How to Get Your Kids Into College (Legally)

If it doesn't take money, fame or a willingness to bend the rules to get into college, what does it take?

Student filling out an applicationHow do you get your kids into a good college if you aren't a rich celebrity inclined to pay somebody to take the SAT for them or pretend they are a good athlete?

The first thing you do is raise a very smart, very talented child. You probably already knew that (which is good, because it means you likely passed some of those smart genes on to the kids.)

But not every 17-year-old is a genius or a star in a way that's of interest to a college-admissions committee, even those who are descendants of stars. So what to do?

First, know what colleges are looking for:


  • Good grades in rigorous courses
  • Extracurriculars your child loves and show their ability to work with others
  • Yes, they want to see good scores on standardized tests, but an essay that demonstrates an ambition that can overcome obstacles, can compensate for poor test-taking skills.

 If this is your first child going through the college-selection process, keep in mind that the SAT went through a pretty major revamp in 2016, which included a reduction in the number of sections from four to three, with one for reading and writing, math and an optional essay. 

What if they are a B or C student?

Still, every child can take the toughest courses they can stand, pursue an activity with gusto and prep for the SAT for weeks and still they are not elite-college material. What next?

First, don't be fooled into believing that the competitive schools caught up in the college-admission scandal are the only places your child can earn a good education. Plenty of colleges that welcome B and C students will give them a shot at future career success and life satisfaction.

Encourage your teen to apply to more than the "reach" schools where their odds of getting in are slim. Many colleges — most in fact — offer admission to more than half of their applicants.

Suggest, also, that they try out-of-state private schools, since they sometimes make generous offers to students who are willing to go the extra mile.

And don't forget about local community colleges. If a student is unsure about where to go or what to study or maybe wants to save some money for the final two years of school, community colleges can provide a great low-cost alternative. 

If you need inspiration, check out the replies to this tweet from people who started out in community college and where they took their careers from there.