How do I get my kids into top 5 schools?

Saw some post here about how this guy wanted to go to HBS just so his kids could be H legacies - made me think. For context, I'm in my early 30s, married w/ 2 kids, live in NYC, principal @ top 5 MF, should be partner in a few years if things go as planned. I went to a pretty good school, T20, but I want my kids to go to top 5 schools. I didn't get into those T5 schools back in HS and I'm obviously over it & couldn't give 2 shits, but as a dad I want the best for my kids + want them to surpass me. 

Ideally, my kids will be at a top NYC private school and will be bright. I went to public school and I had no idea about this, but a few of my older buddies told me Horace Mann and Trinity ship kids off to HYPWS left and right -- like 30-40% of those kids go to ivies. I will gladly pay $60k a year per kid for that. But that's today. What will it take to really bump up my kids' odds of going to a Top 5 school in the 2030s/40s as it's getting more and more competitive, and acceptance rates will be under 1% by the then?

I make good money, and I expect some big checks over the next decade and on. I really don't want to pay my into this shit without having even went to the school, so that's off the table. Should I try to join random boards/initiatives at some of these schools? Would that even help? Should I guest lecture? What will it take and what do these schools even want? Appreciate any tips

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Comments (235)

  • Principal in PE - Other
May 9, 2021 - 7:13pm

Saw the documentary, crazy. If I'm gonna go the sports route, my kids are actually going to play the sport and be good enough for the ivy haha. Basketball, football, soccer, baseball, swimming, tennis are all weak bets -- what should I focus on? Crew? Golf? Lax? 

My concern is that out of 100 kids, for the 30-40 @ top NYC schools going to ivies, there are probably 40-50 who didn't get in and were probably qualified. Not sure if there are total nut jobs in NYC private schools. LEGIT Sports = one possible edge, another could be setting up a cool internship or maybe research w/ some professor @ T5 school. 

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  • Intern in PE - Growth
May 15, 2021 - 2:19pm

If you are looking to get your kids in sports solely for getting into an Ivy, I would reccomend Rowing. Most areas in the country don't even have access to rowing, so there is a smaller pool of people fighting for those recruited spots. Plus rowing teams are pretty big. Tennis and squash are way too competitive, most of  the top recruits in the country in those sports want to go to ivys rather than big sports school like other sports because most of them go to prep schools and are academically orientated.

One other thing as well is most Ivy's have lowered academic requirements like crazy in the last 5 years. This has made it much more challenging because kids who have no business going to ivy's are now taking those spots even in non-helmet sports. I've known people who are getting into non HYP Ivy's with low 20 ACT's in tennis/squash, something that was impossible five years ago.

  • Prospect in Consulting
May 9, 2021 - 8:23pm

For context, both me and my sibling went to HYP with no legacy/sports and are asian males so no affirmative action. Went to a good day school not in NYC but in the tri state area so feel like I have decent perspective.

Sports- the sports where money play a big role are often easier to get recruited as naturally theres less of a pool. The big ones are fencing (these guys are just not that athletic but have played for a while so are good), squash, lacrosse, and golf. Crew is hard because the international kids are often way better. Sports is definitely the dirty pipeline to get into top schools for kids from wealthy backgrounds. Not a guarantee but definitely an easier game if theres some genetic potential.

Academics- honestly, a lot of the kids at the NYC schools arent THAT smart. If you instill a good work ethic and both parents are smart, you will be fine. A lot of the kids who are these schools have parents that are wealthy but not necessarily bright so its not like all the kids are smart. You need to do basic things like make sure they have tutors etc whenever necessary to ensure they keep up with the system. Setting up a good intership or research is not as good as it sounds. The adcoms are smart. They often know that most places don't offer hs internships and thus would only be obtained by connections. The only way research works is if the kid gets into some of the generally known research programs such as RSI, Stony brook, etc. These programs also feed for the Intel science fairs as more of a filter. Sometimes a kid finds a research position on his own and does well in intel/google. Debate is a big feeder that is highly tied to money. Only a select amount of schools across the country have the budget/coaches to have their kids do well so if you want to try this make sure you research. Horace Mann is good at debate, Trinity is not for example. Lately, the SJW stuff has also gotten a lot of traction at these colleges. I know less about this but if you're child does some interesting stuff here that isn't just you paying for a flight to Africa for a week, that can help. 

Math competitions are probably the last big feeder I can think of. Start your kid in elementary school, maybe middle school, and make sure they compete well.

I think the key point is, outside of a straight up donation of a few MM to get your child in, the best way to get into these colleges is to do an activity well that isn't ONLY about money. Adcoms know when things are just bought. Aid trip for a week during the summer or some sexy internship at a bank for example. There are a few activities wbere wealth is big enabler but itself does not guarantee success. You can get the greatest coaches in the world for squash, but if youre kid isnt good it wont work. The same thing is true of debate, math competitions etc. And before anyone shits on the adcoms, people underestimate how much research they do. At my school, they often will ask the debate club, music clubs, etc to give a list of the biggest competitions in high school so they can differentiate properly. They try to do deep dilligence.

Also forgot to mention music/dance. I know less about this world but know it certainly is a feeder.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
May 9, 2021 - 8:49pm

White guy, no legacy/sports, from random American small town & public school in mid-size state (i.e. OH, GA, NC, VA, MI). Currently at one of HYP. This dude is giving great advice.

This guy is super right re: sports. I'd add diving to that list. 

Re: NYC schools, obviously this isn't my background, but I have a lot of friends who went through this at Trinity/Horace Mann/Dalton etc. For example, Trinity sends like 4 kids every single year to my school. If your kid is in the top ~half at one of these schools, they're probably at least getting into one T10 school.

