Preparing for College

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. ;)