The Problem with College Admissions

As an American Born Chinese raised in a strict family, my before-college goal has always been to get into college, to be more specific, a top ranking university. The way that has been defined in my family is a school with a really low acceptance rate. Whether it be an Ivy League school or a Silicon Valley university, from the moment I was born, my parents have been pushing me to become the most perfect all-around student that ever set foot on earth. With all that pressure came a sense of foreboding once I realized how hard it actually was to get into a university of my choice. Which led me to question why I seemed to be the only one around to stress over college, while the upperclassmen around me could, seemingly effortlessly, get into the college of their choice.

Why is that? It might be the fact that many of those upperclassmen come from more affluent backgrounds since I attend a private school. Jerome Karabel said that according to a study conducted in 2007, “students from the top quartile of the socioeconomic hierarchy (based on parental income, education and occupation) are 25 times more likely to attend a “top tier” college than students from the bottom quartile”. Wealthier students can afford SAT prep and are exposed to more resources, oftentimes making it easier to get into the college of their choice (based on test scores and college essays alone). Yet, it isn’t about the test score itself that makes it easier or harder to get accepted. An article by Yi Yang stated that a reason for all these prep sessions and tutors is so that students can obtain National Merit Scholarships or other awards that come with the high scores in order to stand out even more. Even though filling out an application, submitting SAT scores, and writing essays might be standard business, it doesn’t truly reflect just who the student is. Not to mention the acceptance rates of legacy students (Harvard’s is about 30% — four times their traditional applicant pool rate) help to boost the chances of those students in comparison to teens who are sometimes the first ones in their families to go to college (Karabel).


The following map shows the Top 10 Most Diverse Colleges in America as of 2017 according to


How could the admissions process become fairer? One common suggestion could be to randomize the applicants that fit the necessary academic and athletic parameters. However, in order to make it more ability-based, instead of randomizing all applicants, narrowing that percentage down to maybe 5-10% would still keep the competition alive, so to speak.


How do you think affirmative action has affected college admissions? (in terms of diversity)

Not Really Sure

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On a scale of 1-5, how biased do you think universities are towards certain genders? (1 is not biased, 5 is very biased)



Do you think randomizing a percentage of qualified applicants is beneficial to making the admissions process fairer?


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If you thought randomizing student applicants was a good idea, what percentage would be most advantageous?

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Add suggestions on how you think college admissions could change or not.

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“2017 Most Diverse Colleges in America.” Niche. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2017. <>.

Cohen, Steve. “The Secret Quotas In College Admissions.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 07 July 2015. Web. 18 Apr. 2017. <>.

Karabel, Jerome. “The New College Try.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Sept. 2007. Web. 18 Apr. 2017. <>.

Lam, Andrew. “White Students’ Unfair Advantage in Admissions.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 30 Jan. 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017. <>.

Luzer, Daniel. “Elite College Admissions Are Unfair, Sure… We Still Shouldn’t Care.” The Huffington Post., 29 Nov. 2012. Web. 20 Apr. 2017. <>.

Yang, Yi. “The Ultimate Flaw of College Admissions: More Than Race and Class.” The New School Free Press. N.p., 09 Apr. 2013. Web. 20 Apr. 2017. <>.

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  1. April 29, 2017 by Shreyas Gupta

    Hi! I think this is a really important topic of discussion especially as many of us are juniors/seniors in high school. The college admissions process is a very complicated system but I find it becoming more and more like a business every time I hear more about it. Comparatively, countries like India completely base their admission into the top universities off test scores so the smartest, most hard-working students are truly rewarded for their excellence. Anyways, I think it’s awesome you chose to do such a pressing topic, good luck!

  2. April 30, 2017 by Kathryn Wilson

    Good job on your presentation! What are your thoughts on how the college admissions process should change? Thank you for the statistics and for the map of the most diverse colleges in the U.S.; this was very interesting.

  3. April 30, 2017 by Emil B

    Nice presentation. This is a topic that really gets on my nerves, as we are all students, it can be stressful with college and the competition surrounding it. I am a big believer in hard work being able to achieve almost everything, and I think college should be no different. Are there going to the parents who donate their kid into college? Yes. Are you going to find those kids who almost solely get into somewhere based off legacy? Yes. These things exist, they are, at the end of the day, companies. It is a noble goal to want a more diverse campus life, but at the end of the day it only excludes and discriminate against a lot of students that work their whole life to attend a good university. Good informative presentation on a relevant issue, thanks for making it!

  4. April 30, 2017 by Marah Ajeilat

    I have noticed that what all these diverse schools share in common is that they are considered part of the “top-tier” (or at least the majority of them), and part of the reason is money, i.e. private funding allows colleges to provide aid for international students. But I wonder if this money were to go to public US universities, how will it be spent? Will it be spent on developing and improving facilities and such, or diversifying the student body?

  5. May 01, 2017 by Georgina Steel

    Hey Eleanor! This project seems perfectly times for me as a senior. I really liked how you brought up parental pressure, legacy, and socioeconomic class. All these things play a role in a college process that has just gotten harder and harder over the years. People work their whole life just to be special enough or stand out enough for one college. I know that the US process has become so intense…do you know if it is the same in other countries?

  6. May 01, 2017 by Min

    I find this issue to be very important; in fact, I recently recorded a podcast on the college admissions process for my humanities class. All the information you present is very helpful in broadening my understanding on why the college admissions process exists as it does, however, I’m wondering if you have any ideas on how to change it. Your survey gives the viewers a chance to think about it themselves, but I’d like to know what you think would be a good step to take to make the admissions process fairer.

  7. May 02, 2017 by Rahul H

    This was well-written and it is all true. This topic really is important and most people don’t really pay attention to it.

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