The college admissions process is often described as a crapshoot; a harrowing, stress-inducing experience filled with single-digit acceptance rates and essays upon essays. It’s a difficult process to decode, and students and parents frequently feel like they’re going in blind, with no clue what the secret sauce is to gain admission at an elite university. Today, we try to help listeners demystify that process by talking to two high school seniors, Alicia Abramson and Meredith Johns, who were recently admitted to Yale University and Harvard College, respectively.

Alicia lives in Los Angeles, California, and currently attends Palisades Charter High School. Meanwhile, Meredith hails from just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and attends Kennesaw Mountain High School. The two have been friends since July, when they met at Notre Dame Leadership Seminars, a summer program for rising seniors at Notre Dame University.

Both have been involved in politics and government throughout their high school careers. Alicia is involved in Moot Court, Youth & Government, her local Democratic Club, the L.A. Mayor’s Youth Council, and her school newspaper. She has served as an intern on several local and national political campaigns, and she works as a tutor — in fact, she currently does work for the Scalar Learning podcast. In a similar vein, Meredith is a part of Model United Nations, her school paper, Young Democrats, and student government. She has interned at the Carter Center and with multiple political campaigns. Both hold various leadership positions within those clubs and organizations.

In this episode, we talk about what it takes to get into some of the top schools in the country: a combination of grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and essays. Alicia and Meredith go into detail about their high school experience and the college application process that they went through in applying and being accepted into their top choice universities.

Tune in to the entire episode below to find out more about getting into top Ivy League schools!