If you’ve read any of my books, then you’re well aware that I am an angry, sarcastic, patronizing, and pessimistic sonofab#tch. Why? Because our society has made life a deceitful game. Everyone seems to be out for their own interests. The Capitalist Creed is to get as much as you can while giving away as little as possible. Hold everyone else down so you can do better yourself. In this environment, it’s virtually impossible to find the truth beneath countless layers of BS. Fortunately, the world still has a few people like me. I’m like the Edward Snowden of parenthood. And I’m here to tell you there’s a secret back door to everything. I’m not afraid to ask questions that might make the typical person uneasy. While everyone else in a room is small talking about fishing or weather, I’m cutting through to the things that really matter. I had the opportunity to chat with three unrelated college admission officials off the record, and I found the secrets to getting your son, daughter, or self admitted to just about any school you want regardless of your grades or ACT scores. Here are five of the most important secrets I unearthed from these people in the know. There are more, but I’ve been told to keep those to myself so I can have a leg up on you.
SECRET ONE: VOLUNTEER. A LOT.
Here in the Sunshine State, you are required to volunteer at least 100 hours during your high school years to be eligible for certain forms of financial aid. Personally, I think it’s a wonderful idea to give back to your community. Recruiters are well aware of this requirement. Even if you’ve spent 150 hours in a quarantined Nigerian camp treating Ebola patients, college recruiters probably won’t be impressed. What will impress them is if you have spent a few THOUSAND hours of your life doing something. There are countless volunteer opportunities, many of which may be in the field you’re going to pursue. Admissions officers are looking for serious students who make true sacrifices with their time, eschewing keggers and Kardashians in favor of something a bit more productive. One officer admitted that she weighs volunteer experiences higher than GPA or ACT scores.
SECRET TWO: BE AN INNOVATOR.
Universities dig people who are, um, cleverer? If you’ve done something nouveau, by all means, let the world know! Create a new high school club that promotes something for the good of all womankind. Societies for minority or women engineering and programming seem to be the topics du jour. Or chair a new volunteer organization that helps someone or something less fortunate, and show your fund raising chops. Submit press releases to local news outlets and snip the resulting articles to attach to your high school resume. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, save the world, or create a new idiom, but you should always aim to build a better mousetrap.
SECRET THREE: BE A GROWN UP.
Hold a job for more than a few weeks. Show that you were good enough at that job to get promoted several times. Flaunt all the glorious awards you’ve won including Employee of the Decade or Best Sales of the Millennium. Internships are wonderful opportunities to introduce yourself to potential employers as well as building a very respectable resume. Some internships are actually paid. And if you can keep your grades respectable while working a job, well, shucks, that goes even further to show what a wonderful character you are.
SECRET FOUR: BE INVOLVED.
Join the band. Play a sport or two, even if it’s JV. Run for student government. Write for the student yearbook. Even prom committee (gag) may be helpful. One admissions gatekeeper agreed that well-rounded students with positive communal life experiences tend to be better students than academic types. They’ll take a busy well-rounded kid over a 4.0 introvert any time. Why? They’re better at talking up the school later in life and soliciting contributions from like-minded successful people. Everyone has their hand out.
SECRET FIVE: WRITE WELL. OR HIRE SOMEONE WHO DOES.
That admission essay is critical. Yes, they do read them. If you’re going to write it yourself, have someone who’s smarter than you proof it for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Make it personal. The best essays describe a personal situation — stories about overcoming hardships seem to work the best. Other great topics include your volunteer activities, your innovations, any jobs you’ve held, and your level of involvement in school activities. And if it’s a tear-jerker, you’re in. Just make sure you can back up your story if and when you arrive for the interview.