How to get your kids into good colleges … without cheating or bribing.

There’s a sure-fire method, but it isn’t easy.  It’s called parenting.


Last week – in the wake of the college admissions scandal –  we posted about how Asian-American students are being admitted to highly selective (aka. ” elite”) high schools at increasingly high rates.


Because they are academic achievers.


In part because Asian-American parents place a high priority on education, drive their children to excel (especially in STEM academics) and provide their kids with extensive  extracurricular learning experiences (well beyond SAT prep classes).

And, oh yeah, they’ve probably gone to college … providing good role modeling and ready tutoring capabilities.

To that point …

The College Board published a  “Total Group Profile Report” for recent college-bound seniors …

One set of numbers caught my eye:

SAT scores by the student’s parents level of educational attainment.


Note that about 2/3’s of the college-bound seniors taking the SAT came from homes with a degreed parent – either associate, bachelor or graduate.

Only about 1/3 came from homes with parents having only a high school education or less.

And, the performance differentials are substantial between the groups …


The performance differentials are illustrated on the chart below:


Scaling off the high marks earned by students whose parents hold graduate degrees:

Students whose parents didn’t finish high school score about 15% below average and about 25% lower than students whose parents hold graduate degrees.

Students whose parents finished high school but didn’t earn a college degree, score about 10% below average and about 20% lower than students whose parents hold graduate degrees.


Bottom line:

(1) Disproportionately few students whose parents are non-degreed even take the SAT.

(2) And, those who do, have a big scoring gap against students coming from degreed homes.

Why is that?

Explanations range from inherited DNA to family resources (for better schools and test prep) and parental study help – either help with the material or motivation & discipline.

Note that the latter – motivation & discipline – doesn’t require a high level of education attainment … it just needs parents who value education – whether they have it or not.


Case in point: ME !

My dad dropped out of school in the 8th grade to work on the family dairy farm.

My mom was yanked from school in the 6th grade to housekeep for her 6 siblings and single-parent father.

Both parents suffered through and survived the Depression.

That experience cemented their belief that education matters.

The value of education was a dominating core value in my family.

Teachers weren’t to be questioned and grades were expected to be high.


Did it work?

I attended a well-intended but very mediocre public high school.  Less than half of the 500+ sstudents in my graduating class went  to college.  More graduates went to jail than to “elite” coleges. We weren’t assigned many books and wrote very few essays. The most advanced math course was pre-calculus.  No A, B or C level calculus.

Despite all of that, defying the above chart., my math SAT was over 750 …  and, my verbal score was above the median of today’s kids whose parents have graduate degrees.

In those days, that was just good enough to get a blue-collar kid from Cleveland into Princeton.

Credit my parents who didn’t need to be educated to be smart … who valued education enough to make it a family priority… and who set the bar high.

Morale of the story: Strong parenting works … it’s morally better than cheating … and way cheaper than bribing.



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