Money, College, Money!

USA has some of the best colleges/ universities in the world. Many people dream of coming here and having their education. But, US citizens, are all of them provided an equal chance of being accepted into colleges? And if not, what is the main factor contributing to this unfairness?

“Our school only has a limited amount of fee waivers for CUNY (City University of New York) application. I was late, so now I have to pay $65 for the application. May as well not apply anymore,” said a senior in dismay as she stepped out of the college office, breathing heavily and with beads of perspiration trickling off her skin after running hastily from her last class of the school day to get the fee waiver.

For the seniors who come from low-income families, not only do they have to deal with the pressure of college applications, but they also must wonder: “Why on earth does this cost so much?”  There are many sad truths combined together: college applications eat up money, the qualities of college applications vary based on the students’ social backgrounds, college admission is a misty process, college this, college that…and the list of the unfair needles piercing seniors’ motivations goes on. Ouch, it hurts.

The first controversial needle is the standardized test: SAT or ACT, whose scores most universities label as a requirement. According to the article “A New Book Argues Against the SAT” by Rebecca R. Ruiz from The New York Times, in the 2011-published book, SAT Wars, Joseph Soares, a professor at Wake Forest University, argues that the SAT and ACT are fundamentally discriminatory because the test gives more advantages to wealthy students who have the means to prepare for it. The SAT and ACT may seem fair to kids who can afford to pay more than a thousand dollars for preparatory classes, but to low-income kids, it is anything but fair. The article also mentions that in a study that examined national SAT statistics from the 1990s, Chan Young Chung, a statistical programmer and Thomas J. Espenshade, a sociology professor at Princeton University, discovered that “29 percent of students from the highest social class scored above 1400 on the SAT, compared to 24 percent of middle class students and 14 percent of lower class students.” Readers can argue that these students should utilize free sources from libraries and the Internet; however, not all test takers are qualified enough to study independently. Probably, there is a reason for why Princeton Review or Kaplan make profitable business with their offers of designed lessons and trained tutors. Exceptionally intelligent students may not need these courses, but the number of them does not amount to much.

For many teenage students, continuing education after high school is a struggle

The second issue that touches parents and students’ nerves is the different quality of college applications based on economic backgrounds. That is to say, a college application invested with the help of an a-thousand-dollar-per-hour private college counselor can give the applicants more chances of acceptance than an application following the “Be yourself” principle. While the middle-class students only receive help from the school college counselors (who are responsible for maybe up to 500 students in the given public school), the students who can pay the exorbitant price have their private counselors find internships, pick class courses, choose extracurricular activities, decide subjects of personal statements, edit essays so that the college applications reflect the best or, well, probably more than the best of these students to colleges’ admission officers. According to the article “The $28,995 Tutor” from by Ralph Gardner Jr, Katherine Cohen is a reputed college counselor, whose package “includes 24 sessions and an hour of phone time per week…costs $28, 995”,  helps many wealthy children get accepted to the Ivy League colleges despite the less-than-ten-percent rate of admittance at these institutions. The crafting process is important. High school students may all begin as the same type of wood, yet the wood that is chopped and polished more professionally often attracts more customers.

The misty process of admissions behind closed doors also remains a topic of debate. In the article “Is college admission fair?” from the, the writer mentions that according to Michele Hernadez, a former Assistant Admissions Director at Dartmouth, “The expectation of fairness in the process is a mistake too many people make” and “ 40% of the freshman class at most of the nation’s top colleges is selected before you hit  “send” on your Common Application.” About half of this 40 percent are recruited athletes and the left are legacies (whose parents attended the school), minority students and development cases (when the family endowed resources to the school). Moreover, suppose there are two students with equivalent academic results, the private institution may choose a student who can contribute financially more to the school’s benefit.

Many people can argue that the college application process is based on too many factors, therefore impossible to be fair because our society is economically divided. Some may also say no one can succeed without effort, so looking down on the wealthy kids’ achievement is to deny all their efforts. These statements hold valid reasons. However, succumbing to this inequality dissuades students from escaping the route they perceive as fate. They will suffer life as it is with no motivation to break the cycle of poverty and thus, contribute to the deepening gap in this society.

Currently, many prestigious universities such as Smith College, NYU, Bates University and Bryn Mawr College have made standardized tests optional or accept AP scores instead of SAT/ ACT to evaluate students’ quality more fairly. The public schools also offer a limited number of fee waivers for SAT tests, college applications and AP exams for low-income family students. The public schools should offer free SAT/ ACT courses and have more college counselors to help the students who are intimidated by this process.

Bates College does not require SAT score

The United States’ college admission is a business. The one willing to invest will be more likely to win than the one investing nothing. If you don’t have money to invest, work hard to compensate for your disadvantages. After all, this is the land of opportunities.


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