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Elite colleges like Pomona College and the Ivies look for several things in incoming students, grades and test scores among them. But it'll take more than just straight As to get into an elite school.

Passion. Students should have a passion for something. Colleges want people who are unique in some way and can contribute to on-campus community.

Academic qualifications. Have you taken the most challenging courses and pushed yourself?

Grittiness. Have you overcome obstacles? Admissions officers love an underdog story.

Communication. How well do you write; how well do you speak? Play to your strengths.

Check out Money’s 2015-16 Best Colleges rankings

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