Oakton Outlook

Can you buy your way into college?

The US college admissions system favors the rich above the rest and here's why.

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Can you buy your way into college?

Courtney Te, Editorial Board

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In the midst of college admission season comes the question of the role of meritocracy in the process. While all colleges claim that their admissions department is fair and fully based on wholistic review (let’s be honest, there’s no real college who would say otherwise), there have been numerous cases with evidence poking holes in the stance. Big, elitist schools are the prime suspect in these cases, whether people suspected discrimination, favoring of legacy students, corruption, etc. Just last year, Harvard, one of the nation’s top schools, was being sued for being discriminatory towards Asian-American applicants due to racial profiling/stereotyping. Unfortunately, schools continue to disfavor certain groups. More commonly, though, and something that has brought national attention as of late is the favoring of the wealthy in the college admissions process.

One of my favorite phrases is “Money can’t buy you happiness.” Not because it is true, of course, but because the common statement fails to address the complexity that comes with being innately wealthy or acquiring wealth. While one cannot show up to a store and ask to buy happiness in bulks (although that would be a dream, am I right?), money can buy pretty much everything else and will never make life inherently more difficult. In terms of college, the wealthy simply don’t have to deal with the stress of FAFSA or paying off student debt—the thousands of dollars will simply be there regardless if the student comes out without a job or not. It is a nice perk, once one is admitted into a nice, fancy college that is. Yet the process of preparing to get into that Ivy League school is a much more heavy, intensive process; it is a process that favors the rich.

Let’s start with junior year, where the process all begins. The biggest thing for juniors at this time is grades and standardized testing. Specifically, the SAT or the ACT. With a culture that puts so much emphasis on standardized testing in the general curriculum, a test that helps determine where you’ll end up in the future is a pretty big deal. With that comes preparation classes and studying months in advance. The problem with that is that these prep classes are actually a lot of money and take up a lot of time. For family’s that can afford it and students who are willing to put in the effort, it is a great option towards a better future. For those who can’t afford to spend hundreds, well, you’re pretty much out of luck.

Now even with the best test scores in the world, if you’re looking at a top level US school, there is really no guarantee of admittance, even if you’re that kid with a 4.6 GPA, a 1600 SAT score and a 36 ACT score with a million extracurriculars (half of which you are president of). With uneasiness and a heavy heart, students wait for the day they open the tab and see a Congratulations! with the title of their dream school on the top of their letter. For some parents with the resources, however, they cannot stand an unsettling fate, or rather they know their children will not get in. This is where bribes and corruption become an influence, and paying off coaches, deans, and counselors is not as uncommon as one would think. In fact, the US is having one of the biggest college admission bribery scandals currently, with the University of Southern California (USC) and former Full House star, Lori Loughlin taking most of the heat for it.

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About the Writer
Courtney Te, Editorial Board

Hi! My name's Courtney and I'm a member of the editorial board. I'm looking forward to doing great things for the Outlook this year, including informing...

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Can you buy your way into college?