This might go well with the discussion on getting perfect SAT scores. I realized from the SAT averages of Ivy League schools that they must go way out of their way to accept students with (relatively) lower scores. That's why many students with top scores don't get in. A friend of mine was in charge of an open meeting, sponsored by our state's Harvard Club, that talked about Harvard and the admission process. It also included a discussion by some current students from our state.
It started with a 20 minute video presentation that seemed to go out of its way to talk about how Harvard students are really just regular people - not some sort of elite. Well, they are elite regular people. That's the community they are trying to put together, and above a certain level of grades, other things become much more important.
So here is the issue. What does Harvard look for in a student? They don't want kids to apply just because it's Harvard or an Ivy League school. But after the meeting, I can't say that I know the answer to this question. They want a well-rounded school, but the admissions officer for the state claimed that each student can be "oblong". If you don't know what you want to concentrate in (they don't call it a major), then why would you want to go to Harvard? Because it's an Ivy League school? The admissions officer said that all Ivy League schools are different, but she didn't explain how Harvard might be different than Yale. It seems to me that if you made a case about wanting to be part of the work being done in one specific department at Harvard, that wouldn't be enough. Since most students don't know what they want to concentrate in, that's not really part of the admissions equation. They don't want you to apply because of their name or because it's an Ivy League school, but what else is there? They will decide if they want you based on their needs, not your needs. One of my grandfathers went to Harvard and one went to Yale. Why? Because one lived in CT and one lived in MA.
Someone once told me that the reason to go to an Ivy League school is for the people you'll meet and for the opportunities you might get. I realized when the students spoke that they were just talking about undergraduate courses. They were still figuring out what they wanted to concentrate in. Do they transfer to another Ivy League school when they figure it out? No. They wait for grad school.
In music performance, the goal is to find the best teacher to work with. You don't just blindly apply to Juilliard or Curtis. But then again, name, connections, and opportunities matter. It seems that the top schools want it both ways. They recruit based on their reputations, but students are supposed to pretend that it doesn't matter.