This guy is 100% on re: internships, adcoms can read through a rich kid paying for dope experiences. In my experience -- I got into my school because (I've read my admissions file) I had some super out-there, obscure, random but interesting extracurriculars in high school. Mine are identifying, but from friends, I'm talking about stuff like being top 3 ranked in the world in War or Spite & Malice, or being a super successful water colorist, or being the Rubik's Cube USA champion, or starting their own radio station. The weirder & more successful, the better. But also debate, Model UN, math competitions, RSI, MIT has some programs too, etc. are all also good. Any precollege program at a good university that isn't simply dependent paying to get in will fit the bill.

If you want to do some casual browsing on your own, Reddit's r/ApplyingToCollege is actually a very solid forum (or it was ~4 years ago when I was applying, haven't really been there since). I also recommend to the inevitable high schoolers who will see this comment at some point.

  • Principal in PE - Other
May 31, 2021 - 4:18pm

Gotcha. When you look @ the subset of Horace Mann kids getting into HYP, would you say their edge was being a legacy, or being @ a feeder school? Asking because many of the folks I work with went to ivies, and they're sending their kids to these priv schools. When you think about it like that, there's a disproportionate amount of legacies in these schools -- giving HYP a reason to admit so many kids from one school. 

May 10, 2021 - 5:33am

As an international recruit in crew for hyp, I can offer a few points. One advantage of crew is it has a reasonably large recruiting class each year compared to those niche sports of about 12 recruits per year at most. While internationals are dominant there is still an advantage to being American as some colleges don't want to take a fall recruiting class of internationals. Between each uni there are differing standards of academics with Yale crew having the lowest. To get recruited to HYP you either need an excellent 2k or excellent grades. 2k standard is sub 6:20 at least if grades are strong, and the lower you go the lower the grades can be. To reach the academic index average teams need guys at the the top of the scale, so if you can get in with your grades and are decent at rowing it can be a huge boost. Finally this is all heavyweight recruiting advice so your kids will probably need to be 6"3 plus to be considered, if recruiting as a cox you need stellar grades.

May 10, 2021 - 6:37am

Former competitive rower here, but stayed in Europe. Is lightweight rowing a big thing at HYP/US rowing as well? I feel it's pretty much just heavyweight rowing in the US.

May 11, 2021 - 3:03am

Former tri state area prep schooler here (who did NOT go to an Ivy) the above post is the exact information Op needs. Every kid from my high school who went to an Ivy was a standout in his (all boys school) extra curricular. One who went to H is an immigrant in a single parent household, so money definitely isn't required for admission. I still meet people to this day who did his extra curricular in high school and know his name. Being a standout in an EC is worth way more in admissions than whatever you can buy your child.

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  • Principal in PE - Other
May 31, 2021 - 4:15pm

OP here. Very detailed response, much appreciated. One question pertaining to academic section -- how competitive are these research programs/math competitions? What are your thoughts on research with a professor @ one of HYPSW -- seems a lot more doable (would imagine these research programs are ultra competitive)

Jun 4, 2021 - 1:40pm

Hi OP, these math competitions and research programs are highly competitive, probably around a 0.1 percent acceptance rate. These are hugely helpful on your resume because of brand recognition and rigor. If you made it to semifinals in the AIME competition, you're probably smarter than 95 percent of the current students at a university. I came from a very stereotypical asian family background, doctor mother and naval engineer for a father. They started prep for me around the age of 12 with afterschool tutors, had taken all AP and SAT tests at 14 with full marks then competed throughout high school. Keep in mind, I didn't even make it to finals or top 50 in any of these competitions, I just barely made it to the second elimination round and that was enough to get me into a lot of places. The kids that I know that did end up winning these contests or being very successful have been preparing since the age of 8 and dedicate at least 20-30 hours per week of time outside of classes for competition prep. Very few students are accepted into ivies based off of academic merit nowadays, and even then there's way too many smart kids. Harvard could fill their entire freshman class multiple times over with just students that had perfect SAT scores. The college admissions game is crazy competitive nowadays, and it's probably only going to get more insane in the next couple of decades. 

The research angle with a HYP professor is a good gig if you can land it, but you'll need to spin a good story out of it which matters more than the actual subject being researched. If you get published, all the better. 

And as for the top feeder schools, I would have a little bit of caution before going to those because there is a lot of intra school competition. Those schools are great because they consistently send kids to top schools and admissions committees know to give those applications an extra glance. But if you go to one of these schools and you can't excel, it's almost worse than just going to a regular school because you'll be compared to all of the other type A juvenile hardos you attend school with. I went to a west coast feeder school and there were a lot of kids who were pretty smart but just did not do as well compared to their peers. 

May 9, 2021 - 8:33pm

Asian male who got into multiple top 5 / top 10 schools - happy to provide my thoughts over PM (didn't go to a feeder high school at all so studied the process very deeply to get in) as I think there is a formulaic way to differentiate yourself 

  • Intern in IB-M&A
May 9, 2021 - 9:28pm

Why don't you just post here so others can also benefit from your views?

  • Principal in PE - Other
May 31, 2021 - 4:20pm

Hi, OP here. Happy to chat over PM, would be much appreciated. I believe my username is in the original post

May 10, 2021 - 9:18am

Maybe in the medium term.  As more jobs require technical skills (i.e. software programming skills) the ability to test for those skills during the interview process will lessen the need to use school as a proxy for ability.  The above is decidedly not the future for jobs at places like FAANG - any technical job there it's much more about your skills than academic background.  

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May 10, 2021 - 6:36pm


This is the future.

Nope. The future (which is here) is no standardized tests required and the top 20 get muddled together. With that said, engineering will continue to be the most respected undergraduate program since it will be one of the only methods to determine if someone was intelligent and willing to go thru the fucking grinder to get their degree vs being accepted to a top school and then studying some weak business/liberal arts program. 

May 18, 2021 - 6:54pm

You have no idea what a caste system is.Non-Targets just don't educate well. That's why they are non-targets.

