money and college

The flaws of college admission

The college admission process has always been an inexplicable combination of merit and luck. For top-tier colleges, it seems that a large amount of both is required. That or a large amount of money. With the recent Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) operation, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blue,” the deeply-rooted issues within the higher-education system were clearly exposed.

The FBI investigation uncovered 33 high profile clients who collectively paid ringleader William Singer about $25 million to ensure their children’s acceptance into colleges such as Stanford University, University of Southern California (USC) and University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

Paying to get into a prestigious university isn’t a new concept. For years, wealthy families have donated money to fund new buildings to guarantee their children a spot. The higher education system has been an easy ride for those high up on the socioeconomic ladder. However, this recent scandal highlighted an important aspect of these actions: the students that have their way paid in are taking someone else’s spot. When a person is admitted among several thousand others because their parents were willing to pay for a new building, people don’t realize it affects those who are trying to get in based on merit. However, when a parent falsifies his or her child’s records to take an athletic scholarship, which are very limited in quantity, it’s very apparent that another student’s spot was unfairly taken. It’s important to understand that this is true for every single student that has their way paid in, not just the recent ones.

It’s clear that socioeconomic background does unfairly influence college decisions but not in the way we think. For years, people of higher socioeconomic backgrounds have invalidated minority groups’ successes on the grounds that they had an easier competitive pool. The very privilege of being able to ridicule other groups while bolstered by a legacy of wealth is an unfortunate truth in the education system. While other aspects of the college admission system are in no way perfect, this is by far the most unfair part of the selection process.

As a student growing up in an competitive environment, I am no stranger to the collective longing of tens of thousands of students to attend their dream school. However, I can’t help but wonder how many people want the school versus the public validation that they are outstanding enough to go to a top-tier university. I see people cheating on tests and homework all around me. This college admissions scandal was truly just an extremely large, public exposure of the lengths that  people are willing to go to in order to guarantee admission into a prestigious university.

The single-mindedness with which we pursue college is detrimental to our well-being, physically, mentally and socially. For many people, the goal of getting into a top-tier college isn’t even about obtaining the best education possible. In fact, for Olivia Jade, who was filmed saying “I don’t really care about school,” her desire to learn was not the main source of her desire to attend University of Southern California (USC). These top-tier colleges are simply used as a reputation booster. This mindset going into college is what allows this system to be so exploitative and corrupt. Unfortunately, as students, we need to recognize that the process of college admissions is flawed at its core. Only with this understanding can we move past college decision-making and focus on the rest of our lives, which is ultimately what is most important.

By Nicole Chiang, Copy editor-in-chief
Editorial cartoon by Angela Naseri