On March 12, 2019, United States prosecutors revealed the largest and most prominent college admissions scandal in US history to date. Allegedly, at least thirty-three affluent actresses, business leaders, and other wealthy parents of college applicants fraudulently inflated entrance exam scores, bribed college officials, and spent more than $25 million dollars between 2011 and 2018 to help their children get into the colleges of their choice. These parents and school officials face countless charges for mail fraud, felony conspiracy, and money laundering. The scandal has been dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” and is the perfect lesson for how not to help your children get into the schools of their choice.
Parents with ethical standards, though, may be wondering about the right steps to take to help their son or daughter gain admission to their dream schools. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the top 6 things you can do to help give your child the best chance of opening that college admissions letter that reads, “Congratulations!”
Focus on What You Can Control
When it comes to college admissions, the ultimate decision about a student’s acceptance or denial isn’t up to anyone except the decision-making board at the college. This lack of control can drive parents crazy. But, focusing on the elements you can control can make all the difference in boosting your child’s chances for a positive result.
According to the U.S. News, the top six reasons that college applicants get rejected from their choice schools are:
- The applicant didn’t meet the academic threshold.
- The application is incomplete.
- The school isn’t a good fit.
- The application has too many errors.
- The student has a record of behavior problems.
- The demand is much greater than the supply.
Looking at the above list, we can identify that there is only one option on this list that a parent has zero control over: the demand for that school year is too high. Of course, meeting the academic threshold isn’t completely cut and dry since some year’s applicant pools may display a higher level of academic achievement that phases out lower level applicants who may have been able to “make the cut” in a different year. However, based on an evaluation of the list above, there are still five main areas where parents can offer their assistance without giving their child an unfair advantage.
- Encourage Your Child to Push Him/Herself Academically: With so many exciting social activities taking place in a child’s middle and high school years, it’s easy for students to be distracted from the bigger picture—college and beyond. Sometimes the best thing a parent can do is stay involved and monitor their child’s performance to ensure they remain on track. Since a student’s grades, class schedule, and test scores are the most significant gauges of (a) how well a student will perform in college and (b) how much a student is willing to challenge themselves to succeed, these areas should be constantly revisited. Encourage your students to tackle a more challenging course as slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are preferred to all A’s in less difficult classes. SAT/ ACT prep courses and private tutoring are excellent ways to increase your child’s readiness for these standardized tests. And remember that re-taking these tests to aim for higher scores is not frowned upon, so your child’s first score does not have to be the final one.
- Check Your Child’s Application for Errors and Completeness: This may be one of the most effective ways a parent can assist their college applicant because it is so simple, yet so impactful. Review your child’s application packet for accuracy as well as completeness. Too many grammatical errors in a college admissions essay or a missing letter of recommendation could be the determinant that gets your child’s application pushed aside. Should your child’s writing skills be on the weaker side, hiring a tutor to assist in the writing process may be an option that still doesn’t breach any moral or ethical boundaries. And if you feel that you need further assistance with the entire application process, inquire about enlisting the assistance of a college coach who can walk you and your family through the entire process without interfering in an unprincipled manner.
- Do Your Research: If your child wishes to pursue a veterinary career, but applies to an aeronautical school, his chances of admission are slim. Or, if an applicant submits an admissions essay that expresses his or her interest in going to a large university, that student clearly has either not done his due diligence on the institution or is seeking admission for all the wrong reasons. Your child has the best chance of admission when he or she clearly aligns his or her goals with the offerings of the particular school in which he or she is applying.
- Urge Your Child to Participate in Extracurricular Activities and Community Service: With the fierce admissions competition that exists today, academics are only one aspect of an applicant’s picture. Colleges favor applicants who show community involvement as well as prolonged participation in an extra-curricular activity. However, a deeper level of commitment to a few sports or activities is valued over shallow involvement in a wider range of activities. Leadership roles in extracurricular activities are especially desirable to admission boards, so running for the president a club or student body program may help your applicant stand out.
- Educate Your Child on the Repercussions of Bad Behavior: When it comes to college admissions, just as in life, a poor record of behavior can make gaining entrance into highly coveted schools, programs, or jobs increasingly difficult, if not impossible. Colleges are not going to willingly accept an applicant who displays a history of disruption with other members of the student body or staff.
- Teach Your Child About College Expenses: Student loan debt makes up the second largest category of consumer debt behind mortgages in the US. And with the price of tuition and fees on the rise, giving your child a clear picture about college expenses can help him or her avoid accruing an exorbitant amount of debt at a young age. Sit down and make an anticipated budget that includes tuition, fees, books, room and board, transportation costs, living expenses, meal plans, etc. Scholarships, grants, and both state and federal financial aid programs may help to cover a significant amount of expenses before coming out of your wallet. Many students even opt to work during the year or on their summer vacations to help contribute.
Once your child has received all of his or her acceptance letters, you might want to compare how each college compares in cost. In this case, you’ll want to estimate the net cost. In order to find the estimated net cost, you subtract any scholarships or grants awarded the applicant from the published price of tuition, fees, and room and board. This will allow you to do a financial side-by-side comparison and make the best decision for both your own finances and your child’s future.
Since there are some elements of the admissions process that we cannot control, it’s important to be emotionally supportive of your applicant during the entire process—especially if he or she receives a rejection letter or two. As parents, we would give anything to see our children be fulfilled and successful in their college years, but the reality of the admissions process is that not every application is going to be a win. It’s important to remind our applicants that the first choice is not the only choice. Collegiate success is determined by an individual’s actions, no matter what type, level, or caliber of school he or she attends.
If you need assistance in choosing how to best fund your child’s post-secondary education, please contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation where we would be more than happy to assist you in analyzing your options.
This information is provided for general purposes and is subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to compile this material from reliable sources; however, no warranty can be made as to its accuracy or completeness. Before acting on any of the information, please consult your Financial Advisor for individual financial advice based on your personal circumstances. Neither Harbor West nor Geneos Wealth Management, Inc. provide tax or legal advice.
Harbor West is a division of NorthEast Community Bank. Securities and Advisory Services offered through Geneos Wealth Management, Inc. FINRA/SIPC Investment Advisory and Financial Planning Services offered through Geneos Wealth Management, Inc. Investments are not FDIC Insured. Investments are not deposits of the financial institution and are not guaranteed by the financial institution. Investments are subject to risks including loss of principal.