Caste System: An immutable social rank wherein one's occupation, level of wealth, and mobility is limited to that of their inherited privilege.

This guys is literally talking about how he can better educate and position his kid children to move into a social standing beyond that of his own through academics, athletics, and extracurriculars(i.e. Hard work, not that you would know what that is). All of which produce more well rounded people.

May 13, 2021 - 5:50pm

Yeah he should just let his kids be themselves and see how it plays out. With good parental support they should be fine. IMO it's not worth the intense pressure if the kids aren't cut out for a top school. I'm at a T25 undergrad and I'm doing just fine internship/job wise, better than some of my counterparts who went to ivys.

May 9, 2021 - 8:55pm

Hi op,

Just gonna copy paste the college app formula that my family used! My sister is an expert with college apps so I'm just summarizing her ideas.

As she puts it, the key to getting into top schools is to be a "spike" in one subject/area, and not be "well rounded". There are thousands of students who apply to top schools with perfect SAT scores, GPAs, APs, a varsity sport, and play music. GPA and test scores are important but less so than your "unique story". The secret formulae really is to pick one area and focus all extracurriculars into it (or be able to easily relate them to that area)- what my sister calls being a "spike". For example one of her friends got into Stanford with his application focus a being a "communicator". His extra curriculars in high school were: he made a short movie that was shown at a film festival, on the debate team, was a presenter/interviewer for panels for several forums, won an art contest. All his extracurriculars point to him being able to communicate his ideas/message in many different mediums (whether it be art, directing, public speaking, etc). Communication was his Spike.

The other key is understanding that top schools obsess over creating diversity. Pretty much students need to not fit in their stereotype. How many Asians apply to Harvard every year with perfect grades and are super good at one instrument. Thousands... On the other hand, how many people are the national puppet champion of their country? Very few. In the same way, women should over-index on male dominated fields to stand out. Schools want to increase representation in males dominated fields.

Think you're kids will be fine if they are smart and you plan well through high school. No need to join boards and whatnot!

  • Intern in IB - Gen
May 10, 2021 - 3:19am

was about to say the same thing. Currently at top target (not HYP) from an extremely unlikely background thanks to only my sport and wanted to say the same. In high school, I did not do a single activity besides my sport because I was traveling all year around. I honestly think that if your kids are still younger than 7/9 ish the best bet under a different perspective is being recruited as an athlete.

1. being an athlete is nice, they will not need to do bs activities to get into college, they will spend time playing a sport they hopefully like 

2. HYP recruit athletes but do not give scholarship. if your kids are good athletes they will have less competition to be recruited at HYP because very good athletes that need scholarships are cut

3. being a varsity athlete is a huge advantage in recruiting. I understand that with you as a dad, they will have an easier recruiting than most people, but I think that sports will help them make it on their own

May 10, 2021 - 11:29am

The intersectional route is the way to go. If you had actually done your due diligence and research into this, you would not have married someone who would produce Asian or white children, that's an amateur mistake in this business. They can't afford NOT to be black or Native American. When your kids are learning their ABCs, tell them to pick out a letter - congrats, this now corresponds to their gender identity or sexual orientation from the LGBTQQIP2SAA+ spectrum. And, you needed to pick a mate who will give you varsity athletes - like a WNBA player. You need all three aspects down, race, sexual orientation, and being a recruited athlete. One or two is not enough in today's competitive environment. Next, since your student is likely being compared to other students from their school, you need to get all the teachers and guidance counselors on your side with cash bribes and an additional payout once your kid is accepted. This does not guarantee success, but until we have designer DNA to give your children better genes than poor people, this is the best you can do. 

May 9, 2021 - 9:55pm

My $0.02... Dad with kid attending a T5 in the fall. Accepted at 13 out of 17 schools (3 T5 and 3 T5 LACs). Grades and test scores are a must - not perfect but within the 95 percentile. Top 50 or better national/international rank in a sport/other extra-curricular activity. Last but certainly not least - ability to communicate in essays what lessons he/she learned from these experiences and how that will contribute to their future academic pursuits. Go luck!

May 9, 2021 - 10:59pm

Avoid NYC public schools at all costs if you live in the city or move out if you live in the city. If your ok with boarding/international schools then so be it but I would advise for strong early start to school.

May 14, 2021 - 10:53pm

Yes if you can get them into their. I don't know about you but I don't wan to put my kid through that stress and neither do I want to go through it. I guess this is very hard to explain but I've been to both. Plenty of other great HS with same or if not better odds than Stuyvesant. Even on the public side. Sorry if thats the answer your looking for but i'm tired haha

May 9, 2021 - 11:53pm

No. This is the world of tomorrow. Decades ago people didn't have to worry about college until their junior or senior year of high school. Some people didn't even want to go to college. Acceptance rates for the most selective schools were probably north of 20%. I got serious about college during my sophomore year of hs. My brother is getting ready right now in eighth grade, and acceptance rates will probably be sub-5% for HYPSM when he applies. When OP's kids are in high school (about 15 or so years from now), the process will be even more competitive. The world of top school admissions is becoming a pressure cooker. He's absolutely right to start preparing this early.

  • VP in IB - Cov
May 11, 2021 - 1:07pm

Agree for the most part but also want to point out that acceptance rates don't mean much.

Vandy has an acceptance rate of 9% while Cornell's nears 11% but that reveals nothing about the quality of the student body. The former probably receives a slew of applications from mediocre candidates who just want to yeehaw and party while the latter will have to accept a slightly higher % of gunner applicants since it is a safety for other Ivies.

The belief that acceptance rate correlates to rigor and quality needs to die. Walmart and McDonalds have single digit hiring rates...

May 14, 2021 - 2:46pm

Just look at the Cali schools... literally just a few years ago were around 10-15% acceptance at UCLA, Berkeley, USC. Now those are all at 5%. The last 2-3 years have seen ridiculous drops in acceptance rates all around the country. 

