Now that school’s back in session, high school seniors are scrambling to pull together college applications. It’s an anxious time for parents like me. Some parents may be sweating more than others. Take my over-achieving Microsoft senior executive next door neighbors, David and Judy Wong (recent immigrants from Shanghai). They’re frantically hoping their little first violinist, chess champion daughter Vivian gets into Harvard or Yale.
Even with her staggering 6.8 GPA (I have no idea how either), in this competitive environment, Vivian might have to settle for her safety school, Oxford. In our family’s case, we’re just hoping we don’t have to fall back on our daughter’s safety school, the Louisiana Truck Driving Academy for Asian Drivers.
Here at VFTB, our expert staff of college planning advisors and part-time Wal-Mart greeters has assembled a strategy guaranteed to get your child into the Ivy* League college campus of their choice (* we’re talking of course about Ivy Tech Community College with 30 campuses throughout Indiana).
First, a word about your student’s 2.75 GPA: Chill. Let’s face it, by now three-fourths of your high school senior’s cumulative GPA is behind them. Sure, they probably should have taken Advanced Placement Anatomy & Physiology last semester instead of Intro to Pickleball, but how could they have known at age 17 that Anatomy & Physiology might come in handy down the road… in their career plans … to become an anatomical physiologist?
So let’s help your super star get into the college of their parent’s dreams. (Let’s worry another day about the fact they’ll probably flunk out after second semester.)
Strategy #1: The SAT Test: When in doubt, choose A, B, C or D. A student’s standardized test score is one of the most important factors colleges consider when deciding to reject my daughter’s application. When taking this test, I strongly advise your future Einstein limit their response options to one of the first four letters of the alphabet. [Hint: “Q” is almost never the right answer.] You might also want to have them sit right next to junior chess champion Vivian Wong. She scored a 2370 on her PSAT. Capiche?
Strategy #2: The College Essay: Recently colleges have been placing increasing importance on the college essay – in order to get an idea of what your child is passionate about. I’m not sure your wunderkind Dustin is setting the world on fire with his passion for playing Halo2 on his Xbox 360 with his best friend Lucas until 2am. Your student’s college essay must show true passion and must include at least one of the following story elements:
- How their near brush with death during their solo climb to the summit of K-2 at age 14 to raise money for starving kids in Nepal helped them become aware of the imminent threat of global warming
- How their concern for the third world cultures grew out of their experience of building a church (or, if you prefer, synagogue) at age 16 for a lost Amazonian tribe, using only a nail file, duct tape, and a tube of crazy glue, or
- How at age 15 they saved a pod of orca whales from certain death at the hands of a team of Halliburton black ops, teaching her the importance of saving the planet, one Halliburton mercenary at a time
Strategy #3: Letters of Recommendation: I used to be mildly concerned when every teacher said the same thing about our child: “No, I can’t say that I recall ever having her as a student.” Until I realized that the secret is to compose these letters of recommendation myself. Who knew your child was such a super star? Read these achievements we just made up about your precious angel. Are you blushing yet?
- “As [name of child]’s soccer coach for the past 11 seasons, I have never seen a more gifted athlete, natural born leader or humanitarian left striker. Despite playing with a broken femur bone for most of last season, I doubt her record of 57 goals in a season will ever be broken…”
- “I consider myself blessed to have been [name of child]’s Bio-Chem-Physics-Modern Dance teacher. Not only was he / she a joy to have in class, but he / she is my first student ever to have discovered a new chemical element. But it was her dissertation disproving Einstein’s theory of relativity that impressed me the most…”
- “As Governor of the fine state of [insert state name], I can’t say enough positive things about [name of child]. If you accept his / her application, I believe I just might be able to locate an additional $1.5 million in grant money in the budget earmarked for your university. Let’s keep this just between you and me, okay? …”
Strategy #4: Volunteerism / Community Service: Hopefully by now, you’re catching on. Not sure your daughter’s selfless gesture “volunteering” to drive her friends to the mall is quite what they mean by volunteerism. Try one of these creative ideas in your child’s application instead:
- I spent the summer in Mexico [or Gulf Coast or Newark, NJ] building homes for people displaced by Hurricane [Insert name here]. Choose a credible-sounding name. Good choices: Hurricane Isaac, Charles, Amanda. Poor choices: Hurricane Buddy, Tootsie, Voldemort.
- I interned at the zoo, nursing back to health [choose between: baby penguins / baby pandas / baby tiger cubs] that had been badly injured in [choose between: a torrential flood / a devastating monsoon / a Mexican circus animal juggling act gone horribly awry].
- I worked last summer at a refugee camp in Kenya where I made hand-woven baskets for disadvantaged Kenyan orphans, who used the baskets to rescue baby animals injured in circus animal juggling accidents.
Strategy #5: Unique characteristics that set your child apart: Ask yourself: What sets your child apart – besides the fact he / she was the first student ever to fail Intro to Pickleball? Get creative. Here are some of our personal favorites:
- Your child’s a multi-racial orphan you adopted at age 9 from a downtrodden West African nation (I might suggest Senegal – it’s very trendy right now with Admissions Officers) – For a nice finishing touch, scan a photo of a smiling African teenager from any recent National Geographic magazine (see your child at right).
- At age 14, they overcame a debilitating childhood stutter and now perform Shakespeare in the Park on weekends for elderly shut-ins.
- At age 13, they wrote the source code for Google’s search engine algorithm, before becoming Facebook’s youngest programmer. The Thumbs up LIKE button was their idea.
Follow this five-step strategy, and your kid is a shoe-in for Princeton. As to how you’ll ever scrape up the $50,000 a year needed to pay for it, that’s the subject of another View from the Bleachers post.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2011