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Saturday, 28 March 2009

How NOT to Get Your Kid Into Harvard

by Hana R. Alberts

If you are looking to get your offspring into Harvard or any other elite school, here are several ways to NOT do it.

No Intellectual Podcasts

Beaming podcasts about Foucault, Tolstoy or Heidegger into the womb will not increase your child's intellectual capacity. In fact, he (or she) will probably be so scarred by the polysyllabic words that he won't talk until the age of 5.

Skip the Emblazoned Clothing

You think wearing paraphernalia emblazoned with the Harvard crest makes your child look cool? Think again or, better still, visit Harvard Square. Only townies sport logo-laden gear. Harvard students wouldn't be caught dead in it (except maybe band members).

No Payoffs

Some parents mistakenly believe that paying their children to read, or awarding cash for the number of A's on their report cards, will make them love learning, not to mention history, literature and philosophy. Nah. It will only make them love one thing: money.

Bank Bound

That love of money, in turn, will direct their ambitions toward a profitable future at a large investment bank like Bear Stearns. Make that Lehman Brothers. Wait a minute... In fact, the specific bank they select really hinges on how stock options in their lemonade stands are faring.

Early Reading Not Needed

Reading before age 2 is not a sign of intelligence. It's only a sign that your child has a prematurely inflated ego after he encouraged inferiority complexes in all of the kids at his playgroup.

Board Games Won't Help

Board games like Monopoly won't make your kids smart. In fact, these hours-long contests of will can only foster qualities of manipulation and greed, which will no doubt serve them well in the financial services industry.

Athletic Myth

Your child doesn't have to be a varsity athlete capable of singlehandedly steering lackluster teams to Division I titles. As a matter of fact, that's only a marketable skill when applying to be a camp counselor.

No Polo

Please don't force your poor children to excel at niche sports, like polo. That can only be good training for a move to Kentucky to work for the U.S. Polo Association. That said, there is the Harvard Polo Club, which has been begging for recognition at the college for a century and a half.

Honestly, does your child really need a $200-an-hour SAT tutor in order to "keep up" with the other applicants? No. You could probably get by for a cheap one who only charges $100. Seriously, though. Buy a review book for $29.99. It's all the same stuff.

Forget the Tutor

Honestly, does your child really need a $200-an-hour SAT tutor in order to "keep up" with the other applicants? No. You could probably get by for a cheap one who only charges $100. Seriously, though. Buy a review book for $29.99. It's all the same stuff.

Not All A's

It is a commonly held misconception that all Harvard students earned straight A's in high school. That's not true. Some of us occasionally earned a B in some really important subject. Like gym.

The Right Donation

It is patently false that, in order to curry favor with a college, parents must include the school in their wills and fund the construction of at least one building to the campus before their children can get in. Depending on the school, it would probably only take a few desks, or an LCD projector. But for Harvard? Definitely a small science laboratory, at a minimum.

Getting the Recommendations

Don't believe that students need to suck up to their high school teachers--and deliver hugs on a regular basis--in order to secure a good recommendation. Those glowing letters should emerge out of your child's natural ability in class, or some other more tangible inducement--like a week at your oceanfront estate in Southampton.

Copyrighted, Forbes.com. All rights reserved.

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