How to Ensure Your Child Gets Into the College of YOUR Choosing

By Amy Poeppel of

So you’ve seen your child’s college list, and Harvard’s not on it. In fact, this is a humiliating collection of mediocre, no-name institutions. What do you do? The most important thing to keep in mind if your son or daughter is applying to colleges that embarrass you is that YOU as a parent are still in control.

While you may now be shorter than your child, you still wield a lot of power, and you can turn that college process right around. Here are some tips to make sure you end up attending the right parents’ weekend next fall:

1. After your child presents the initial list of colleges, firmly indicate which schools are shameful and unacceptable. Use a red pen.

2. Immediately produce your own list, typed and laminated, and explain how proud you would be to tell people that he is going to any of the schools you’ve selected. List all the Ivies to show how open-minded you are.

3. Pretend to compromise. Agree to see one or two of the bad choices, but then explain why it won’t be worth the drive. Gripe about the cost of fuel and wasted time.

4. When visiting a college you disapprove of, point out cracks in the sidewalks, trees with dead branches, lukewarm coffee, and other signs of crumbling infrastructure. Make comments like, “I would kill myself if I had to go here.”

5. Ask for directions from the least attractive student you see.

6. When you pass a group of rowdy undergrads, shudder and tell your child that the whole place is giving you a rapey vibe.

7. Remember: your child can’t go to a school he/she doesn’t get into. Before the tour, quietly ask the admissions counselor about the school’s maximum punishments for repeat plagiarizers. Inquire about on-site anger management courses and rules governing concealed weapons. Use your child’s name several times so that he/she will be remembered.

8. Focus on the negative! Take positive statements the tour guide makes, such as, “Students and teachers form tight relationships,” and whisper something to your child to make them sound dirty. (“Eeew. Like Catch a Predator close?”)

If your child persists in having foolhardy opinions, it’s time for tough love. Calmly tell her, “I sure hope you can afford the tuition.”

Choosing a college is too important to put in the hands of a teenager, so now is not the time to relinquish control. Be strong! Be in control! And be in charge of that school bumper sticker! It’s your car, after all.


About the Author

Amy Poeppel is the author of the novel Small Admissions. Her second novel Limelight is coming summer 2018. She’s worked as an actress in the Boston area and appeared in a truly terrible episode of America’s Most Wanted. She now lives in New York City, where she workshopped a theatrical version of Small Admissions at the Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit. Her work has appeared on The Rumpus, The Higgs Weldon, and Working Mother. Follow her: @amypoeppel. Learn more: