The Imperfections in the College Admissions Process
As a sophomore at a small diverse private school in Memphis, Tennessee, I have seen about 176 seniors complete the college admissions process. Although, all of the students in my high school are very different, I cannot think of one student who was thrilled to begin the college application process. By the end of first semester, seniors always claim to be “washed out” or seem to have a case of what many seniors refer to as “senioritis”. With remarks like this, it is easy to say that the college admissions process is not something a student looks forward to but it is an essential in order to achieve a higher education. On a grander scheme of things, 21 million students planned on attending college in the Fall of 2014.
Whether it is the 176 students in my school or the 21 million other students, each student has different goals and different characteristics. Most colleges want to see each students grades, course load, extracurricular activities, and standardized test scores. Yet, those aspects are not the only factors colleges consider, other aspects are, economic status, race, geographic location and family lineage. With all of these aspects, it allows college administrators to accept students for the wrong reasons. Luckily, more and more colleges today have recognized the flaws in the college admissions process and are taking action. Standardized testing is one of the most stressful aspects of the college admission process.
Students around the country take the SAT and the ACT many times to increase their chances of getting into their top college choice. To help eliminate the importance of standardized testing, some colleges now offer a program that does not require standardized testing. This program is called the Test Optional program, which means that students that apply to colleges with this program do not have to send in their standardized testing scores. Students that decide to take this path typically have to send a resume, transcript, essay, or sometimes have an interview with an admissions officer. If a student chooses this option, it does not mean that the student is less intelligent, it means that they feel as if that their test scores do not reflect their academic achievements. This program has benefited many students and has changed the admissions process for many colleges.
In 2008, Wake Forest University, a private college, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina joined the bundle of schools that offers the Test Optional program. For this university, the program has not made the admissions process any easier, but more difficult for administrative officers. Since the administration does not see the students test scores, they have to deeply analyze each student. At Wake Forest University, 80% of students pursuing the Test Optional program usually require an interview. Interviews are important to this process because it is an easy way to see if the student is a good fit for the school.
According to Martha Allman, the dean of admissions at Wake Forest University, “…The test-optional decision has empowered our admissions committee to be more individualized and deliberate about our decisions..
. This helps us to assess each applicant’s fit for Wake Forest on a much broader basis”( Allman). She feels as if the Test Optional program gives students a chance to define themselves as something more than a test score. As a whole, the Test Optional program has been tougher for the administration process at Wake Forest University, but they have seen positive results within their student selection. On a more recent note, Montclair State University, a public school in New Jersey, will be a Test Optional school beginning in 2015.
This University feels like it is more important to look at the student grade point averages and high school achievements, “MSU admissions officers will place primary emphasis on the high school grade point average and course rigor rather than on standardized tests..” (Bleiberg). Their goal is to give students a chance to attend college even if their standardized testing results are not up to par. Karen Pennington, MSU Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life said, “we found that a student’s GPA and course load told us much more about how they would do.” At this test optional institution, they feel that a student’s work ethic in high school is a good representation of how the student would perform in college.
At Sewanee the University of the South, the Test Optional program started with the class of 2010 and they also have had positive results.The admissions office says that the, “course selection and grades are much more indicative of students likelihood to succeed” (Admissions & Financial Aid). They feel as if standardized testing is not the best indicator of a student’s potential. In order for their this program to succeed, they ask applicants to send more information about themselves so they can get a better idea of the student. Also their main goal by offering the Test Option program is to broaden the diversity in the applicant pool.
Sewanee the University of the South has had positive results from this program and will continue to focus on the learning more about their applicants. Only about 800 schools around the country offer the Test Optional program, which means most schools require students to submit a standardized test score. With an influx of students sending in their test scores, it can really benefit the process for colleges because “…schools are using SAT and ACT scores to make a fast, easy cut of the applicant pool”(Cohen). This shows that when colleges get an abundance of applicants, they have the opportunity to minimize applicants rapidly by looking at their test scores. Most schools do not make quick cuts but at some schools this is certainly the case. This situation represents that students do not always receive a fair opportunity for their achievements to be reviewed.
