Hidden Bias The shady secrets of the college Admissions Process

Imagine this, you have an outstanding 4.0 GPA, you’ve always been on the top of your classes, and you are the field hockey team captain. For as long as you could remember, you’ve had your heart set on UCLA. After years of hard work and commitment, you get the letter. The one that will either make or break your future. You’ve been denied. You wonder why, how, and what did you do. This happens to many people all over the US, but not always for the right reasons. Whether or not you are willing to believe it, the income rate of your neighbourhood may play a role.

The Administration's Process

There are multiple things taken into account when accepting an applicant to colleges and university. Here’s the rough breakdown.

Test scores:

About a third of the criteria is based on your SAT (scholastic aptitude test or scholastic assessment test) and ACT (American college testing) scores. Clearly, these testing scores are greatly weighed in importance when it comes to accepting a new applicant.

Class grades, course level and class rank:

The level of your class course (AP honors, college preparatory, or regular), your class grades, and your class rank are worth a little over a third in the grand scheme of things. Class rank used to be a large factor in admission decisions. But as stated by a recent disclose by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), more than half of all high schools no longer report student rankings.

Extracurricular Activities:

Extracurricular activities such sports/clubs, community services, etc. are worth about a third of the criteria colleges are looking for. The one puzzling question is why is this weighed so greatly? Colleges and universities are more than aware that a kid living in a low-income neighbourhood, using all his or her free time out of school working at home to support his or her’s family, may not have the time or money to rock the soccer fields or take art classes.

So clearly this system is flawed considering that not all the components are within reach for all students.

Pie chart of the college acceptance criteria

The Recruiters

8 recruiters visit low income schools... 113 visit prestigious private high schools

You may not know this but not all high schools get the same amount of recruiters. In fact, the range is very large. According to an article in the Los Angeles times, this fall a private high school in Claremont attracted 113 ivy league and other schools. All of them sent representatives to the campus.

But at Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles, only eight recruiters showed up, all from local universities.

It may not seem so, but what recruiters have to say to you and back to their universities means a lot. If a student from a high ranked private school in a well-off community applies to the same college as a student from a public high school in a poorly stereotyped, low-income community, who do you think has a better chance of getting in? Now, what if I said that the recruiters sent to those schools had not much good to say for the private school student and heavily praised the other student, what is your guess now?

One horrifying known fact is that colleges and universities are highly aware of this and aren’t doing much to prevent it. Many out of state colleges claim that with a tight budget and limited time, they tend to stick to the schools they have had success with.

So regardless of the “tight budget and limited time” aspect, university officials are intentionally being biased in the selection of schools they send recruiters to.

Extracurricular Activities

As mentioned before, one of the heavily weighted criteria for college acceptance is the extracurricular activities you participate in. Would you have thought of that as bias?

Extracurriculars can make or break an applicant's chances of getting in. You may be an outstanding student, but who do you think colleges want more, an outstanding student, or an outstanding student will impeccable soccer skills.

As we all know, most of the time to develop a skill, you take classes or join a team. Most kids are fortunate enough to be able to afford the classes needed and have the time to dedicate, but not all. Not everyone has the luxury of three dance classes a week. Many kids whose families are in tough money situations have to care for other family members. Is it truly fair for one student to have an advantage over the other due to financial status? Also, the loyalty of the students to their family may play a role in the effort put into getting into a college. After spending so much time working due to money issues, they lose hope in ever going to a college. “If a sixth grader thinks he does not have any chance of going to college, he may conclude there is no point in trying,” says Ben Miller, a member of the New America Foundation.

As far as I’m concerned, colleges aren’t giving some sort of other option to kids with special situations such as this. Universities must understand they making outside school activities so important in truly unfair. Is it really fair to use a student’s commitment to his/her’s family against them?

Extracurricular Activity Chart

Relevance Today

Today, colleges are aware of but don’t do much to prevent income bias. This topic is relevant because many students struggle to get a decent education after high school due to income bias. It is important to know that just because a student couldn’t get into a top college, doesn’t mean that they aren’t smart. It doesn’t mean that they weren’t good enough for this school. They may have their own reasons and you have to respect that. One thing that could help solve this problem is sending some of the recruiters from well-off community schools to lower income schools. I mean, does one school really need 113 recruiters a semester?


Created with images by Wokandapix - "classroom school education" • keithriess - "books resources reading"

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