Can a letter of recommendation from the Dalai Lama help your child’s case for admission to highly selective colleges? There was a piece published yesterday in “The New York Post” by Dana Schuster and Isabel Vincent entitled “Parents get letters of rec from Dalai Lama to get kids into private school” that drew our attention. The piece focuses on the cutthroat admissions process at New York City’s most exclusive private schools. Apparently, some parents have gone to great lengths to hope to improve their child’s case for admission — including soliciting letters of recommendation from heads of state and the Dalai Lama himself (because the letter of recommendation from former President Bill Clinton was so overplayed). Oy vey is right! It’s certainly not a move our students at Ivy Coach would ever make!
A Word on Letters of Recommendation from Powerful Players
While it may help at certain New York City private schools to send in letters of recommendation from powerful players (it depends on the letter writer, the strength of the connection, how well the letter writer knows the student, etc.), we would argue that it’s more likely to hurt that student’s case for admission than help. Think about it. An admissions officer may very well be inclined to think, “This person thought he could impress me with a letter of recommendation from a governor? I’ll show him!” At Ivy Coach, we are all about presenting applicants as likable, as students easy to root for and champion. Trying to impress admissions officers by touting a family’s connections with a former head of state or even a current head of state can do more harm than good. It’s everything we’re against.
A Word on Donations
This same batch of parents who thinks they’ll improve their child’s case for admission by submitting letters of recommendation from well known figures quite often thinks they can improve their kids’ cases for admission by donating to the college as well. Maybe they think that a half million, million, or even two million dollar donation will help their case for admission to one of America’s most elite universities (they’re mistaken!). Don’t get us wrong. Colleges would gladly accept these funds and even send nice thank you notes. They’ll probably follow up with a holiday card next winter. Maybe it’ll include a school calendar. But it would not help the child’s case for admission to that institution — not in the least. Quite the contrary. An admissions officer would be more likely to think, “This parent thought he could buy his son’s way in for that kind of money? We’ll show him!” Yes, you’re reading that correctly. A donation of that size is likely to cause more harm than good — particularly for families that have no connection to a university (as in they’re not legacy applicants).
We’ve been quite open over the years about the right way and the wrong way of going about making donations to colleges. It may surprise our readers to know that our students have very rarely in the over quarter century in which we’ve been in business made any donations to colleges. And the simple answer as to why is because they don’t have to. They don’t need to donate millions and millions of dollars — or any dollars at all — to colleges in order to improve their child’s case for admission.