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Articles / Applying to College / Long-Lost Dad and Dartmouth "Legacy" Hook

Long-Lost Dad and Dartmouth "Legacy" Hook

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | April 11, 2012

Question: Does the Dartmouth admissions office contact the parent that is an alum? My son will be applying as a legacy and is a "good fit" for Dartmouth, however, his father decided he did not want children after our son was born and has chosen not to be a part of his life. So, I'm wondering once my son is part of the admissions process-- will they contact his dad?

In order to answer your question, this “dean” turned to a real one, Dan Parish, Director of Admissions Recruitment and Communication at Dartmouth. He told me that, “When a child lists on the Common Application that one of their parents graduated from Dartmouth, we do in fact send a note to the parent to acknowledge their relationship with the College and to offer to answer any questions they might have.” He also pointed out that most colleges and universities that he knows of will so the same.


So, if your son names his dad on his application, you should expect that Dartmouth will contact him. Your son’s relationship—or lack thereof—with his father might also be fodder for the “Additional Information” section of the application or for a cover letter to accompany it.

However, if your son is applying for financial aid and he includes his biological father on the Dartmouth application, Dartmouth officials will expect your ex to complete his share of the financial aid forms and will use his income and assets (as well as yours) when they assess your son’s financial need. (Exception: If you are remarried and your son’s stepfather makes or has more money than the biological dad, Dartmouth will instead use your household income … including the stepfather’s … to determine the financial aid award. But you will still be expected to ask your ex to report his financial data.)

If such cooperation from your ex feels like getting blood from a stone, and you are applying for aid, you can write an explanatory letter to the financial aid office saying that the biological father has played no role whatsoever in your son’s entire life. The college officials may then omit his income and assets from the financial aid formula … or they may not. So just be warned that, if your son is planning to use his legacy “hook” at Dartmouth but he also requires financial aid, you could be facing a complex situation.

Good luck to both of you as you navigate this maze.

(posted 4/11/2012)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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