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How to Become an Ivy League Mom

How do you become an Ivy League mom? I’m not trying to sound like a Tiger mom but I am sharing my story for any parent to be able to do the same: help your child to get into the best schools and get excellent test scores. My child was accepted into an Ivy League university. Before that, my kid scored high enough on the Specialized High School Achievement Test (SHSAT) to get into Stuyvesant High School and then got a near-perfect score on the SAT. Tutoring and hard work had a lot to do with it. The number one thing to remember is not to force your child to do anything. I was ecstatic when my daughter Angelica scored high enough on the state exam to be allowed to take the Hunter College High School exam. However, she did not want to go to that school, so she quit the tutoring that I sent her to. I did not force it, and was surprised when she wanted to take the exam anyway. She did not do well on the essay, because her heart was not in it. Then when it came time for the SHSAT for high school, my child was used to the format of the test, because most standardized tests are pretty much similar. What if you do not live in New York City? Consider moving to a neighborhood with excellent public schools. Great Neck South High School is one of the most highly rated schools in New York and they even have a golf team!

I am personally a proponent of public schools, because I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and public schools are great if your child gets into the honors and specialized programs. I just watched a documentary on HBOMAX about Avenues, a private school that costs $40,000+ a year that is next to a housing project in Chelsea, and according to the Avenues website, only about 33 students out of 300 got into the Ivy League. I will have to do more analysis to see if it produces many more Ivy Leaguers than public high schools in New York. I did hear, however, that many of the prep schools in New York are feeder schools to the Ivy League and send about 30% of graduates to the Ivies each year. So, by that estimate, 30% of 300 should be 90 students, and compared to prep schools, Avenues is not getting as many of their students admitted to the Ivy League. This is only assuming that the end goal for sending a kid to a private school is to get the kid into an Ivy League college. Send your child to private schools if your budget allows for it, but I was saving my money for tutoring and college.

The following are some tips on how I was able to help my child score so well on exams thus allowing me to become an Ivy League Mom!

Visit colleges as soon as you can. I do not mean visits in senior year of high school. I mean when your kid is around eight years old, start exposing the child to what colleges he can aspire to. Go on vacation to Connecticut and visit Yale; Madison Beach Hotel is close by and very relaxing (you can stay there for free with your Hilton weekend certificates, otherwise the hotel is quite pricey). Right now, if you apply for the Hilton Amex card, you can get 60,000 bonus points and a free weekend night certificate. Go to Boston on vacation and visit Harvard and MIT. While visiting the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, stop off at University of Pennsylvania. Show your kid what he can achieve with good grades. The Secret teaches us that we achieve what we set our minds to do. Therefore, we must show our kids what to focus on.

Pay for tutoring and start early, around the time of standardized tests for high school. In New York City, the big ones are the Hunter College High School Entrance Exam and the SHSAT. I brought my kid to Kaplan in Manhattan for SHSAT tutoring two years before the test. Then when the course was over, I paid for private tutoring by the teacher of the class. As a result of all the extra help in math, my daughter Angelica was able to well and is a math tutor for disadvantaged kids as an extracurricular activity. For the SAT, Angelica received tutoring in both English and math. She scored 1570 on her second try (the first try did not result in a high enough score). The need for tutoring has been confirmed by a Harvard dad: he and his son both attended Harvard, so he must know something we don’t. I asked him what was his secret. He said, “Spend the money on tutoring.” There you have it, ladies (and gentlemen, in case there are some dad readers snooping around here). Spend your money on tutoring.

What about college admissions consultants? If you can afford it, it will definitely take some stress off of the application process. The consultant will hold the college applicant’s hand throughout the process, with virtual consultations, essay writing help, advice on majors (the advice that was worth the money was to go for the less popular majors so there would be less competition), and generally being there during this stressful time. During the college application ordeal, it is very important to take care of yourself: exercise, eat right and get wellness treatments and massages.

For those parents with younger children:

As soon as you can, when your kid is around age three, get Hooked on Phonics and start teaching your kid to read. It does not take long. Just sit with your child a few minutes a day and soon he or she will be able to read. Yes, a three year old can read! When our three-year-old was sitting in the back of the car in her car seat and voiced the name of a restaurant, we could not believe it. After your kid starts to read, a whole new world will open up and your child will be years ahead of all the others.

Another thing to do as soon as possible is to order workbooks from Amazon. Reading, math, grammar, spelling, vocabulary (root words) for your child's grade and perhaps a few grades above that. You want to get a head start. Make it a game and give prizes and incentives for completing workbooks. Much cheaper than the thousands of dollars at Kumon and other learning centers. They sell Kumon workbooks on Amazon.

Kumon Workbooks

Train your kid’s brain with Sodoku puzzles. Get a baby Sodoku book on Amazon and start teaching your kid how to think logically. You are training the young brain for all the years of testing ahead, especially any tests with logic.

Of course, do not just focus on academics. Your child needs some fun. Put a tennis racquet or a golf club in your child's hand and a decade later, she can wind up captain of the tennis team.

You might say, so much money and work to do all of the above. But as parents, we must sacrifice for our kids. You can save money by buying workbooks on Amazon instead of sending the kids to Kumon. You can apply for credit cards and stay in hotels for free with the points and free night certificates. Our reward is the bragging rights when our kids achieve great things. Who knows? You can probably use your child's admission into the Ivy League for your own networking. After all, parents of Ivy League students and alum are allowed to join clubs in the city such as the Harvard Club, Yale Club, Cornell Club, etc. Also, some parents have been known to use their kids' school connections to help with their own businesses, such as a realtor who used her kids' private school parent list to sell real estate. There are no guarantees in life, but you reap what you sow.

By Candace Sterling

Ivy League Mom who worked damn hard for 17+ years to get her kid into the best schools. Start young and be prepared!

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