A student that might have taken the most rigorous courses and has done an exceptional amount of community service could be cut from the application pool due to poor test scores. Luckily, there are not many colleges that cut applications due to test scores, but it is something to be aware of. Test scores are an aspect of the process that can help administrators make quick decisions. The SAT and ACT are designed so that students do not receive a perfect score. Just about .003% of all SAT takers a year receive a perfect score.
This fact proves that it is not easy or common for people to receive a perfect score. Standardized testing can be harmful for students because it is viewed as an important aspect to college admissions, although in reality, test scores are just a number that is supposed to portray the students academic ability. Although, standardized testing is a challenge for most students, it is one of the only ways to compare students on the same guidelines because each student takes the same test. Schools have no way of knowing the difference between a rigorous course at one high school to a rigorous course at another. This is why standardized testing is important.
The colleges that acknowledge that standardized testing may not directly reflect students are the ones that encourage the Test Optional program. Standardized Testing is major aspect to the college admissions process. Although, standardized testing is not the only thing student’s worry about. Another concern for many teens around the United States is financial aid. Not only has the cost of college increased, but the amount of students in need of financial aid has also gone up tremendously.
Many students do whatever it takes to attend college, but a common concern is the college tuition. Unfortunately, “About two-thirds of full-time undergraduate college students receive some type of financial aid”(Pay for College- Financial Aid: FAQs). This means that only about one-third of students who attend college can actually afford to pay the extreme tuitions. When applying for college, many people think their need for financial aid is a reason for their denial into a certain college. To fix that issue, more and more colleges are not putting a financial aid option on their applications. Instead, some colleges make financial aid a matter once the student has been accepted.
This is called Need Blind Policy. The Need Blind Admissions Policy is an efficient program to keep students from being scrutinized for their financial status. With this, “admissions policy do not consider your financial situation”(Hensaw). Colleges that have this policy are choosing people based on their academic achievements, not on their financial benefits. The Need Aware Policy means that colleges must be aware if the student is in need of financial aid.
With this, “they may reserve some spots for students who are able to meet the college program’s full cost of attendance (COA) without the need of loans, grants or scholarships”(Hensaw). Students that are applying to a school with a Need Aware Policy need to keep in mind that there economic status could benefit their acceptance. For colleges with a Need Aware Policy, their main goal is to make sure they have students from a variety of financial backgrounds. Economic status of a student may directly and indirectly affect that student. Having wealth, gives students an advantage because it allows them to afford college guidance counselors, extra tutoring, rigorous high school classes, prestigious community service opportunities, and different connections.
If a wealthy student is willing to do anything to attend a certain college, their family can send a donation. A college has a high chance of accepting a student who gives a donation because it shows dedication and is a sign of future donations. There are many students who give donations to their dream school and do not get accepted. On the other hand, most people do not donate to a school to be accepted, but their academic and personal achievements. Either way, wealth can be an uncontrollable aspect to the admissions process.
Every college wants a diverse student body, whether it is advertised or not. An executive member of the admissions process at The University of Michigan expressed that colleges truly do consider and look at each applicant’s culture and background. The University of Michigan has a program called “Early Action”. This means that students can apply by November 1 and the admissions office will have their decision by December 24. Not only is this helpful for the student, it lets the University of Michigan’s admissions see the variety of students that are applying this year. Also, it allows them to set a foundation in order to seek a decent variety of students.
In the grand scheme of things, the University of Michigan is not the only college that takes advantage of early admissions; almost all colleges do this in one way or another. A student’s race and background can be in ones favor depending on the college and who else is in the admissions pool. Is it fair to judge someone off of their race or culture? Students around the country, known as “minorities”, are getting into universities because of their race. If two students apply to the same school and have the same academic credentials, extra curricular activities, and similar test scores, and the only thing separating them is there race, the college should not be able to choose between the two unless one student is more unique. Although, there has been many cases where the so called “minority” has been accepted and another student has not, the reversed situation often happens, as well. Abigail Fisher, a Caucasian girl, took matters into her own hands.