  • Principal in PE - Other
May 31, 2021 - 4:28pm

Thank you for seeing my views, this guy gets it. For the IB folks here, this is exactly what good investing is about. Never be some schmuck with a thesis predicated on today's reality...

  • Principal in PE - Other
May 31, 2021 - 4:31pm

Long story...wife was out with her friends, all of whom have kids around my kids' age. Wife's friends have husbands that are alums of top schools, and they donate + are trying to prep for the future. Wife comes home and starts telling me how we need to prep better, and I didn't want to ask around just yet, so figured I'd get some advice from younger folks on WSO

Jun 4, 2021 - 1:52pm

Honestly, not a bad strategy. I know some family friends in Asia that start college prep around the second to third trimester and I'm actually being dead serious about that. These people have planned out the daycares for their child to go to, IQ boosting diet and baby exercise plan, and even paid to reserve a spot at a top elementary school. 

The college admissions game now is radically different than it was 20 years ago, and the trend is most likely gonna continue to get more competitive. My mom had me start on ACT prep when I was 12 and was already planning out the tutors and coaches I would need to fill out my extracurriculars since I was 8. At the time, that was seen as insane but now I see a lot of middle schoolers and even some elementary school students start standardized test prep. 

At the same time that you see this being so competitive, I think it's also good for you to relax and let your kids enjoy their childhoods and develop their own passions. Admissions is also a crapshoot to a certain degree and there are plenty of people that did everything right but still didn't make it. You don't absolutely need to get into HYP. UPenn, Cornell, UC Berkeley, etc. are all still great schools that will have you set for a career as well. 

  • Intern in IB-M&A
May 9, 2021 - 11:36pm

I'll give my two cents but I think one key mistake people make is the idea that applicants should be well rounded. They need an edge. These top colleges see their students as lottery tickets that could become massively successful one day and generate a ton of recognition for the school. The edge can be anything I guess but something to show excellence in an area. For example, my friend won a bunch of robotics competitions in high school. Did he do other activities? Yea, but he focused on robotics mostly and that's what he loved to do. Hope this helps!

May 10, 2021 - 12:20am

Good for you man. Try not to be too authoritarian about it, but I'd advise that you limit your kids' access to social media like Instagram, reddit, Tiktok etc. This stuff is as addictive as coke. If they start too young, I think it can debilitate their discipline and work ethic later on. Regardless of what you do for them, if your kids are stuck on an endless loop of Instagram memes, they will fall behind the other kids who spent their time studying for the USAMO. Let your kids have fun, but shelter them from social media like it's a hard drug.

May 10, 2021 - 2:05pm

This is honestly really good advice. Social media is absolutely terrible for you and people are only just now starting to realize. Seeing 9 year olds flipping through TikToks full of sex and porn references is just disheartening for the state of the future

May 10, 2021 - 12:43am

Well...this is intense. I almost am against the Harvard, MITs, and Yales. The mental health of so many of those kids is so trash bc it's constant competition and your kid could be average competing for seats taken by geniuses there. My advice would be don't micromanage and let your kid do what he/she wants as cliche as it sounds. Rather have a good relationship with your child than a college burn out

  • Intern in IB - Gen
May 10, 2021 - 2:25pm

Yes the mental healths of many people at these places is trash, but it's rarely if ever about competition. It's mostly about internal drive. Most people here either #1) are geniuses (or in the range) and have incredibly high expectations of themselves that they almost can never reach #2) people who got in for extraneous reasons (athletes, donors, etc.) who deal heavily with imposter syndrome and try to prove to themselves that they're worthy of being at one of these places. There aren't many people who are just uber-competitive with others... it's a lot of golf mentalities, always surpassing your own best

  • Intern in IB-M&A
May 10, 2021 - 8:46am

When they are small, do all activities that are possible to do. Then figure out what they love, pick out 5 things or something and let them do that. If they have things they love to do they will become good at it because they can spend more time on it due to them not becoming bored. Having a number like 5 will give you a better chance that they will continue at least 1-2 of these activities and some of them may become sick off and stop doing. 

Using these activities with a high GPA and a well-written application should be good. Just find out what they love to do and let them spend time on that maybe they can become champs or win shit in that activity, use that to get them a chance. 

May 10, 2021 - 9:37am

Not the most traditional, but if you want to save money, your kids can get their GED when they are 17 and enlist in the military. Do a 3 year enlistment and try to knockout courses while on active duty. Then, apply as a transfer student as a 20 year old vet and get essentially a free ride with the GI Bill. Most ivy schools look very favorably on vets and the career outlook with a military background also goes a long way. Obviously, your kids will have to be willing to enlist and being active duty does suck, but it's for sure a loophole that can be taken advantage of. 

May 10, 2021 - 9:41am

Or you could let your children grow up how they want without having the pressure to go to a "T5 school" before they're even born. Absolutely psychopathic. 

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  • Associate 1 in IB - Cov
May 10, 2021 - 10:16am

Going to a top school doesn't mean as much as it once did and will continue to mean less and less as time goes on.  Through affirmative action BS, posts like these about the ridiculous admissions process that can clearly be gamed, etc. it's no longer about the smartest, most driven candidates, and people know it.  Ivys are really shooting themselves in the foot for 10-20 years down the line.  Going to an ivy says very little about the person except that they were a) rich or b) diverse.  Don't believe me?  Look at all the recommendations in this thread and tell me which ones a poor kid could pull off:

- donations to the school? Nope

- dad volunteering? Nope

- top private school?  Nope

- top rubix cube champion?  You think a poor kid has time or support for this?  Nope

May 10, 2021 - 11:12am

You're wrong. Even today, the students who make it into top schools are by and large the smartest and most hard working students in the country. If things stay the same, this will always be the case. 400 years of precedent will not be thrown out the window.

