Singaporean Applicants to Elite U.S. Universities

Some things can get lost in translation with international reporters.

What do wealthy Singaporean parents do to help their children improve their odds of admission to elite universities? Well, a piece in Singapore’s Straights Times which we won’t link to since there’s a subscription firewall but we will link to a piece reporting on the piece in The Independent Singapore entitled “What some wealthy Singaporean parents do to get their kids into top US universities” by Anna Maria Romero kind of shines a lantern on some of their tactics. We say kind of because the piece is poorly reported and much of it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Singaporeans Thinking of Donating to U.S. Universities

As an example, Romero writes, “Parents of students who make considerable donations on a regular basis as opposed to a one-time large donation are also considered as development case, since such one-off donations may be akin to a bribe, and could actually hurt a student’s chances of admission to a university.” We sort of get what she’s trying to say. It’s an international publication. Maybe something got lost in translation? Allow us to say it all more clearly.

Singaporeans with No Ties to U.S. Universities Shouldn’t Donate to These Schools

When families who have absolutely no relationship with a university (as in the college applicant is not a legacy) attempt to make a single sizable or multiple fairly sizable donations shortly before a student applies for admission, it’s not like the single sizable donation is a bribe while the multiple donations are not bribes. As described, none of these donations are in fact bribes. And, in most cases, these methods will not improve that applicant’s case for admission. Rather, the methods will be perceived precisely as the parents may have feared…that they’re trying to buy their way in. How exactly is that going to inspire admissions officers to root for these applicants?

Our Singaporean Clients Don’t Donate a Penny to U.S. Universities — Nor Should They

Ivy Coach is later cited — although rather incorrectly — in the piece in The Straits Times to hang a lantern on Singaporean donations: “Brian Taylor, who runs Ivy Coach, a college admissions consulting company in New York, says that several Singaporeans have attempted to offer such sizable one-time donations to American universities, with amounts that have not been greater than S$10 million. He added that his company has always declined these offers.”

Oy vey, The Straights Times. That of course doesn’t even make sense! How could we decline offers for families to donate to colleges; if they wish to donate to colleges, that’s on them. What we suspect the reporter meant to say is that when Singaporean — or frankly folks from all over the world — express an interest in donating to colleges in the hope of positively impacting the admissions process for their children, we discourage them from doing so. We tell them that when they don’t have longstanding relationships with these schools, when they haven’t been donating for many years, their donations will be precisely how they likely fear.


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