It’s been almost four years since my daughter Celine screamed like a mad woman after discovering she’d been admitted into Stanford University. It was the cumulation of hard work, planning and a mind set I never had as a kid.
We are still asked if the family was part of the 2019 admissions scandal that saw famous people buy their kids into high profile schools like Stanford, USC and Harvard. Usually, they tread lightly while trying to bring the subject up. I don’t get mad when asked how my daughter got into Stanford. I now find humor in it.
Two people asked me this month. The humorous part is they were so uncomfortable asking, but they wanted to know any way. I did not think it would be an issue for years later.
Some kids got into Stanford as “preferred athletes” who received scholarships to be on the sailing team although the only boat they’d been on had Norwegian Cruise line painted on the side.
So being the foolish dad I am, I bought Celine a sailor’s cap and wished her luck as America’s newest and most inexperienced sailor.
The truth is her obsession’s with Stanford began as a middle school student. She didn’t talk about going to Michigan or Harvard or Yale. Her goal was Stanford, a west coast school that is difficult to get into and is expensive as hell.
Our journey began in Yosemite National Park in California when she was an eighth grader. We’d spent a couple days there as part of a Bay Area journey that took us to San Francisco, the Redwood Forest and Monterrey Peninsula.
Our vacations are planned to the hour. But as we sat under the stars in Yosemite I realized we had a gap day. Nothing was planned.
“Celine. You keep talking about Stanford,” I said. “Let’s go there tomorrow so you can at least say you’ve seen the place. It will be your first and last trip to Stanford.”
I had faith in the girl. It’s just as a parent you see all your kids flaws. You see what knuckleheads they are. And nobody gets into Stanford. The year Celine applied the school received record applications and only 2.7 percent of the kids would get in.
As soon as we entered campus her eyes lit up. It’s a beautiful, sprawling campus that has an outdoor mall with a Nordstrom and Tesla dealership. And no store closures.
We found a place to park and walked aimlessly on campus. I wanted to find the campus book store to purchase a Cardinal shirt or cap. We stopped the largest human being we could find. He said he was an offensive lineman on the football team. Nicest guy in the world.
He walked us to the bookstore and explained some of the sights on campus. After we left Celine proclaimed her love for the school.
“This is where I’m going to school,” she said. “They built this campus for me.”
Stanford became her motivation to dominate high school. She was angry that she did not win outstanding student in middle school, said the person who won it peaked too soon, and she vowed to be top student in high school on her way to Stanford.
By her senior year her resume included a 4.4 grade point average, national and local academic awards and she belonged to the law club, yearbook and volunteered to distribute and raise money for book bags and food. She also won a litigation contest at Howard University, sponsored by the Crump Law School.
The regional coordinator for Stanford also said her admission essay was the best he’d read in the last 10 years. That motivated her to begin a side hustle where she helps students write essays.
We began getting mail from Harvard, Yale, Vanderbilt, Michigan, Brown and Cornell encouraging Celine to apply. She did not get a letter from Stanford, but applied any way while I lay up in the hospital ailing from a stroke.
I was in bad shape, but when I heard Celine got into Stanford it was like receiving a shot of medication. She got into her dream school and I was thrilled for her.
Then we heard from the doubters. Some of her friends said the only reason she got into Stanford was because she was black. Celine cussed out one of her friends and told her “I don’t see you going to anybody else when you don’t understand your work. You come to me.”
Then came the cheating scandal and the questions continue today.
We did not buy our way into Stanford. Celine is not a member of the sailing or bowling team. She earned it.
It is OK to ask. I am proud to tell the story.
Then the cheating scandal hit and we had to answer questions about that.Find Terry Foster Podcast here: