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The Ivy Coach Daily

March 8, 2023

Donations to Harvard

Students are walking on Harvard University's campus.


Originally Published on July 25, 2022:

The Students For Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College lawsuit, which was argued before the United States Supreme Court on October 31, 2022, and is awaiting a decision that will come down in late 2023 by the nation’s highest court, shined a spotlight on how certain donors, namely major donors with strong ties to the institution, can positively impact the candidacies of their children who are applying for admission.

Of course, we at Ivy Coach have been spotlighting the preferential treatment major donors to Harvard have enjoyed for many years. That said, Harvard does not wish to lay bare its practices concerning development cases, so any attention to this matter, particularly before America’s highest court, is unwanted by Harvard.

Preferential Treatment to the Children of Major Harvard Donors

And just what has the ongoing SFFA v. Harvard lawsuit revealed about the influence of donations in Harvard’s admissions process? Well, the children of wealthy donors often enjoy an acceptance rate nine times the overall acceptance rate.

As reports Eli W. Burnes and Andrew J. Zucker for The Harvard Crimson in a piece focusing on whether or not the trial could impact future donations to Harvard, “Documents released in court showed that the University gives significant admissions preferences to children of wealthy donors. These applicants — whom the College places into two selective groups dubbed the ‘dean’s list’ and ‘director’s list’ — see an acceptance rate nine times higher than the overall rate.”

Harvard Does Not Track Donations, University President Claims

But the children of major donors receiving preferential treatment in admissions surely doesn’t surprise Ivy Coach’s readers since we’ve been spotlighting this practice for decades. What may, however, surprise our readers is the lengths Harvard’s outgoing president will go to argue that Harvard doesn’t track donations.

As Burnes and Zucker write in The Harvard Crimson, “University President Lawrence S. Bacow said in an interview last week he could not quantify the donations Harvard receives from alumni whose children benefited from these admissions preferences. ‘I honestly don’t know the answer to that and, even if I did, I probably couldn’t say it right now given that the case is in trial,’ he said…Bacow said that he does not receive frequent updates on donations. ‘It’s not as if we monitor donations on a daily basis,’ he said. ‘I don’t get a daily report. Or a weekly report. Or a monthly report.'”

Harvard President’s Claim Lacks Credibility

Of course, we’re not buying it. One of the critical tasks of any university president, particularly an Ivy League president, is to solicit significant donations. Is Harvard’s outgoing leader, the leader of a university with the highest school endowment in the world, really trying to make the case that he doesn’t find the time to monitor monetary gifts? Oh, Larry, Harvard’s motto is “Veritas” — or truth. Put it into practice!

Most Misunderstand What a Major Donation to Harvard Means

Finally, many need clarification on what qualifies as a major donation to Harvard. It’s not $500,000. It’s not $1 million. It’s not $5 million. It’s $10 million or more — from someone with an established, preexisting relationship with the school (not from a parent with no ties to Harvard whose child is — surprise — applying next year.

And even $10 million will not guarantee your child’s case for admission to Harvard. There are no guarantees in elite college admissions — and certainly not to Harvard. In fact, when prospective clients ask Ivy Coach, “What amount of money will guarantee my child’s admission to Harvard,” we politely roll our eyes, hang up, and power off our phones.

Ivy Coach’s Advice on Navigating the Process of Donating to Harvard

If you have a question about navigating the process of donating to Harvard, complete Ivy Coach’s free consultation form, and we’ll respond to your message in short order.

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