Private tutoring is another aspect of the college admissions process that can give some students an advantage over others. Standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT play a big role in admission decisions, and high school students who come from wealthier backgrounds have access to a wider range of academic resources to prepare for the tests.
“I think that there will always be innate disadvantages that students from low-income households and without wealthy ties will face,” Bao Duong, a freshman majoring in neuroscience, said. “Not everyone is able to have the money to have an SAT tutor or go to an esteemed summer camp. It is more about playing with the cards you are dealt with.”
With a private tutor, students can pay to receive more individual attention and specific instruction. In some cases, students can receive exclusive practice tests and worksheets that may give them an edge over their non-privately tutored peers.
Carmela Nunez, a freshman majoring in physics, said her high school in Kansas was home to many students who took advantage of paid private tutors.
“I guess people can say that’s considered to be privileged, but that’s the only thing I ever did,” Nunez said. “I feel like the system is kind of messed up right now. It’s not really equal across the board in how people can advance themselves.”
Aside from private tutors for standardized tests, some students hire essay tutors who help with college essays and short answer questions. Kennedy Farrior, a freshman accounting major, said she knew of a student from her hometown in Pennsylvania who did not write her own essay, submitting the paper without ever reading it. Allison Hochhauser, who went to high school in Long Island, told The Miami Hurricane that she knew a student who had a personal “college advisor” who wrote her essays and checked over all her application materials.
“She definitely was taking up someone’s spot,” said Hochhauser, a freshman entrepreneurship and motion pictures major. “Just because her parents had the resources to help her more than others.”
Leah Messing, owner of Admission Ignition and a South Miami-based student organization coach, said that there is an important distinction between helping students and doing their work for them. Messing said that people think all she does is do her students’ applications and essays, when in reality she pushes the students to create their best possible applications. No student has ever requested that she fill out the application for them, she said.
“I help students brainstorm and identify good structure and making sure the most important details are included, which isn’t writing the essay for them but just helping them, ” Messing said.
Another Miami-based tutoring company, Varsity Tutors, said “students see increased grades, scores and self-confidence” as a result of their services, which start at $59 per one-on-one session. A Varsity Tutors representative told The Miami Hurricane that 98 percent of their students reach their goals and that they are the top-rated tutoring company in the United States.
While Varsity Tutors said their prices are average compared to other private tutoring companies, these fees add up in the long run and can be unaffordable for many students. While tutoring is perfectly legal, the price tag that comes with it can give wealthy students a major advantage over their peers, many students charge.
Esther Animalu, Damaris Zamudio, Tyler Walsh, Veronika Seider, Aja Pollack and Eli Griswold also contributed to this reporting.