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Articles / Applying to College / Will Alum Donation Boost Admission Odds?

Feb. 6, 2009

Will Alum Donation Boost Admission Odds?

Question: My husband went to a small liberal arts college. He has been donating to the annual fund for 15 or so years. He would love for our son to attend this school, and he has increased his donation (a bit) because he hopes the Admissions folks will notice. But the amounts he gives are not large in the big scheme of things, and I am wondering if it really makes a difference whether he gives $250, $500 or $1,000 (for example). This is a school with a large endowment, and plenty of alums are funding new dorms, etc. I would love to hear your perspective. Thanks.

Unless the donation in question is a real biggie (much larger than any of the numbers you've mentioned) I don't see it making a significant difference in admission outcomes. However, the fact that your husband does lend some support to his alma mater each year could have a small effect on your son's verdict down the road. In other words, the support itself counts more than the dollar amount ... unless we're talking the really serious bucks. So if your son is a borderline candidate, teetering between the "In" and "Out" piles, then his legacy status will work in his favor, and the fact that your husband has maintained this connection might be the plus that puts your son just ahead of other legacy contenders.


Another thing your husband might consider doing is getting more involved with his college in additional ways. Perhaps he could chair a reunion, volunteer to contact classmates to help with fund-raising efforts, offer internship positions to undergrads, etc. If he takes an active role in such affairs, it may not carry a lot of clout in the admission office when your son's application is first reviewed, but should your son get deferred after applying Early Decision or wait-listed in the spring, it might provide your husband with some extra ammunition, should he want to rattle some cages then.

Keep in mind, of course, that at the highly selective schools, there are always far more qualified active-alumni-offspring applicants than the college is prepared to admit, and many good ones get turned away, despite strong applications and legacy hooks. Keep in mind, too, that your husband may dutifully send his annual checks and even handle the hassles of reunion planning only to find that Junior has some plans of his own when it comes time to make his college choices. ;)

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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