As May 1 approaches, an increasing number of seniors will be thrilled to have decided which college they will attend in the fall. Unfortunately, not all seniors have been served well by the college admissions process, as a major problem with college admissions is the inequity between socioeconomic statuses.
Poorer applicants have disadvantages in all areas of college applications — not to mention that they may not even able to afford college — including SAT and ACT testing, Advanced Placement (AP) courses and college counselors.
Top-notch SAT and ACT test scores are crucially important for acceptance at universities. However, these standardized tests do not really test what one learns in class, so students are forced to prepare outside of class. This can be difficult for poorer students for many reasons.
First, they might have to work in order to support their family, greatly limiting the amount of time they have to study for the SAT or ACT.
Furthermore, wealthy students have far more access to resources that help them prepare, such as preparatory books or tutors, that less affluent students might not be able to afford or obtain.
These resources provide an enormous advantage because they not only supply students with the motivation to study, but they also teach students many extremely beneficial test-taking skills that are often specific to the SAT or ACT test.
All these reasons contribute to the strong positive correlation between family income and SAT scores shown from the data provided by the College Board in 2014.
Due to this massive inequality that these standardized tests create, college admissions officers should stop incorporating SAT and ACT scores into their decision-making process. Instead, there should be a standardized test that tests students on what they actually learn in school, similar to the tests required for many other countries.
That way, students are being tested more on how dedicated they are to their school work, and not how much money they can spend on a private tutor.
Another issue causing inequity based on family income is AP courses. Because AP courses can cost thousands of dollars to implement in schools and hundreds for students to take, school districts in impoverished areas often have fewer AP courses available to students. This can be detrimental to students because a major factor admissions officers look for is the rigor of each student’s academic schedule.
Thus, if the students do not have access to AP courses, it is much more difficult for them to have a rigorous course load, even though they may want to challenge themselves.
Additionally, some students may choose to take an AP test for which their school does not have a course, likely resulting in a lower score than if they had taken the course.
Consequently, more affluent school districts are at an advantage because their students can have both a demanding course load that looks good on college applications, and have higher AP test scores that are appealing to admissions officers.
What may be the most beneficial advantage wealthy college applicants have is access to college counselors. College counselors, specifically private ones, can greatly increase the likelihood that a student will be accepted into his or her dream school.
College counselors make the application process much easier by taking them through the process step by step.
They help students write their college essays, as they know the nuances that admission officers look for in essays. They also often have connections to various universities, giving their clients a stronger chance of getting into prestigious colleges.
However, if a student does not come from a wealthy family, they cannot afford the thousands of dollars required to find a private counselor.
Additionally, poorer schools cannot afford to hire college counselors for their students, therefore students do not have anyone to ask if they have questions about the admissions process.
As a result, only wealthy families have the resources to provide their student with the best preparation for the college admissions process.
The issues with equality largely caused by AP classes, SAT and ACT testing and college counselors in college admissions is systemic.
Therefore, without drastic changes to the priorities of the universities, low-income families will remain at a disadvantage when it comes to college acceptance.