Rich parents are ditching prep schools for public — to get kids into the Ivy League
By Rikki Schlott | Nov. 16, 2023, 6:30 a.m. ET
New York City families are forking over five-figure tuition to prep schools like Trinity, Dalton and Horace Mann, thinking these private academies are runways to the Ivy League — but one admissions expert says it’s a bad bet.
In fact, according to college admissions consultant Christopher Rim, that same kid would have a four-to-five times greater shot of getting into a top-tier college if they went to a public school.
That’s became elite colleges tend to place caps on how many students will be admitted from a single high school, and a high percentage of prep-school kids tend to apply to the Ivy League.
“Of course, there are tremendous benefits to going to these private schools, but the college admissions competition is pretty much your entire graduating class,” Rim, founder and CEO of Command Education, told The Post.
“If you have a specific highly selective college you want to go to, you will be competing against dozens and dozens of classmates who are all vying for that same spot.”
Rim said he’s noticed more and more clients dropping out of private schools in favor of public ones.
At least once a week, Rim said, he has parents asking whether it’s better for their child to be in the top 50% of their private school class — or the top 1% at the local public school.
The answer, at least 95% of the time, is public school.
But Rim advises parents not to send their kids to the most competitive public schools either, since those also pose inter-class competition issues: “Top public schools versus private schools, it’s very similar. So I typically would suggest going to a second tier public school.”
Rim estimates 15% of his clients have moved schools to game the admissions process.
He’s also seen families take it to the next level — picking up and moving their entire family across the country to increase admissions odds.
Because colleges are keen to admit geographically diverse applicants so they can brag about having students from all 50 states, parents are leaving New York City for more sparsely populated areas.
That’s because they’ve realized a Zip code in Kentucky or Arkansas will likely have less cutthroat college competition than Manhattan.
In fact, Rim has seen roughly 5% of his clients move states — something that’s become far more practical now that more parents can work remotely until the admissions cycle is over.
This year, he’s had families relocate to New Jersey and Florida for this reason. Another moved from Greenwich, Conn., to a Texas public school.
“This is a billionaire family,” he said. “They don’t care at all about the tuition these private schools were charging. It’s all about the competition.”
And more than a dozen clients have even told him they’ve worked with so-called relocation specialists, who help find the best Zip codes to game the college admission odds.
Although top prep schools boast impressive college matriculation numbers — Dalton and Chapin send roughly a third of their graduates to the Ivy League annually — Rim says these figures are “a little bit misleading.”
He estimates that, of 10 hypothetical graduates a prep school would send to Harvard, four are probably recruited athletes, two are legacies, two are the children of donors and two come from an underrepresented minority.
“So maybe that’s one or two students of the 10 who got into Harvard and didn’t have an admissions advantage of some sort,” he said.
All in all, Rim’s advice is clear: “If parents are worried that their student may fall in the middle of the pack [at prep school], they would be better off attending a public school and shining.”
Originally published on The New York Post on Nov. 16, 2023