We came across a piece up on “Psych Central” by Rebecca Zwick that includes some claims about highly selective college admissions followed by her own thoughts and analysis on these very assertions. There are certain parts of Zwick’s analysis of these claims that we agree with and while some of her analysis may seem a bit obvious, we thought it would be worthwhile to dissect on the pages of our college admissions blog nonetheless.
One claim that Zwick draws attention to is that “recruiting top athletes helps to facilitate the admission of students of color and students from low-income families.” But while there are some sports that do attract underrepresented minorities and student-athletes from low-income families, athletic departments at highly selective colleges also have swimming, lacrosse, and other — shall we say — sports that attract the wealthy. In fact, many highly selective schools have more of these wealthier teams than their sometimes more well known counterparts that actually attract, well, fans who are not blood relatives (e.g., football). And Zwick correctly points this out. As she asserts, “Counter to stereotype, recruited athletes are actually less likely than other students to be underrepresented minorities or from low-income families. Why? Because participants in upper-crust sports like horseback riding, water polo, and sailing get a boost along with football and basketball players. These individuals are mostly white and wealthy.” Want to see for yourself? Check out a team photo of the swim team at various highly selective colleges. It’s not exactly the picture of diversity.
Zwick also believes that college admissions essays are a great way to gauge the socioeconomic status of the college applicant. We couldn’t agree more. As Zwick writes, “A study conducted in the UK showed that personal statements written as part of the college application process reflected the socioeconomic status of the writer. Applicants from low-income families wrote about their experiences watching TV, keeping up with the current fashions, or working in the local pub, for example. Candidates from wealthier families had more impressive experiences to draw on, like the one who wrote about ‘a work experience placement to shadow the Pakistani Ambassador to the United Nations.'” We sure do hope the students from wealthier families who read out blog — some of whom become our clients — take this last line in particular to heart. Our clients would never make such a mistake. It’s not a good idea to articulate such privilege in your college admissions essays, in your activities, etc. That internship at the United Nations might very well reveal privilege that renders you unlikeable in the eyes of admissions officers. That trip to Pakistan to work with underprivileged young people…you’re not fooling anyone. Sorry.
What are some other claims about highly selective college admissions that you’ve heard? Do you wonder if they’re true or not? Let us know a claim (or two) and we’ll be sure to dissect it in the coming weeks on our blog. So check back soon.