Going to a top school doesn't mean as much as it once did and will continue to mean less and less as time goes on.

It's the other way around. Maybe in the past some dumb kids made it into Dartmouth or Yale because their daddy was a big shot alumnus. But as the world gets more and more competitive, I've noticed that even legacy students from wealthy families get rejected from their parents' alma mater. The top schools in the country are smart. They know that if they mostly accept dumb/average wealthy or diversity students, their brand will gradually diminish and they will risk missing out on the next Bill Gates or Zuckerberg. These schools have the foresight to identify students who are top achievers within their background. In other words, they won't expect a poor kid who needs to work a part time job to also be a champion hockey athlete or to travel around the country for competitions. Instead they'll put more weightage on his grades, scores, research experience, teacher's recs etc. Adcoms generally know which kids will grow up to become highly accomplished and feed their elite and prestigious image.

That being said, the process is getting so competitive nowadays that even some highly qualified students who belong at HYPSM are being cut out purely due to chance. There just isn't enough room for everyone. So while schools like HYPSM will always have a multitude of high caliber students, there could be many more such students scattered across the country at other schools.

May 10, 2021 - 11:58am

"Even today, the students who make it into top schools are by and large the smartest and most hard working students in the country."

No, 61% of the Ivy League comes from households in the top 1 percent of income. That's fucking gaslighting to say that they're the smartest or most hard working.

May 11, 2021 - 2:13am

"They know that if they mostly accept dumb/average wealthy or diversity students, their brand will gradually diminish and they will risk missing out on the next Bill Gates or Zuckerberg."

But they absolutely accept a lot of diversity students, legacies and athletes at a MUCH lower academic standard than the rest of the class. And there is a whole separate 'development' list at places like Harvard where the Dean of Admissions can simply admit people who donate enough/come from sufficiently powerful families no matter how dumb they are.

Beyond that, you seem to place an enormous level of trust in the AdComms at these schools to be able to identify future success in a high schooler's college application. I honestly thought you were trolling when I read that. What utter drivel. I wouldn't trust the admissions committees at any of these schools to babysit a box of Fruit Loops. I think I could do a better job at cultivating a class at HYP by shuffling all the applications with 1500+ SAT scores and then picking at random. In truth, the outcome would probably be a higher intellectual standard with less racial diversity and shittier athletes, but at least the school would be doing what I believe schools are meant to do--educating the smartest people we have. 

In the long run, if these schools are to keep their tax-exempt status, I believe they desperately need to expand. There is no reason whatsoever that HYPS educate so few people. The total class size at selective colleges is virtually immutable over the past few decades while the world's population has exploded. The best schools in the world should be educating the smartest people from all over the world, not just the US. I desire this because I want to live in a world where we become a multi-planetary species in my lifetime. I want some genius to figure out controlled nuclear fusion, high temperature superconductivity, and the AI needed to fully automate all supply chains from the extraction of raw materials to the delivery of finished products to end users. The kids on the fucking squash team at Yale aren't getting me to that future. Their existence (in aggregate) at such a school stymies humanity.

Unfortunately, our top schools have become increasingly focused on non-academic measures both in admissions and in education post-matriculation which I find offensive and disheartening. If I'm being honest, when I see an application from a URM, legacy or athlete from a top school, unless they studied a STEM subject or graduated summa, I assume they're not particularly clever. I assume this because the admissions standards for those applicants are watered down. It's not an unreasonable assumption given the lower standards for such students. In the long run, this perception hurts all the kids at those schools while simultaneously harming society. The kids get a lifetime of imposter syndrome and society doesn't get flying cars and Jetson-style food pills for another half a century. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
May 13, 2021 - 8:40pm

"Adcoms generally know which kids will grow up to become highly accomplished and feed their elite and prestigious image."

These "adcoms" are generally people who have not accomplished anything themselves and really could not work many other places (the equivalent to HR in the real world"). How could they possible know what kids will become highly accomplished after college? This might be the worst take i've ever seen.

  • Prospect in Consulting
May 10, 2021 - 11:58am

The comment below is really dumb but I think also the recs in this thread are geared towards OP whos edge as a parent is that he has money. If I were advising a poor kid, I would give a lot of different advice. But yes, money has always been and will always be a huge advantage. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
May 10, 2021 - 10:24am

30yr old married PE principal at "top 5 MF" asking a forum full of 22yr olds for parenting advice

L.A. Noire "Doubt" / Press X To Doubt | Know Your Meme 

  • Associate 3 in IB - Gen
May 10, 2021 - 12:01pm

Not sure if this is serious, but just make sure your kids don't hate you later in life with your attempt to "want the best for them". Went to a top school and knew so many people who did not respect their parents even though they were driving around campus in an Audi. 

May 10, 2021 - 12:05pm

About 4 in 10 students from the top 0.1 percent attend an Ivy League or elite university

At 38 colleges in America, including five in the Ivy League – Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown – more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent.

America isn't a meritocracy, it's a pay-to-play caste system

May 10, 2021 - 1:04pm

that totally makes up for turning higher education into a luxury brand entrenching extreme income inequality. 4 times as many Americans become millionaires than go to Ivy League schools. 

May 10, 2021 - 2:59pm

Not sure this is true...especially if you look at how the economy is shifting to more of a winner take all mentality - good elusive white collar jobs are ripping...average blue collar jobs have major wage pressure. If anything the problem is worse than its ever been given the risking stakes. You might be correct in that outliers can break in...but the oxygen is still being sucked up by pay-to-play. 

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
May 10, 2021 - 12:48pm

Having attended Exeter/Andover, what a top secondary school gives (besides the obvious like better instruction, level of classmate, more opportunities to do stand-out stuff, etc): 

"Benefit of the doubt" in college admissions, especially for average joes like me. What I mean is, I had a solid ~B average in high school and SAT's in the strike zone for top undergrads. Coming from my public school, this probably would not have been enough to get into a top-20 school - but I did get in. All of my classmates in UG had 4.0+ averages in high school while mine was probably 3.3 - 3.4ish (converted from the wacky GPA scale we have). 

