Is the college process fair?

Sarah Augustine and Casey Friedman

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The very controversial and heavily debated college admissions process is constantly the topic of dinner table discussion, regardless of student age. This year, some of the controversy has been aggravated by national news stories about the massive college admissions bribery scandal. In the wake of this scandal and after years of change in our society, it is clear that students are no longer accepted into colleges based on their individual merits. Additional factors like economic and family legacy now have a greater influence on college acceptance. These influences prove that the college process is no longer a fair or working system.

According to Elyse Ashburn’s article “At Elite Colleges, Legacy Status May Count More Than Was Previously Thought” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, research has found that with all other factors being equivalent, legacy applicants received a 23.3 percent increased chance of getting into a university.

Due to legacy applicants receiving this advantage, the application process is unfairly skewed towards legacy acceptances and families with greater opportunities rather than qualified applicants.

“I think the old systems that we use are not addressing unconscious biases that still exist. Without looking at that, I do not think it can be completely fair,” WHS adjustment counselor Paula Gearan said regarding the application process.

Despite the college process claiming to give each student a fair chance at acceptance, it is clear that economic background also has a very strong influence.  

“[College admissions] should be a meritocracy. I think it strives to be for the most part, but it is hard to keep it that way. If college was affordable and equally accessible for everybody, that would help,” Gearan expressed.

The economic advantages are not just tied to acceptances, but also opportunities. Expensive tutors, private admissions coaches and test prepping can also progress some students while disadvantaging others.

“Money definitely plays a big role. I think it is unfair, especially with schools that are not need blind or have quotas,” senior Gillian Reeder said, having recently completed the application process herself.

While many schools claim to be fairly considering each applicant, students often feel as though family connections and economic status take precedence over their credentials.  

“When you are in this high stress environment, it can feel really unfair when someone who has lower credentials gets in over you,” senior VJ Rougeau stated.

The recent college admissions scandal has revealed many instances of bribery, donations and lies that call into question the credibility of college admissions. If the process has become this easy to game, is it really working at all? Things like family background, money and legacy should not have a place in determining a student’s ability to succeed in a collegiate environment.