Opinion

Column: The Problem with the College Admission Process

BY CAMERON CAMMACK

I watch the time tick as I wait for my decision to my dream school to be released and my anxiety grows by the second. 

*ding*

I pick up my phone and what do you know, it’s a notification from the school’s Twitter updating that admissions decisions were released. I stop in my tracks knowing that this moment is going to determine my future for the next four years, I take a deep breath and decide to refresh my college portal. Low and behold, a status update is available to me. While closing my eyes, I click the update and wait a few minutes before uncovering my eyes when I’m met with “ I regret to inform you we cannot offer you admission as a student of the class of 2025…” My heart immediately drops as my mind races with what I’m gonna tell my parents, friends, and peers, as well as what I’m actually going to do. This is, unfortunately, a devastation that many students are faced with as it has disrupted their hopes and plans, rendering them with the same burden I am now faced with.

As seniors wrap up their college application process, anxiety begins to build up as we await our decisions on whether we got into our dream school or not. There are several factors that may determine whether or not you get accepted to a school including grades, test scores, extracurricular activities that you do alongside going to your classes, your application essays, and rarely even affirmative action or randomized selection. Overall, college admissions have become more competition-based which has made the application process anything but enjoyable. 

Over the years scandals have demonstrated vulnerabilities within the admissions board., These scandals have typically happened at more elite schools where the competition is most fierce. While there may be one hundred applicants with very similar statistics and impressive resumes, only a couple of applicants will actually get accepted. What factors can determine whether you’re going to get in or not? Well, you could just get lucky, but there have been times where applicants have gotten in due to their high ACT/SAT (thanks to their parents footing thousands of dollars in bills for scores of tutors), or secret bribes from parents, or even the favoritism that preparatory high schools receive from the Ivy league and other similar elitism universities. These schools that are intended to perpetuate knowledge have transformed into a superficial competition of who will get admitted and not. In many ways colleges are operating more like for-profit business than an institution of higher learning.

There are dozens of college admissions scandals but one that has remained popular over the years is known as “Operation Varsity Blues” when actress Olivia Jade, Lori Loughlin’s daughter, was admitted to the University of Southern California due to fraudulent behavior performed by Loughlin and her husband. She had paid $500,000 in order to get both of her daughters admitted into USC. She had also falsely presented herself as an athletic recruiter, who worked alongside an outside college counselor, Rick Singer, who orchestrated most of this plan. This scandal came out in early 2019, alerting people of the cracks in the college admissions process. Jade’s parents have since spent a few months in federal prison due to the cheating found in admissions.

Of course, these are rare situations in which scandals actually occur, but college admissions do tend to favor more privileged students/families overall. It’s almost a competition of who’s family can afford rigorous ACT/SAT tutoring to achieve a perfect score and who can actually afford to pay the high-dollar tuition. Colleges with lower acceptance rates typically look for students with these high test scores or perfect grades rather than unique stories/perspectives even though they may not have perfect stats. And most of these lower acceptance rates are part of a larger faux-scarcity tactic that many elite universities engage in. Schools like Harvard and Princeton have massive endowments and could easily afford to increase enrollment, but they’re less concerned with educating the public and helping raise people out of poverty and more concerned with keeping a reputation through forced scarcity. In fact, a lot of the time, admissions are looking for specific types of students in order to fill their “quota” in an attempt to showcase their “diversity”. Jonathan R. Cole from The Atlantic said, “Instead, diversity guidelines are set, including race, ethnicity, gender, and geographic distribution. It is not simply by chance that the proportion of students in each of these categories rarely varies much from year to year. These may not be quotas, but they certainly represent goals or targets.” 

Things such as affirmative action come into the discussion at this point. Colleges attempting to erase their usage of affirmative action completely defeats the purpose of trying to achieve equality. While the idea of affirmative action has good intentions, it treats minorities as if they’re different from other applicants which completely defeats the goal of equality at these schools. While a solution is unknown, what could be done is getting rid of having to include race, ethnicity, etc. in college applications so everyone is on the same playing field, the problem being that it diminishes the opportunity for different groups to provide their perspectives on the world.

The college admissions process of selecting students to get accepted is very flawed and needs to be reconstructed. There have been not only scandals creating unfair admissions and dishonesty but can also favor different people over others in an attempt to create their perfect image for the school. Overall, admissions need to focus on becoming less elitist and giving everyone the same level playing field. 

So when I wait for my next college decision to be released, I will no longer get the same twinge of hope because I know in the eyes of colleges I am just another cog in their education machine. I am ultimately disposable.

Categories: Opinion

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