The Magical Admissions Gift – The Hook

Everyone wants to know the secret to getting into college. While there are several strategic decisions that everyone can make to enhance their chances, there are also several “magical gifts,” known as “hooks,” that can give some applicants a huge admissions boost.

So, what are these magical gifts?

Take a look below to find out.

Hook #1: Legacy Status

Parents, if your alma mater hasn’t already insinuated it, it is eager to accept your qualified progeny. After all, experience has shown them that this is a great way to extract extra donations out of happy and, now thankful, alumni. Typically, legacy status doubles a child’s chances of being admitted. To give you an example, most Cornell applicants have a 14.1% chance of acceptance. Legacy applicants, on the other hand, have a 28.2% chance. I would say that that’s significant!

Do note, however, the “qualified” qualifier that I slipped in. Most colleges expect your children to roughly meet their average admissions standards, otherwise they’re likely not getting in regardless of this special status.

Hook #2: Development Cases

The exception to the “qualified” qualifier, however, is the development case. Think Jared Kushner or Amy Carter. Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, was remarkably mediocre as a student, but his father donated millions of dollars to Harvard University in exchange for his son’s admission. Guess what? He got in! As for Amy Carter, the daughter of President Jimmy Carter, she gained admission to Brown University, yet got kicked out for not being able to keep up with the work. Something tells me she didn’t really earn her way into that school. If you would like to work the development case angle for your child, get on the phone and ask to speak to the development office. The school will let you know how much it will need to secure your child a space.

Hook #3: Friendship with the Dean of Admissions or the President of the University

I often get questions from parents about whether or not they should reach out to their friend who sits on the board of a university, so that she can put in a good word for their son. My answer is always this: “If your friend is Dean of Admissions or President of the University, then sure, yes definitely! If your friend is on the Board, then that request very likely won’t do anything for you. But why not?!” Board members and alumni constantly flood admissions offices with “good words” for applicants at elite institutions, so much so, that these efforts most often become meaningless – unless that “good word” will come with a financial benefit.

Hook #4: Diversity Candidates

With all the benefits accorded to certain groups in society, colleges are trying to level the playing field with a variety of diversity initiatives, albeit to varying success. That’s why students from underrepresented minority backgrounds (read: not Caucasian or Asian American) are granted admissions advantages at schools that practice affirmative action. According to a study called, “Admission Preferences for Minority Students, Athletes, and Legacies,” this translates into roughly a 185-point boost on the new SAT for Hispanics and a 230-point boost for African Americans.

Sadly, Asian Americans are actually penalized approximately 50 points on the new SAT for being “model minorities.” Thankfully, they’re now fighting this in court, and I’m cheering them on from the sidelines!

Hook #5: Hardship Cases

Undergoing a life-changing experience, such as losing your home, growing up in extreme poverty, having to live away from your parents for safety reasons, or surviving a life-threatening illness, and coming out of it all a stronger person, shows tremendous grit and character. Colleges love reading these stories and having such students on campus, because they have a lot to teach everyone else. So, if something dramatic has happened to you, make sure that it gets included in your application. It could be what tips the scales in your favor.

Hook #6: Geography

A fortuitous choice in residency can translate into an admissions advantage. It could be that you go to school next to a top choice college. Stanford, for example. just like all other universities, wants to maintain a strong relationship with its surrounding community. Who knows if they’re going to need to put in a request for some strange building project 10 years down the road that will require bulldozing a local playground. Plus, many people in Palo Alto work for Stanford in some capacity, and Stanford wants to keep its employees happy. So, they offer a number of spots to top students from the surrounding community! If you’re lucky enough to live near such a school and your child is a high achiever, look into applying.

For others, who live in the remote corners of the U.S. (or world for that matter), you will contribute to a college’s geographic diversity, and thus become a more attractive candidate. That, too, creates a significant advantage!

Hook #7: Recruited Athletes

Recruited athletes are often shown in through a side door to a university, and depending on the sport, are typically not held to th same stringent academic standards of admission (that doesn’t mean that they don’t have something incredible to contribute to the university). If you are talented enough to catch a coach’s attention, this could make all the difference with getting into the school of your dreams.

Hook #8: First Generation College Students

While legacies get special consideration, so do students whose parents never went to college. Being a first-generation college student, regardless of your family’s financial background, provides a huge admissions boost. The barriers to getting college for such students are already set so high from the get-go that colleges will love you for finding your way to their gates.

Hook #9: Exceptional Talent

Have you ever picked up a newspaper or watched the evening news when a child prodigy appears featured for having taken on the world as a mere 16-year-old? Yes, these kids are pretty amazing and intimidating, and yes, they get a leg up in the college admissions process, especially when they have achieved at the national and international levels. Wouldn’t you favor someone for being the National Scrabble Champion as well as a straight A student?

Hook #10: Expectations Defiers

Let’s be honest. We all believe in certain stereotypes. They could be gender-based, race-based, culturally-based, whatever. Right or not, they form the core of our preconceived notions about the world, and they definitely influence how admissions officers read applications. So, what you need to do is defy expectations and think strategically. Do the opposite of what is expected of your race, gender, or culture and you will get a leg up in the admissions process. If you’re a boy, think about applying as an Art HIstory major, or if you’re a girl, to Engineering. This could make all the difference.

So what do you do if you don’t possess any of these magical hooks? Is all lost? No, definitely not! You can still get into a great school. We’ll just have to figure out what makes you stand out!

Posted on July 17, 2017 at 3:32 pm

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