Jill Haley: Inside the college admissions office
November 30, 2016
There is a lot of mystery about what actually goes on inside the college admissions office. As a college counselor with over twenty years of advising students, let me share with you what I've learned.
First of all, it is NOT a transparent process. Colleges do not disclose their actual practices on deciding who to admit or deny to their college.
Considering some private colleges charge up to $65,000 dollars a year to attend, the lack of understandable criteria on how an applicant is chosen is frustrating to students and counselors.
It definitely matters if you have a family connection at private selective colleges. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, a student with family connections had a 23.3 % chance higher chance of being admitted than those without connections.
Colleges justify this by saying they need to maintain positive relations with their alumni, as they often contribute significantly to the college in donations. These donations finance new programs and provide financial aid for lower income students.
When you take into account the low acceptance rate at many of the highly selective colleges, Stanford admitted just 5 percent last year. Students without a family connection, often feel that the system is so rigged against them, that they don't even bother to apply.
The admissions process is not fair. A student can do "all the right things" — high GPA and test scores, volunteer and mentor students — only to be turned down because the college needed a second baseman.
Colleges must also meet certain goals to have a class that is economically, and ethnically diverse. International students are sought out because colleges value their unique qualities and what they can contribute to the campus. They also pay higher tuition.
At some private colleges, the ability to pay could affect who gets in. Colleges that are "need sensitive" take into account a student's financial situation when deciding on admissions.
While this seems unfair, it does not mean a low income student cannot get in. It does mean that students with the ability to pay may have an advantage.
The larger public institutions such as the University of California (UC), use a matrix to decide admissions. Each student is given a score on each section of the application. While this process seems more straightforward, each UC has its own unique criteria on how it scores. And who they admit.
Lack of transparency and institutional bias in the admissions process creates confusion and uncertainty. This has led to students applying to ten colleges or more because they have no idea of what their actual chance of getting in are. Combine this stress with the pressure of the Senior year and you can see why many students are struggling.
What is important to remember, and to convey to students, is that just because they didn't get into a particular college, does not mean they weren't an excellent candidate. Many colleges put students on wait lists or turn away thousands of qualified students every year because they just didn't have space.