After being denied from the University of Texas for admissions into the class of 2008, she felt like the system was unjust. With this being said, “Fisher sued the university, arguing that the denial violated her Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection because she was denied admission to the public university in favor of minority applicants with lesser credentials”(Thomas Santoro). In the end of many long trials, there was not any evidence that The University of Texas deliberately scrutinized Fisher for her race. Academic rigor is another important aspect to the admissions process. It allows the administrators to see each student’s work ethic and dedication to schooling and education. Of course, there are many components that are important to the process but academic rigor is the only thing that allows the colleges to get a grasp on work ethic.
Some administrators looks at each high schools academic paths and see where the student there analyzing falls into place. It is true, that AP, IB, and honors classes do look profound in the eyes of administrators. Some Universities like to see if students take the most rigorous courses at their school and others do not look into great detail.It all truly matters on the university because all schools aim for different students. This aspect is one of the fairest factors in the college application process because; academic rigor should directly reflect each student. A legacy student is one who has family lineage that has also attended that college.
By being a legacy, it lets the admissions officer know that the student is more interested in the college and there personality could be an adequate fit for that community. Being a legacy at most small colleges gives the student an advantage. On the other hand, there are many small and large colleges that do not care at all about being a legacy. On the common application, there is a legacy component where it asks if any family members have attended that college. Also being a legacy means another thing, money.
Usually, a student with a family lineage in attendance means that they are fond of the school and would not mind making a donation. If the family lineage is over than the donation from that family may decrease, this is a typical situation that college administrators deal with: A graduate from Prestigious University gives $1,000 a year to the school’s annual fund. Now imagine that the graduate’s child applies to Prestigious University. If the school rejects the legacy student, the parent’s good will is likely to evaporate, as will the $1,000 a year in gifts. The scenario is even more problematic if the graduate is wealthy and a prospect for giving the school $1,000,000.
(Grove) When a family is loyal to a college, they give donations to honor their loyalty, and if one of their family members are denied, they will seemingly no longer care for the college, and the donation will no longer be granted. Truly, like every other aspect, being a legacy has its pros and its cons. If the student is a legacy than they should be thrilled with legacy admissions but there is always a downside to everyone’s upside. Some people claim that legacy admissions are “unfair”. Although, being a legacy does not grant the student with automatic acceptance, “A 2011 study of 30 elite institutions found that the children of undergraduate alumni (“primary legacies”) were, on average, 45.
1% more likely to get in” (Nisen). For the majority of student who have a disadvantage, that are not legacies, there is discussion about making Legacy Admissions illegal. Although, in conclusion after many debates, and arguments Legacy Admissions are constitutional, therefore there will most likely never be a law forbidding it. For all of the students who feel like they have a disadvantage, they really do not. If a legacy student does not have an adequate application, there chances of acceptance is low and also most students applying to schools are not legacies. So, for the legacy students the advantage can be in their favor but no worries for the non-legacy students, the opportunity is still open for acceptance.
Even though colleges are recognizing the flaws in the admissions process, it is almost impossible to satisfy every student. Each student applying has different strengths and weaknesses, different goals, and different backgrounds. While, all students are different, each student applying has one similar goal, and that is to have the opportunity to achieve a higher education. The college admissions process may get the best of seniors in high school but most would say it is totally worth it in the end. Fortunately, college administrators are taking action and are trying to make this process more fair and effective.
Despite the indestructible flaws in the college admissions process, more and more colleges today are recognizing the deficiency and are attempting to impact more students lives. Work Cited “Admission & Financial Aid.” Admission Events. N.p., n.
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