Exeter and Andover each send probably 30ish kids a year to HYPSM, triple that if you throw in the other Ivys/top schools like Amherst/Williams. That leaves the rest of the Top 20 for goobers like me. 

  • Principal in PE - Other
May 31, 2021 - 4:35pm

OP here. Would you say there's any meaningful edge in being @ Exeter/Andover vs top NYC priv school? Definitely an option, just seems tough sending my kids to another state as a teenagers. Would love to hear your opinion.

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
May 31, 2021 - 8:57pm

Well, the reality is you don't just "send your kids to Andover or Exeter". I work with our admissions office in NYC to do interviews, have given glowing recommendations to candidates with top test scores/grades, great extracurriculars and under-represented status just to see them rejected/waitlisted (aka, they literally could not have been better candidates and I would never have gotten in today). I've said this elsewhere but it's not like whatever prep school in most regions of the country, where if you clear some hurdle and pay full tuition you're good - PAA/PEA both pay full tuition+stipend if your family makes under 75K per year, no questions asked, there's very little advantage (other than tutoring, etc) that being rich gives you to attend. I can't comment on Collegiate/Fieldston/top NYC private school, but wealth alone absolutely does not get you into that level of school at this point. Now, if you're talking about like...Middlesex, Tabor, St.George's, Governors, Loomis...honestly even Groton, Hotchkiss, Choate or Milton with the right connections, that is far more "sendable" than your St. Paul's, Deerfield, Exeter or Andover type place.  

Anyway, to your question - it's completely dependent on the kid. I knew kids at school (honestly a lot from NYC) who just foundered when they were in an environment that rewards self-motivated individuals. No one is REALLY going to make you do your homework at boarding school until you're already underwater, so it is fairly common to see a handful of kids per year transfer out because they just aren't at the level to be a productive student without daily parental support. That said, both schools have large intakes all the way through senior year (I myself joined as a 10th grader), and I think that age 16 is far different than age 14 in terms of maturity and ability to handle that kind of environment. 

As far as're asking would the same kid who got into Yale from Andover (GWB lol) NOT get in from Collegiate?..that's kind of hard to say and I think that both schools have the resources that the real top candidates can do things that bolster college candidacy that they would never be able to do elsewhere. I will say from my experience at boarding school, I absolutely was forced to elevate my "game" as it were, to be in a classroom that taught based on roundtable discussion with kids who were published and Math Olympiad contenders. I think that colleges know this, and hence that's why a B there is looked at differently than an A elsewhere. Maybe it would be fruitful to look at college matriculation vs. class size and compare. 

May 10, 2021 - 1:22pm

While I made the joke about about Rick Singler - this thread is kinda pathetic - like let your future kids explore their own passions. If they take deep interest in one thing and become great then them run. But don't focus on driving your kinds to a specific target to help with college applications. That says more about the insecurities of the parent than the kid. No wonder so many kids have anxiety these days...parents/aspiring parents like so many on this thread. 

May 10, 2021 - 1:58pm

If you have boy(s), have them do ballet (or maybe something that society deems more feminine?). Family friend's son did ballet for 15 years and wrote about his passion for ballet and how he taught dancing in less fortunate communities. Got into both Harvard and Princeton. He's a smart kid, but nothing crazy. GPA and SAT were on the lower end of the threshold. Can almost guarantee it was ballet and his essay that differentiated him. Not a lot of boys in ballet.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
May 10, 2021 - 2:31pm

Generally speaking, this is a common phenomenon -- be someone who isn't the stereotypical participant in a given thing. Women in computer science, men in ballet, gay conservatives, Orthodox Jewish welders, the cheerleader who does robot competitions on the weekend. The fewer "yous" there are, the better

May 10, 2021 - 2:38pm

Agreed, but it takes a lot of "planning" I guess in some cases. Doing ballet for 15 years is very different from doing ballet for 1 year just for college purposes. Also, that OP's son would be willing to do ballet is another story as well. I know as a 10 year old boy you couldn't pay me to take on ballet.

May 10, 2021 - 9:28pm

I'm assuming his parents were just throwing mud at a wall of activities and he happened to enjoy ballet as a youngster. If he was doing so just because of his parents, or even worse, with the realization it would help get him into college...damn his childhood sucked. Its one thing to actually be passionate about random atypical hobbies its another thing to structure your life around applying to college. 

  • Intern in IB - Gen
May 10, 2021 - 2:48pm

A lot of people here are pissed about the unmeritocraticness (sp.?) of the elite university admissions process. It's true. But honestly, universities are just purpose-driven VC firms that invest in young adults. Universities like HYP take in ~2-3k kids a year, hoping to maximize the # of homerun returns that become famous and associated with the school (i.e. Bushes or Jodie Foster with Yale, JF Kennedy or Conan O'Brien with Harvard, F. Scott Fitzgerald or Michelle Obama with Princeton) or give them hella money later on (Schwarzman, Zuckerberg, and Bezos, for example). These two things give them enough intangible clout & tangible assets to continue their missions of providing academic value to the world. Odds are, the most successful people will come from money, and that's a huge reason these student bodies are the way they are. They are WAY more accessible to normal people than other methods of social class climbing, but that doesn't actually mean they're accessible -- just more so than other routes to transcending birth class. 

