Column: Colleges should be more transparent in admission decisions


As we move towards an increasingly globalized economy, higher education is seen as an essential, yet controversial, part of the American experience. Under the Trump administration, practices including Affirmative Action may be reopened for debate, however, discussions should also involve another aspect of college admissions: wealth.

For seniors in the process of applications, it may not come as a surprise that well-connected or wealthy applicants have an advantage in college admissions. In a survey given to admissions officers from 400 top universities, Kaplan Test Prep found that 25 percent said they “felt pressured to accept an applicant who didn’t meet (the) school’s admissions requirements because of who that applicant was connected to.” Additionally, 16 percent said their school gives an advantage to legacy students, who are often white, affluent, and privileged children of alumni. Even at “need-blind” schools, admissions officers make room for“development admits,” under-qualified children of influential families.

According to a study based on tax filing and tuition records, at 38 colleges, more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent. Some critics have argued that preferential admissions treatment toward wealthy applicants have perpetuated existing economic inequality. Specifically, in the bottom fifth of American families, less than one-half percent of children attend an elite college; less than half attend any college at all. However, many colleges have defended this practice, maintaining that their families often donate large sums of money that fund programs for underprivileged students.

Since the 1960s, we have improved significantly in making college more accessible and affordable for underrepresented minorities, but it seems that favoring wealthy, typically white, applicants contradicts that progress. As a high school student, I have neither the authority nor expertise to recommend eliminating one policy over the other, but the age-old practice of “affirmative action for the rich” at best, discriminates against the average applicant, and at worst, falls short of corruption. Admittedly, I have benefitted from being born into a stable and privileged household, but I hope we consider reevaluating the factors that decide college admission.

For now, colleges should be more transparent in their admission practices. In order to promote diversity, colleges can favor certain groups, as long as these preferences are explicit. And as future alumni, we should know how colleges consider race, wealth, or other criteria under the holistic review process. The admissions process have always been secretive and unpredictable, but as we choose colleges and colleges choose us, transparency may finally bring some fairness.