How to Get Your Kid into a Top College Without Getting Arrested

Can I get my kid into college without ending up in the big house?

Moms and Dads, if you’ve ever wondered how to get your child into college without having the feds show up at your house with guns drawn, you’ve come to the right place. Try this one weird old trick to get kids into the college of their choice — no bail necessary.

My husband and I have sent three kids off to college. In a few years, number four gets the boot, too. As all parents — even super wealthy celebrities — know, the college search, application, and acceptance process is stressful! But we never went all Veruka Salt and demanded, “I want an Oompaloompa — and acceptance to USC for my kid — now!”

Here’s the trick: it’s up to the kid, not the parents.

Granted our first child to go to college (and I may be a little biased here) is amazing, beautiful, and brilliant. That helps. I don’t know where we got her. When she was applying to colleges, she even made a spreadsheet with all the pertinent information: dates to visit, fees, deadlines, mascot, school colors…

She had great grades and pretty good SATs, but what got her into her number one choice was simply being who she is.

At one college, while she interviewed with an admissions counselor, I sat in the waiting room with another parent, a disgraced politician who shall remain nameless. Trust me, you know him. When his daughter was awaiting her turn with the counselor, her father shoved the Times at her. “Did you read the business section yet?” She rolled her eyes.

Soon, my daughter emerged with the counselor. They were chuckling and chatting away. He came over and said eagerly, “Are you the mom? I just want to say your daughter is terrific! She told me all about the ‘dirty babies.’ It’s so sad.”

For a moment I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I remembered — baby goats. Our daughter had worked on a farm, one of her jobs was goat midwife. Apparently, if someone didn’t catch the goat baby when it was born before it hit the ground, the mother could reject it. These rejected goat babies were referred to by the farmers as “dirty babies.”

This was all my daughter talked about in her interview. Goats, and dirty goat babies.

That college ended up accepting her — and offering almost a full ride.

She ended up choosing another top tier school in Washington, DC, which shall also remain nameless. Suffice to say, it was named all over the place when the college acceptance scandal broke.

She applied to the school of foreign service, one of the most competitive programs at this university. Even as her proud mom who thinks she can do anything, I felt compelled to tell her, “That’s a really tough program to get into. Maybe you should consider an easier one.”

Of course she got in. She had worked her butt off in high school. When the president of the college sent a letter congratulating her, he said the major factor in her selection was her 12-years of community service as a member of the Girl Scouts.

And what happened with the foreign service program? She ended up switching to the theater department and has a thriving career at a major arts institution.

Our nineteen-year-old son had been on an extended journey of shenanigans his entire school career. He is what society refers to as “a bit of a comedian.” From first grade teacher notes coming home warning, “Your son must not put crayons in his pants during phonics,” — which begs the question when is the right time to put crayons down one’s pants? — to the high school Dean of Discipline calling almost daily to complain about his latest antics. Hey, anyone can fall out of a rowboat in Central Park during the school day, right? But it was his walking around all day completely dripping wet for comical effect that was apparently deemed to be a bit “distracting.” Go figure.

We wondered if he would even graduate from high school much less get into college. His SATs were “meh” and his grades were “yikes.” But he wanted to be a filmmaker. He had made dozens of hilarious short films all through junior high school and high school. So he made a phenomenal short film to add to his college application. He was offered spots at four top tier private colleges! In the end, he decided he wanted to study film in the greatest filmmaking city in the world, so he chose to stay right here in NYC and is now enrolled in the excellent film program at Brooklyn College. It was all because of his hard work, and all the great films he made when he wasn’t falling out of boats.

His older brother was accepted into a great journalism program at a top SUNY school. After a year, he decided he wanted to transfer to an elite private university. So he did. He knocked himself out writing, made the dean’s list at his first college, applied to the new school, and was accepted. We didn’t even hear about it until it was time for the financial aid forms. He did it all himself. He ended up coming back to the top SUNY school, and is now pursuing his career as a professional journalist. We never even had to Photoshop his byline onto a school newspaper article.

We still have one thirteen-year-old coming up, and we know he will end up where he is supposed to go. With all of our kids, we will continue to pray, encourage, urge them to strive for excellence, and to pursue their passions. And that’s how my husband and I will stay out of the slammer.



Susan Konig is an author, publisher, consultant.

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