May 10, 2021 - 3:32pm

this isn't going to be helpful advice at all, but you need to calm down. let your children enjoy their childhoods and develop real personalities outside of being the perfect college applicant - that sort of humanity will show through in their essays.

so much of college acceptances are due to random chance. i'm pretty sure got into HYPS because i happened to make a real connection with my interviewer from that school, scheduled last minute because no other interviewers were available. they wrote an incredibly thoughtful recommendation for me, which was enough to tip me over into an admit (all this I infer from reading my admissions packet). 

the point is, admissions committees are building diverse classes. that will involve making arbitrary decisions on gut instinct. sometimes, a series of arbitrary decisions across several schools will leave your kids out of the so-called "top 5" - you need to let go of that fear now, or else your kids will be seriously fucked up by the time college decisions roll around. your kids inherit your neuroticisms. don't make their whole lives and self-worth dependent on which colleges they're accepted to.

  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Gen
May 10, 2021 - 6:45pm

I'm a Harvard alum and three generations of men in my family (starting with my grandfather) have graduated from Harvard which sounds uncommon but is actually not that exceptional (during my undergrad years, I knew people who were 6th or even 7th generation Harvard)

I have young children and my oldest will be applying to college in the next 15 years or so, so I have thought about the likelihood (or lack thereof) of him getting into Harvard and becoming the 4th generation.

My oldest (a boy) is a bright, smart kid, but it's pretty obvious he is not a prodigy, so very doubtful there are going to be international math/science olympiads in his future. He is at the age where he is just getting into his first organized team sports (baseball, soccer, etc.), and at his age I prefer variety to specialization, but I already see some psycho parents that are forcing their kids to specialize in one sport... (if it was the kid's idea, I would be totally supportive)

Anyways, it's going to be a tough, uphill struggle. I donate each year at one of the higher giving levels, have been consistently part of the 1636 Society, and have volunteered during reunions, but my son's admission chances (assuming he ends up being a good but not exceptional kid), is ultimately going to come down to whether I will be successful enough (i.e. have accumulated a large enough net worth) that Harvard does not want to piss me off by rejecting my child.

Funnily enough, if I were to become successful enough that Harvard would be inclined to let my kids in as a legacies, then my kids wouldn't really need Harvard to set them up for life (it would purely be a vanity thing) - kind of like most of the parents embroiled in the varsity blues scandal. None of their kids needed college to set themselves up for life - the parents merely wanted to stroke their own ego and be able brag to their friends that their kids were attending a certain university.

  • VP in IB - Cov
May 11, 2021 - 1:38pm

I'm a Harvard alum and three generations of men in my family (starting with my grandfather) have graduated from Harvard which sounds uncommon but is actually not that exceptional (during my undergrad years, I knew people who were 6th or even 7th generation Harvard)

? That is actually a common occurrence, bonus points if all y'all have the same first name

  • Research Analyst in HF - Other
Aug 4, 2021 - 2:21am

I hope as a 3rd gen+ legacy you'd have some insight - what's the dollar donation lump sum you need to get your kid in? $2mm? $5mm? My sister and I are first gen Stanford grads with no prior legacy and shit. Both just got ~$23mm apiece in inheritance from the grandparentals, and I have probably like 20 years till I need to send a kid there so I'm down to maybe plunk down up to $5mm in 20 years time. Wondering if that will be enough. Fully aware I'm probably more loose with this money wasn't because of my efforts but rather grandpa's hard work. 

  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Gen
Aug 4, 2021 - 4:01pm

I hope as a 3rd gen+ legacy you'd have some insight - what's the dollar donation lump sum you need to get your kid in? $2mm? $5mm? My sister and I are first gen Stanford grads with no prior legacy and shit. Both just got ~$23mm apiece in inheritance from the grandparentals, and I have probably like 20 years till I need to send a kid there so I'm down to maybe plunk down up to $5mm in 20 years time. Wondering if that will be enough. Fully aware I'm probably more loose with this money wasn't because of my efforts but rather grandpa's hard work. 

Who knows if legacy admissions will still even be a thing in 20 years? My suggestion to you is not to worry about the college admissions chances of your future offspring and instead focus on growing that $23 million. Invest it responsibly and you could easily have over $100 million in 20 years time. Good luck! 

  • Principal in PE - Other
May 31, 2021 - 4:37pm

Missed the boat lol. Kidding, my wife's great, most of the time

May 10, 2021 - 8:24pm

Get you kid a mallet and rent a thoroughbred at a local Polo field. Get him to a 3, 4, or 5 handicap. Your Ivy's will be sweating at the thought of playing against him. The handicap above 3 will allow him to play competitively in championships around the world. A handicap also allows him to be depended on in game. A lot of these schools have polo programs, and even some state school's.

May 10, 2021 - 9:03pm

Tell them to go to Peru and start a volunteer project before applying to an Ivy League school. Personally I volunteered at a surgery department in a hospital - but hey starting their own volunteer project in Peru is amazing to write about. 

May 10, 2021 - 10:01pm

The fact that OP is getting sincere, multiple paragraph responses and doesn't seem to be trolling at all is absolutely nuts. I can't possibly imagine how miserable it must be to be the kid of some of you lunatics who craft every element of their childhood life around securing them a spot at one of five colleges. The kids I knew growing up who had parents like you grew up to be miserable, sniveling losers. There is an upper and lower bound to the amount of childhood structure that leads to happy, well-adjusted adults and half of y'all have surpassed it by leaps and bounds. Someone on here talking about getting their kid to do BLM marches because it looks good on college apps? Psychotic. 

  • VP in IB - Cov
May 11, 2021 - 1:56pm

You can set your kids up for success (which any responsible parent should be doing imo) without being a full blown helicopter parent. 90% of helicopter parents don't even know what they're doing or talking about, for that matter, which is why their kids turn out to be unsuccessful and resentful. 

May 11, 2021 - 4:42pm

Of course you can. Stating that you want your children, who based on the OP's post are not even in 1st grade yet, to go to "top 5 schools" without having an inkling of knowledge about their goals and interests (because they obviously don't either) is weird, man. Dude is talking about trying to guest lecture at some school he has no affiliation to so he can improve his kid's chances to get in in a decade and a half. The effort is wildly misplaced.  

