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Given the state of educational inequality in our country, solely relying on race-neutral policies does not eliminate discrimination; it reinforces it. However, the highest test scores are often bought at a literal price—the price of enrollment in SAT prep courses.


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As I explain in my book Race on Campus: Debunking Myths with Data , East Asian American students are much more likely than other groups to take these courses, and other research indicates that they are actually the only group that demonstrates statistically significant gains from taking such courses. Of course, there are many, many incredibly talented East Asian American students.

However, this research highlights how colleges should consider that so-called neutral test scores are anything but neutral. The playing field is far from equal.

4 Diverse Factors That Top Colleges Consider as Much as SAT Scores

The same goes for privileges in college preparation enjoyed largely by affluent White families. The roots of inequality go much deeper. Now, to some people, race-conscious holistic admissions—the general mode of operation at selective institutions of higher education—smacks of unfairness. In holistic admissions, test scores and GPAs are looked at alongside other relevant pieces of information—not just the number of extracurricular activities, but how students describe what they got out of their experiences. Essays that provide more insight into who a student is beyond the numbers.

Teacher and guidance counselor recommendations, the quality of the high school, life hardships that a student may have overcome, the likelihood of them being able to take SAT prep, special talents, career aspirations, and, among many other factors, consideration of race and social class. In holistic admissions, race cannot be the sole or even primary determinant of admission. It cannot work in a formulaic way that guarantees anyone admission or denial to an institution.

As noted in Fisher II v. Under holistic admissions, there is no guarantee that the highest-scoring students will gain admission, in part because the number of students with such accomplishments can outnumber the number of spots available in a first-year class. Furthermore, top universities are generally interested in pulling together a class with a greater range of traits and talents than the ability to get the absolute highest test score, which makes sense given the pervasiveness of SAT prep among the upper middle class and some ethnic groups.

What Makes a Fair College Admissions Process?

Being the valedictorian may reflect well on a student, but it is no guarantee of admission. As Karen Arnold shows in her research on the long-term outcomes for such students, valedictorians tend not to garner exceptional achievements later in life. The type of extreme conscientiousness associated with being No. These are some of the issues at stake in the pending lawsuit Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard , and in other affirmative action cases around the country.

In SFFA v. Harvard , the complaint is filled with narratives of high-achieving Asian American students who did not gain admission. Nineteen percent of students who take the Math II test get a perfect There are over 16, National Merit Semifinalists. Top marks do not make someone a standout. Is that unfair?


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  8. That many affluent, White, and East Asian American students experience tremendous advantage in college preparation. And of course, that there exist policies and practices that overtly favor the wealthy, from donor preferences to the incredible admissions scandal of recent months. These things are much, much more unfair than someone with a perfect SAT score—one of thousands of similar applicants in the pool—getting turned down by Harvard and then being able to attend some other fantastic college. Furthermore, White students attending such institutions are far more likely to come from the most affluent families.

    Research by Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford documents how colleges give considerable preference to low-income students of color, showing how both race and class are addressed in tandem. Race-conscious holistic admissions is imperfect, because the broader K—12 system remains highly unequal. However, the answer is not to ignore race in the name of so-called fairness, but to take it into consideration. Race- and class-conscious admissions cannot fix everything that is wrong with our education system, but it is a far improvement over the alternatives, making a blatantly unfair world perhaps a little more fair.

    Jump to: Julie J.

    Best College Admissions Books

    Park , Christine R. Yano , Nadirah Farah Foley. Christine R. When Public Books invited me, back in early February, to contribute thoughts on fair admissions to elite colleges, I wrote the essay that follows from the most theoretical and idealistic perspective possible, questioning the very terms of fairness and college admissions.

    Today, however, in light of the college scam controversy swirling around William Singer and his celebrity clients, any talk of college admissions must be prefaced by analysis of the fraught nature of the playing field. That nature is composed of several factors: 1 the high desirability of placement in elite colleges, not necessarily for learning so much as for prestige; 2 the increasingly ultra-competitive undertaking that is securing that placement; 3 the long-standing unevenness of admissions, highlighting the role of class privilege; and 4 the inevitable mix of commerce e.

    Rather, the real lesson of this criminal episode lies in our own reimagining of the pedestal upon which higher education may impossibly reside. I would just stick with self-study unless you have major problems. Hello, I know this post is older, but I am hoping someone might be able to offer some advice. I am currently a junior at an R1 university, and I have a 3. I graduated from a community college with a 3.

    Those numbers look great, but I have two problems from my past. The other is from , where I had 6 hours that I missed withdrawing from due to leaving an abusive relationship. Those 18 credit hours kill my gpa as near as I can figure, it will be around a 3.

    HOW I GOT INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL: my GPA, MCAT and my non-tradional journey!

    Will these kill my chances at top 14 schools? Are top three completely out? I scored a on the diagnostic lsat at the university studying for June 14 now. I have solid letters of recommendations from my department, and have a compelling backstory.

    Freshmen and Transfer Freshmen

    You should certainly write an addendum explaining the circumstances behind your lower GPA. Focus on getting that great LSAT score. Good luck and stay in touch! I had about 3. That said, I managed a 4. Would you imagine that the more recent GPA could figure at all into the selection process? I was pretty determined in my MBA to get a 4. I always figured no one else really cared what GPA I received in postgrad, but it mattered to me.

    Considering, as you mentioned in your post, undergrad is what is used to rank schools, however, I can see why that could be the case. Evan here. Sadly, the 4. If the MBA is from a fairly good school, that will be an excellent soft factor in any case.

    10 Things to Know About Getting Into Your Dream College

    Good luck! Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Please click here if you are not redirected within a few seconds. You may wish to dig deeper into this question by reading a book that covers the subject. This should give you a better idea of the methodology admissions deans employ in sorting law school candidates. By Evan Jones By Evan Jones 2. By Joshua Craven 1.

    source url Mike on May 10, pm. Ryan Holguin on June 26, pm. Had to work hard for that, hope they really do take into account difficulty and lack of grade inflation at Purdue Reply. Anonymous on June 15, pm. Hey guys, Just wondering how much of a significant difference it would be applying to law schools with a 3. Bill on December 29, am.

    Ant on October 27, pm. The comprehensive college directory in Best Colleges includes statistics and descriptions that cover over 1, colleges and universities. The features, here, are worth noting, as Best Colleges profiles several real students who made it from applications and college visits to successful college careers. Best Colleges also includes application essay tips, a financial aid guide, as well as explanations of college-to-career plans that will take you from high school to university major to full-fledged professional.