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The Blue & Gray Press | May 25, 2018

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College applications: gone too far?

College applications: gone too far?

By Jacob Atkinson

The New York Times recently published an article regarding the college application process of 17 universities in the South. In the article, it discusses how these schools ask the applicant about their former history with the law and whether or not that is right.

Reading about applications asking you of any former criminal activity is not exactly news. As a freshman in college, I remember just last year when I filled out the common application and how it asked if I had been charged or convicted of certain crimes. When filling out the application most applicants do not give the question a second thought, they simply see it as yet another step in the vetting process and move along through, but it is now making the application process much more complicated for some individuals.

This article questions the validity of these universities asking students about their past involvement with the law because many see it as unnecessary, inconclusive, or bias towards certain ethnic groups.

People are concerned about these questions violating the privacy of the applicant, but these questions are simply good intentioned on behalf of the schools, which may have just gone slightly too far.

One could assume that these questions are simply an effort made by the colleges to make the campuses safer and free of threatening individuals. To assume that anyone with a former criminal record is a threat to the community, however, is absolutely absurd, but these schools are taking dramatic measures to try and keep their campuses as safe as possible.

According to the article, “Those who check ‘yes,’ even though they have never been convicted of any crime, face extra scrutiny,” and that is where college application questions go too far.

Being thorough with the application process and trying to keep potentially dangerous people away from the community is important, but to scrutinize those who have been convicted seems excessive and unfair to those who may have had a simple misunderstanding with the law.

New York University’s vice president for enrollment management MJ Knoll-Finn was quoted in the article saying, “And does their presence work against universities’ mission as engines of social mobility and diversity either by discouraging applicants or by resulting in unjustified denials of admissions on the grounds of safety or integrity?”

Which brings up an incredibly important question: how many young high school graduates have avoided applying to these schools because they did not fully understand why these questions were being asked and because they were scared? The idea is very upsetting that these deserving individuals with a possibly hard past were deprived of a potential higher education due to misunderstanding or intimidation.

These questions are most likely designed to make the colleges safer, and to make sure that the administration really knows who they are letting into the school, but they need to refine the process and explain it better to applicants.

Ultimately, what they are doing is right and their good intentions do more good than bad, but there are definite flaws that these schools need to fix to prevent future complications.