Unfair College Admissions Are Not At All New

by Anika Mittu ’19

The recent college admissions scandal left students across the country angered with wealthy families who bought their students a spot at an elite university. Outrage is every bit necessary. But this outrage has been necessary for years.

When these rich parents, including Hollywood celebrities, paid Rick Singer, a businessman and the orchestrator of the scandal, to bribe college coaches into accepting students who have never played the sport competitively, their actions were viewed as criminal. It certainly is saddening that wealth played a larger role in the admissions process than merit, intelligence, passion, or work ethic.

Wealth, however, has been the deciding factor in countless college decisions—a reality that has not warranted FBI involvement but is just as disturbing. Parents have always had the ability to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to donate a building to the school that they wish to see their own children attend. Sure, it is more discreet than paying for an outright bribe, but it still reveals how easy it is for the wealthy to guarantee that their own children receive a thick acceptance envelope in the mail. All it takes is a small fraction of their fortune.

It does not even always take buying an entire building to guarantee college acceptance. Large donations from the wealthy can increase the likelihood of acceptance.
At Harvard University, applicants who are related to a donor who paid hefty sums of money are placed on a “Dean’s Interest List.” The overall acceptance rate at Harvard is currently around 5 percent, but students on this list enjoy an acceptance rate of 42.2 percent according to The Harvard Crimson.

Even without donations and sheer bribery, the wealthy boast an undeniable advantage in college admissions. Those with money can afford tutoring for college entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT; those without money cannot. In some cases, such as in the recent admissions scandal, parents even paid for individuals to change their students’ answers on these standardized tests, nearly guaranteeing a high score. Those with an abundance of money can afford for their children to partake in extracurriculars that help construct a padded, impressive resume; those without money need their children to work and contribute to the family income. Without high test scores and a brimming list of activities, these students are immediately disadvantaged.

Socioeconomic diversity in a university means a wide range of students, all with different experiences and perspectives to bring up in discussion. Varying viewpoints expose students to more interesting conversations and debate, which can help shape young minds just as much as engaging classes can. A school of students who are “haves” and students who are “have-nots” is a better environment for learning than a school mostly for the wealthy.