We receive a bunch of calls and emails around this time of year in which parents of high school seniors — who are most certainly not our clients — have one particular question on their minds. If a parent emails us the question, we won’t respond. If they ask it on the phone, we’ll ask them if they have any other questions, rarely addressing this particular one. And why? Because the question is ridiculous. So what’s the question, you ask? “What do I need to donate to a university right now to guarantee my child’s admission?”
So why does the question irritate us? It irritates us because what the question implies is that the parent — erroneously — believes he or she can buy their child’s way into a highly selective college. On occasion, just out of curiosity, we follow up their question with a question of our own: “How much were you planning on donating?” The figure parents often have in mind is also ridiculous. What we want to say — but don’t — is: “So you thought you could buy your daughter’s way into Harvard for that dollar amount? You do realize this dollar amount couldn’t buy you a tree on Harvard Yard, right?” But we usually just keep quiet and try to move on with the conversation. After all, our college admissions blog is our forum to vent. Duh!
There is a right way and a wrong way of donating to universities. There is an amount of money that makes a difference — if it’s donated properly (and we have certainly helped parents do just this in the past) — and there is an amount that doesn’t make any difference whatsoever. For a parent with absolutely no affiliation with a university to offer to make a small — or large — donation to a school after their child has applied…how do you think that comes across to an admissions officer? Could it possibly come across like the parent is trying to buy the child’s way in? You bet it could. And what’s an admissions officer likely to do in such a scenario? Think: “We’ll show them!”
While we have helped parents make donations to universities in the past, there is absolutely no guarantee that a student will earn admission to a university irrespective of the size of the donation. Will the university take the money? You bet! Is there a dollar amount that can make a difference? Yes. But there are no strings attached. So for a parent to make a donation to a university — one they have no previous affiliation with — after their child has applied, know that the university will certainly send a nice thank you note. But the university will be unlikely to offer that child admission. It’s just not the right way to make a donation to a university.