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What Colleges Don't Tell You (And Other Parents Don't Want You to Know): 272 Secrets for Getting Your Kid into the Top Schools
eBook by Elizabeth Wissner-Gross

eBook Category: General Nonfiction/Education
eBook Description:

A sought--after packager of high school students shares 272 secrets to help parents get their kids into the top schools

Targeting the savvy parents of today’s college--bound teenagers who seek to gain a proven edge in the college admissions process, this book reveals 272 little--known secrets to help parents get their kids into the school of their dreams.

Did you know?

; A child’s guidance counselor can help reverse a deferral. ; A parent can help get a child off a waiting list. ; There is a way for students to back out of Early Decision once they’ve been accepted.

Based on the controversial insider information Elizabeth Wissner--Gross has gleaned from working as a highly successful packager of high school students and from interviews with heads of admission at the nation’s top colleges, this book empowers parents by decoding the admissions process.

eBook Publisher: Penguin Group
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2007

The Shoo-In Kid

The Big Question

When more than 2.94 million students graduate from more than 27,000 high schools each year in the United States—including more than 27,000 valedictorians, 27,000 salutatorians, 27,000 student government presidents, 27,000 school newspaper editors-in-chief, and about 25,000 students with verbal SAT scores that are 750 or above and 30,000 with math scores of 750 or above—totaling more than 100,000 "top kids" (assuming some kids have a combination of these credentials—otherwise more than 150,000 top kids)—why should a college that admits only 500 to 3,000 freshmen annually take your kid? That's a sobering question that parents must know how to answer if they want to help their kids get into the most-competitive colleges. Saying that your kid is hardworking, a great kid, top in the school, or believing that your kid is even gifted, well-rounded, head of every organization and club in school, deserving, or able to handle the workload, doesn't cut it. Getting a lovely recommendation from a guidance counselor, principal, or teacher isn't enough. To be able to state all of the above, isn't even enough. These are all qualities that are assumed of all the applicants to the most-competitive colleges.

Secret 1

In order to help your kid get into a "most-competitive" college, you must help your child craft an honest and convincing answer to the BIG QUESTION. Most people don't understand tha\tt this is the main question that "most-competitive" colleges are asking during interviews, in the college essays, and in reading recommendations. But if you know this one secret and follow up on it, you will be far more helpful to your son or daughter in succeeding at the college admissions game.

Don't relax with the notion that the college your son is aiming for accepts 1,500 or 3,000 or 10,000 students, so the odds are in his favor. Colleges take pride in admitting each student—one individual at a time. Your daughter must have her own sought-after desirable qualities. If not, create some while there's still time. Remember, most of the most-desirable colleges reject far more kids than they accept. So if you're counting on your child "getting in with the flow," the flow isn't getting admitted.

Granted, the 107 students out of 300,000 test-takers who received perfect scores of 2400 on the first round of the new SATs in 2005 might have deserved to feel a little more relaxed than other applicants. Placing among the country's top 107 does make one stand out nationally. But receiving a perfect score is still no guarantee of admission and no cause for complacency. (Top colleges love to boast about how many students with perfect scores they've turned away. And they don't like to grant admission to lax underachievers based solely on a lotterylike one-day performance on the SATs. So extremely high SAT scores alone will not guarantee admission.)

Secret 2

Behind every successful kid, there's a supportive network or individual. If you look at the enrollment of the most-competitive colleges, you'll find that most of the kids who attend have been assisted enormously by families, mentors, community members, teachers, or all of the above. The vast majority of parents of successful students can take credit for helping their kids get into the school of their choice, often investing hours to do so.

Granted, not all parents are equally capable of helping. And some parents may be too busy. Others claim to want to encourage independence (which is not achieved, I should emphasize, by ignoring a child's needs). And many, many parents claim that they would love to help their kids but that their kids reject any offers of assistance. That may be, but don't be fooled into thinking that some of the most successful kids just make it on their own. Very, very few do nowadays—no matter how independent their parents claim they are. Your extremely competent, deserving high school student needs your help.

Who says a parent need get involved? Why not just have the child apply to college the way our parents and their generation dealt with us—send her to her room to fill out the application form alone? When she gets good and "motivated" (translation: tired, bored, panic-stricken, sick of being badgered), the application will magically get done. After all, the rationale goes, if a student isn't motivated enough to fill out an application, how will she make it through college?

Parents who accept this line of thinking generally have children who are less successful at getting into more competitive colleges. More-involved parents tend to have more success. Involvement ranges from playing a cheerleading role to agreeing to be responsible for the dull but essential bookkeeping chores (maintaining files, monitoring deadlines, and photocopying to keep duplicates of every paper submitted) to brainstorming, reading, and discussing the student's essays.

Parental encouragement and enthusiasm have never been found to stifle kids' motivation or to slow them down. Students who have been encouraged by their parents in the application process or in other competitive endeavors never seem to be at any greater loss for motivation later in life. Among the most visible examples are televised teenage tennis stars and Olympic athletes. TV cameras increasingly show exuberant parents in the stands. In turn, the winners are increasingly thanking their parents publicly for support that ranges from building ski board apparatus in the backyard to chauffeuring an athlete to practices hundreds of miles away, from uprooting the family to be near the world's top instructor to financing expensive equipment and lessons.

To start your child thinking about colleges, show him a sample college application or take him on a college tour as far in advance as possible—eleventh grade, tenth grade, or younger—to motivate him. Make special note of the part of the application that asks for lists of activities and awards. Talk about how you expect to help your kid fill those blanks with the remaining time left before he goes off to college. Will you root for your daughter at swim meets? Will you accompany your son on Hollywood auditions? Will you pay for an archaeological dig? Will you welcome an exchange student into your home? Will you drive the family to an isolated field at three a.m. to witness an aurora borealis? Plan ahead as much as you can.

Significant achievements require lots of family legwork and lots of outside support and encouragement. Mozart could not have composed such beautiful music if his parents had not invested in a piano and arranged his performance schedule. Shirley Temple could not have reached stardom at such a young age if family members did not help prepare her for auditions. Olympic athletes require investment in sports equipment and plenty of costly training, scheduling, and chauffeuring.

The best résumés don't happen—they're carefully planned. When should you start planning? Now. As soon as you realize the value of planning. Plan with your child. She should be the decision maker in choosing a direction—but you, the parent, should figure out the opportunities. You're the chief scout. Find that audition, science class, rocketry camp, or architecture competition. Inspire multiple interests and expose your child to multiple fields. The younger the child is when you start, the greater the résumé and the more opportunities that will become available.

In helping to select activities, you might do so with specific colleges in mind. For example, if your son shows a strong interest in architecture and might want to be the shoo-in at architecture school, contact colleges that offer that subject to find out what experiences they value in their applicants. At a minimum, have your son pursue some of those activities in the summer leading up to senior year—preferably in prior summers as well. Sometimes some of these activities have their own prerequisites (design, drawing, or engineering courses) that must be filled summers earlier. By letting your child explore multiple interests and experiences during the summers leading up to college, he or she will develop a better understanding of how to find the best school and what colleges like to call "the perfect match."

The Best College and the Perfect Match

Which is better: Harvard or Stanford? Princeton or Yale? Virginia or Berkeley? MIT or Caltech? Bates or Bowdoin? Wash U or Hopkins? These are questions that parents often ask. Some are satisfied to base their decisions on the annual ratings in U.S. News & World Report. But for savvier parents, I stress that what is considered perfect for one child is not necessarily the best for another. Colleges really do differ, and smart families visit campuses to get a sense of the diverse campus cultures.

Copyright © Elizabeth Wissner-Gross, 2006.

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