Long-Lost Dad and Dartmouth “Legacy” Hook

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)