You show your child that you are the one who is trying to dictate the terms, not the university.

Sorry... this is like telling your kid to stop the tide, and saying they get a moral victory because they tried (even though they didn't stop it). You are playing with your kids' hopes and emotions with the idea of having them apply to schools you KNOW you can't afford for them to attend, then telling your kids to just thumb their noses and walk away from an acceptance and feel good about it because they rejected it on their own terms. This feels cruel to your kids. There is no negotiating power on your side in this process with the top colleges -- they honestly don't give a fig about whether your particular kid chooses to attend because of the thousands (literally) of other kids waiting to take your kid's place if you don't want to pay. Example: U of Chicago put something like 14,000 (!!!) kids on their waitlist this year. Not really sure why so many... in the end they probably took a few hundred if most (no idea what their stats are for that this year). But they did. You are NOT in a buyer's market with the top colleges unless your kid is Malia Obama or Emma Watson or Chelsea Clinton. Our kids are GREAT -- but they aren't famous. And you and I aren't rich enough to endow a new building for them. Those are the ONLY students who have real leverage. Don't make your kids waste their time and hopes on a school they cannot attend -- an Ivy or tippy top college won't bend for them.

One thing a lot of parents don't realize is that top schools accept quite a few more students than they expect will say yes to their offer. They offer more acceptance than they have actual space for because they know some kids will turn them down. And they have the waitlist for backup if more kids say no than they expected. Your little snowflake is special to you, but to the top colleges they are one of a crowd of qualified applicants.