Affluence’s influence on college admissions
By CHLOE MARTIN
It’s no secret that the college admission process has gotten increasingly competitive and, as a result, more complex. No longer can the soon-to-be college student simply fill out the application and essay supplement for their dream schools. Instead, they must put themselves one step ahead of all the other applicants, somehow making each of themselves stand out amongst the crowd, some even going to greater – or illegal – lengths to ensure their acceptance.
A recent admissions scandal, involving Full House’s Lori Loughlin and other public figures, surfaced on March 12 and became a focus of the nation’s attention. The investigation, code-named “Varsity Blues,” found that William Rick Singer was running the operation under a for-profit Newport Beach college admissions scandal since 2011.
According to Forbes, he had over 700 clients, many parents paying $200,000 and up to $65 million to have their children admitted. Singer faces up to sixty-five years in jail and a $1.25 million fine after pleading guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering, tax conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
The investigation has resulted in 50 people being criminally charged, as well as several outcries of celebrity privilege.
While I have lost some amount of faith in the validity of the college admissions process, there were many others whose faith was lost long ago.
Freshman Kendall Resnick said, “Honestly, I wasn’t surprised. I kind of just assumed that when you were rich and famous, it was easier to get into college.”
To many, the college admissions process was flawed on a much smaller scale long before Hollywood got involved.
The bribery scandal is a major example of just how valuable, or even crucial, the college degree is in today’s society. Aside from those affluent enough to pay not only for their child’s education but also for the assurance of their admission, you may wonder how your average college applicant competes.
First off, there is the type of students who take the honorable yet pressure-filled route of joining a wide array of clubs, sports and other extracurricular activities to show their well-roundedness, trying to seem as unique as possible. Alongside the many hats they wear, these students work even harder to maintain high grades to let colleges know they’re not just a high school student, but a multi-tasker.
Freshman Katia Savelyeva admitted she too experienced societal pressures when applying to colleges and universities. “I think among my classmates, definitely, because if you move in any kind of ‘AP’ class-rank, that’s all that anyone is going to talk about. You’re going to feel the pressure to impress everyone, regardless of how much stake you yourself put into the college admissions process.”
However, Savelyeva also admitted she could see how people could commit such fraud as the college admission scandal. “I think that some people, even people at my own high school, are so invested in ‘the brand,’ of looking at the high level schools, which means that they were willing to do a lot more that they would do for it, that I just wasn’t willing to do. Even if what they were doing wasn’t necessarily illegal, they were investing a lot of money into their essays and applications instead of the work, which is just crazy to me.”
There are applicants who choose the tactic of having someone else—a counselor, parent or a paid professional— revise, edit and in some cases, even write their answers and essays for them. These actions are normally taken by concerned parents. Consequently, having a large amount of assistance when college application time rolls around is becoming the standard.
Not only is this unethical, but it is doing those applicants a disservice and allowing an unfair advantage against others.
While status and influence have always been factors affecting applicants and admissions, something as typical as filling out their own college applications has become difficult for students of families without the affluence so wrongly used by people such as those exposed in the scandal. This only adds on to the long list of stressors students face to hold-up against other applicants, including multi-tasking, money, time and even missing out on valuable moments of the teenage experience, all in hopes of being viewed as a top prospect.
The pressure put on both the student and the parent for this collegiate success – success defined by the institutions and society, not by the students – is far worse than it has ever been and will likely get worse in the years to come. At this point in time, even getting a “standard” Bachelor’s Degree isn’t enough. There is a certain societal and economic expectation to go beyond what the average academic is achieving in order to get a higher paying job, and therefore be somehow better.
With the push for every student to get into these statistically “great” universities and career paths, and the resulting push towards unethical practices, the admissions process is only becoming more complicated. If we continue on this path, then we will get stuck in a vicious cycle of the students who are able to afford the necessary resources to bolster their applications to be considered the only “real” contenders. This takes away academic drive and diversity, therefore reducing the overall quality of the once top-tier schools.
In light of the scandal, a few concerns come to mind. If academic integrity is lost, then what do we have left? What, then, is the point of higher education?
To me, the only point is to better yourself. Not to be better than the rest, but to achieve your own personal goals and gain the academic experience of a lifetime. It is essential that society is made aware of these challenges, so that secondary schooling systems may fight for reevaluation of the admissions process before it is too far gone.