May 18, 2021 - 6:10pm

OP is explicitly not looking for something meritocratic - he's hoping for a system that will reward him for his wealth and professional position - so Oxbridge would be a step back as a less game-able situation.

  • 2
May 10, 2021 - 11:50pm

Going to a private school doesn't guarantee your kids success. I've meet plenty of trust fund kids who were actually less motivated because their families had more. It all starts at home and the values you teach your kids from a young age.

May 11, 2021 - 2:52am

Please read this. I could be your kid in 10-15 years.

As a former private school kid (NYC area all male prep school) who is now 'grown up,' be careful with expectations. You and every other parent want to see your children do better and go father than you, but it was tragically obvious which kids around graduation time didn't live up to the expectations set by their parents. I have watched gifted kids from comfortable families go completely off the grid after high school because they were simply discarded by parents for not meetings expectations.

Rather than working behind the scenes, consider offering your child genuine and faithful support in their extracurricular ventures for the next 8-10 years. My friends from high school who went on to Ivies (H, P, C) were all standouts in some particular field, due (I'm sure now looking back) in no small part to the unwavering support of a parent who drove them to insanely early or late practices or who showed up at conferences 8 hours away just to show support.

These "successful" kids who went to Ivies were known as 'household names' within their sports/EC activities by hundreds of students around the northeast, so that's what your kids are up against while you otherwise try to teach a class to help open some doors.

As a final note, the P and C kids completely fell off the map after college and the two from H now work in MBB and live about 20 minutes cross town of me, a nontarget turned BB analyst. We occasionally get drinks together and laugh about how we all ended up in the same place.

Interested in code, market mechanics, and trading strategies!
  • 7
May 11, 2021 - 2:32pm

I second this. Those who have the right values and drive instilled young will do well. Maybe you get your kid into a T5... but then maybe they sacrificed such important parts of their intrinsic motivation and passions to get there. 

path less traveled

  • Prospect in PE - Other
May 12, 2021 - 3:29pm

You're 100% right and they will likely have that chip on their shoulder for a long time because clowns keep bashing them. 

I went to a top NYC school listed in this thread multiple times and now go to H. Know a bunch of people across the NYC schools who ended up going to a wide range of schools. The difference in quality between a student at a "top Ivy" vs a "bottom Ivy" (even Cornell) is essentially negligible. I know kids who were much smarter than me, but went to way "worse" schools like NYU.  It's kinda a joke that people praise tOP 5 ScOoLs and then turn around to bash Cornell or NYU. I'd be irritated as fuck too if I were them.

May 11, 2021 - 11:34am

For background asian male, went to top prep school, and now at H. Obviously don;t know a lot but can give you my opinion...the numbers at top private day schools and prep schools are heavily skewed because of legacy and wealth. Even being wealthy, I think your kids are at a disadvantage (relative to prep school kids and for top 5 schools). These top private/prep schools (usually) take around 6 to 8 kids (no official quota but there def is) to HYP and other top schools. Once you take out diversity and legacy, you're really only left with one or two spots for each school at best. Getting into college is not a fair game especially for non diversity non legacy kids. Wealth and legacy play a huge role, which is unfortunate.

Like above posts, I would try to make your kid well rounded and have him decide what he wants to pursue/specialize in (with your guidance). At the end of the day it is going to be up to the kid how hard he/she wants to work...might as well have him do something he enjoys and will work hard at. For me, it was sports (dont play anything at H) and math. There is no guarantee of getting into a top school and honestly I think there are more important things in life (but what do I know). If your only goal is to get into a top school, make sure your kid has -in order of importance- 1. great grades, 2. great test scores 3. solid extracurriculars. Specializing in something whether in sports, music, math team etc definitely helps - easiest ways to get in - rotc, fencing, lacrosse, and a few other sports. Best of luck - and hope your kid does things he/she is passionate about not just to get into a good school

  • 3
May 11, 2021 - 12:47pm

Send your kids to a boarding school (Exeter, Andover, Choate, Hotchkiss, St. Paul's etc). They'll be just as likely if not more likely to hit T5 with the added experience of going to boarding school which I can attest definitely helped me succeed in college. It's also a really fun experience.

May 12, 2021 - 12:29am

Gonna echo this, I went to one of these schools, and I plan on sending my future kids to a boarding school. Definitely helps for getting into a target (got into a top 10 school via ED- which certainly helped a lot, am asian/white male, didn't have insane stats or anything super unique, just solid grades in advanced classes, varsity sports, strong essays, some volunteering stuff that actually connected to other aspects of my life). It's also just a great experience- helps you grow and mature a lot, my best friends for life are from boarding school. (my dad went to a boarding school, a different one than the one I went to, and he's still pretty close with his buddies from there as well)

May 11, 2021 - 1:53pm


What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

May 11, 2021 - 2:30pm

Every generation is becoming so increasingly competitive. As someone in college, I feel bad for my future kids, and I can't even imagine what the boomers would say reading this.

path less traveled

May 11, 2021 - 2:34pm

raise your kids without a sense of entitlement and foster their interests from a young age (but dont force them) schools will recognise when parents just throw money at their kids to build their cv and to cross items off of  a 'checklist'. 

May 11, 2021 - 2:55pm

Pro tip: have your kids take Algebra 1 or Geometry (or both) over the summer in the middle school. You can also just have them take the credit by exam so they don't have to do a summer course. This will allow them to take Calculus 1-3, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, as well as Calculus-based Physics, in 10th or 11th grade which won't get them into HYPSM itself, but will at least put them on equal footing with Bay Area kids. Also make sure they take the AMC 8 and AMC 10 and try to qualify for AIME and hopefully USAMO.

May 11, 2021 - 4:30pm

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