caltech, that have five prompts that are all fairly long responses, I’d spend a week working on them,” he continued. “By the end of the process I was able to recycle a lot of my essays or adapt them a bit for the colleges.”
The process was the result of three months of preparing. In November and December alone Altenburg estimated that he spent about 50 hours writing essays, and another 30 hours obsessing about admissions while exploring sites like collegeconfidential.com, where students post about their experiences on a message board.
Now, as the school year winds down, he must decide which of the schools to attend. His top contenders are Harvard, Princeton, MIT, and Stanford.
In addition to finding a school that will help him explore his academic interests, he’s looking for the school that will be the right fit.
“I know in high school I’m sort of an outlier in terms of my interests and my motivations, and I really want to find a community in college where I’m able to relate to having a passion for environmentalism and the sciences,” Altenburg said.
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