The Ivy Coach Daily

December 1, 2019

Boarding Schools Play Favorites

At Ivy Coach, we help unconnected boarding school students fight back against favoritism the only way we know how.

You likely know them by name. Exeter. Andover. Choate. Deerfield. Loomis Chaffee. St. Paul’s. Putney. Taft. Miss Porter’s. Peddie. Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive as there are other fancy, schmancy boarding schools, too. And don’t get us wrong — these are some great schools, some of the finest boarding schools in the nation in fact. They offer first-class educations. And many of them have terrific relationships with elite colleges. Elite colleges, after all, trust fancy schmancy boarding schools. They’ve been admitting students from these schools for generations, dating back to a time when the vast majority of students admitted to elite schools hailed from fancy schmancy boarding schools. Those times are no more.

But our nation’s elite colleges still love our nation’s elite boarding schools. When our nation’s elite colleges continue to admit students at such high numbers from our nation’s elite boarding schools, it speaks to these schools’ relationships with these colleges. Elite colleges trust these schools. They trust their curriculums. They trust that students who do well at these boarding schools will do well at the next level. And they’ve got years and years of evidence to assuage any such concern that a student won’t be able to cut it.

College Counselors at Boarding Schools Often Aren’t Very Good

However, just because your child attends a fancy boarding school doesn’t mean they’ve got a leg up in admissions and if you think as much, well, you’re in for a surprise. If that were the case, then we wouldn’t work — each and every year — with lots and lots of boarding school applicants from these very fancy schmany schools. If the college counseling at their schools was so good, if it was so effective, if it could be relied on implicitly, then why oh why would so many families of students at these elite boarding schools seek out Ivy Coach’s services. In the end, there are lots of reasons. Among them, the college counselors at these schools aren’t always all that good. In fact, they’re often quite crummy if you ask us. Indeed, there are absolutely some better college counselors within America’s public schools than at these boarding schools.

College Counselors at Boarding Schools Lobby Harder for Children with Deep Family Ties to School

But if you had to ask us to boil down why so many students shouldn’t rely on their school counselors at fancy schmancy boarding schools? We’ve seen it time and again over the last quarter of a century…these college counselors play favorites. That’s right. They go to bat for the students they most want to get in. Maybe it’s the child of a family who has been a major donor to the boarding school. Maybe it’s the oldest child of a family who has 3-4 more kids coming up in the pipeline (think of those tuition dollars!). You get the idea.

Think about it like this: there are only so many highly selective colleges. There are eight Ivy League schools, Duke, MIT, Stanford, Northwestern, etc. Competitive applicants from these schools are all vying for admission to the same set of schools. And you don’t think when a boarding school has eight applicants up for admission to Yale, they’ll pick and choose which ones they lobby for the hardest? Of course they will. And these college counselors do have relationships with admissions officers. These lobbying calls can absolutely sway them. Heck, many of our students at Ivy Coach over the years have benefited from this very lobbying.

Ivy Coach’s Boarding School Students Often Have Weak Ties to the Boarding School

But we don’t rely on such lobbying. We don’t rely on a boarding school’s college counselors. Because our students at Ivy Coach — more often than not — are not the ones who benefit from this lobby. More often than not, our students are not the boarding school legacies, the children of major donors. Instead, our parents often don’t have deep, longstanding relationships with the boarding schools their attend and so we’ve got to help them punch back against the students who do have those longstanding, deep ties. Those students, after all, are their competition.

Maybe the student is an international student. Maybe the student is a PG student (doing an extra year of high school). Maybe the student is the youngest sibling (no more are coming up in the pipeline so the school doesn’t care as much!). Maybe the student is the only sibling who has ever or will ever attend the boarding school and the boarding school knows it. These students can benefit greatly from Ivy Coach’s help — to compensate for their boarding school college counselor who has a habit of playing favorites that serves the school’s bottom line.

A Shining Example of a Boarding School College Counselor Playing Favorites

Want an example of a boarding school playing favorites? Allow us to share a story. We do love our stories, as our loyal readers know. In any event, we had a student a few years ago who first came to us after having already completed the admissions process. She didn’t get into any of the schools she had hoped to get into. It was one major strikeout after a major strikeout. After we looked at the student’s profile, we knew what had happened. First, the student could have presented much improved applications that showcased a singular hook and powerful storytelling so as to improve her case for admission. Second, the student’s family didn’t have deep ties to the school and the school’s college counselor likely didn’t go to bat for her.

So we recommended the student do a PG year at another boarding school — to have a chance to re-do their admissions process and get into a much better school. We helped the student craft outstanding applications. And while we would never tell the student this as we like to undersell and overdeliver, we knew the student had the chance to earn admission to multiple Ivies (not Harvard, Yale, or Princeton but any other Ivy she chose in the Early round). We thus worked with her on all of her applications. But unbeknownst to us, a few days before the Early deadline, we learned that the student intended to apply Early Decision to Rice University. A student who had a chance to get into the likes of Columbia, Dartmouth, UPenn, Brown, Cornell, etc. chose Rice? We couldn’t believe it and we tried desperately to talk her out of it.

But for this student, there was no turning back. As it turns out, this student had mentioned her interest in Rice to her college counselor at the fancy schmancy boarding school. The college counselor likely thought, “Rice isn’t one of our usual suspects. This way, the kid won’t be competing against our other kids who didn’t just come to us for a year. I’ll encourage Rice. I’ll push it. She must do Rice ED!” And so the student applied ED to Rice and, low and behold, she got in. We were so disappointed because, while Rice is a wonderful, elite university, we knew this student could earn admission to an Ivy League school and we knew that’s what the family would have preferred. But the family listened to the college counselor and not to us. A few days after the student learned of her admission to Rice, her mother asked us if we thought she could get out of her binding Early Decision commitment to Rice so she could submit the other applications we worked on through Regular Decision. Of course, we told this mother, “Absolutely not! Your child is going to Rice!”

Boarding School Families Should Heed Our Warning

May this story serve as a loud warning to all parents of boarding school students who don’t have deep, longstanding ties to these schools. And if you need Ivy Coach’s help to launch a counterattack, to help your child gain a significant advantage in the highly selective college admissions process (much like the advantage enjoyed by families with deep, longstanding ties to boarding schools), fill out our free consult form and we’ll be in touch. Indicate “boarding school favorites” in the Comments section of the form so we know why you’re writing.

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