While academic excellence and social projects are important factors when getting into highly ranked universities such as MIT, Harvard, Princeton or Yale, it is unfortunately just the bare minimum. Almost every other applicant has a high GPA and volunteers in many social activities over their high school career. Furthermore, another thing to keep in mind is that if you are an international applicant, it lowers your chances of being accepted into these universities. While most top ranked universities may have an acceptance rate of around 10%, international students have a 5% or lower chance of getting in. So, if you plan on applying to an ivy league or any top university, you must plan way in advance and know exactly what needs to be done to show them why you are an excellent fit for these universities and vice versa.
Most students lack originality, especially in their essays and extracurriculars. They make the mistake of writing what one thinks an admission officer wants to read. And your extracurriculars and volunteer activities should have a personality behind them—- a focus and direction. These universities would rather have you do one or two activities that you are passionate and consistent in rather than seeing you dip your toes into various extracurriculars at once. The bottom line is, you must only do what genuinely interests you and show them how much further you can go, rather than doing what you think they might be interested in seeing. Apart from that, ensure that you have an understanding of the deadlines for the basic aspects of your application and you will most certainly have a chance of getting into highly ranked universities.