The College Selection Process- Not as Fair as We’d Like to Think

Fiona Irving-Beck, Staff Writer

The recent college scandal, known as “Operation Varsity Blues,” has come as a shock to many. Fifty rich parents, including several celebrities, have been implicated in a scheme to use their wealth to bribe their children’s way into college. The measures these individuals took include paying people to take the SATs and ACTs in lieu of their own children, faking disabilities to get special privileges, and fabricating athletic achievements for scholarships. The parents, the private companies that aided in the plot, and sports coaches were all charged with crimes such as

money laundering and fraud. This scheme, which dates back to 2011, has been widely covered

in the media because it is seen as shocking and out of the ordinary. However, it is indicative of a

larger problem that has been present since the inception of colleges.

Prestigious colleges’ selection processes have come under increasing scrutiny in the last few decades. The unfairness of these processes came to light in October 2018, in a lawsuit filed by conservative activist Edward Blum. He sued Harvard in an attempt to publicize what he thought was a selection process biased against white people and in favor of Asian Americans. The investigation did ultimately expose a deep issue of racial discrimination in colleges, but one that worked to the detriment of non-white applicants, including Asian Americans. The lawsuit

revealed that a great number of legacy students are accepted into top universities, generally in

return for a donation from wealthy parents. This is completely legal, unlike the recent “Operation

Varsity Blues” scandal. Uniformly, upper-class members of society are able to offer money and

therefore are accepted over those who are unable to do the same. From 2010 to 2015, 21.5% of

white students accepted to Harvard were legacies, compared to 6.6% of Asians and 4.8% of African-Americans. Blum’s lawsuit makes it clear that due to the financial advantages colleges get by accepting wealthier students and because so much of the selection process is unreleased to the public, it is easy for colleges to admit students from wealthy backgrounds with subpar

academic records. This secrecy makes it difficult to question and improve the current system.

However, it is also true that socioeconomic factors mean that certain applicants have automatic privileges, regardless of whether or not their parents bribe a college. Money makes it easier to get into colleges, since it provides well-off students with academic help such as tutoring or participation in extracurricular activities such as music or sports that colleges favor. Some

colleges have tried to address this issue by reworking the college selection process using

holistic selection, which takes into account socioeconomic background and provides

opportunities for members of historically disadvantaged groups. While conservatives like Blum

have called these efforts unfair and tried to roll them back, it has become clear that it is white

upper-class applicants who most benefit from an unfair system.

The current selection process is unjust, and this unjustness has a larger impact: the gap

between rich and poor citizens grows, and as a result, the upper class is further advantaged.

Education, which is supposed to be the great equalizer, instead leads to greater inequality

nationwide. Those who have used money and influence to pay their way gain access not only to


prestigious institutions of higher education but also to positions of influence when they

graduate. This leads to corruption at higher levels, as these individuals continue to advance in

business and politics. Unjust selection starts with college and spreads to other systems present

in our country, and it therefore affects our whole society.