Showcasing Privilege in College Admissions

Privilege in Admissions, Privilege in College Admissions, Privilege in Ivy Admissions
Do make an effort to avoid showcasing your privilege when applying to college (photo credit: Namkota).

One reason why some applicants with great grades and great scores don’t earn admission to highly selective colleges is their predisposition to flaunting privilege on their applications. But, Ivy Coach, what ever do you mean? Don’t students whose parents donate buildings to universities stand a better shot at earning admission to said universities? Sure, if your parents donated a library and an athletic facility to a university, you’ll likely have increased odds of admission. But most applicants’ parents haven’t donated a library and / or an athletic facility. And yet so many college applicants — who aren’t so privileged that their privilege will serve the university through the donation of libraries — flaunt their privilege in ways that render them unlikable. Curious how so?

Fancy-Schmancy Sports, Summer Programs, and Even References to Nannies Flaunt Privilege in Admissions

Maybe the student is a member of the crew team. “But, Ivy Coach, my son is passionate about crew. He’s the captain of his high school’s crew team. Won’t it showcase his leadership skills to colleges even if he’s not good enough to be recruited?” No. Our nation’s highly selective colleges seek out athletes who will serve their athletic teams. If your son isn’t good enough to row at the university to which he’s applying, his participation in that activity won’t serve his candidacy. In fact, his participation risks making him appear well-rounded and — you guessed it — privileged since the vast majority of high school students in inner-city Detroit aren’t exactly rowing crew. Or playing squash or water polo for that matter.

Maybe the student did a fancy summer program at the University of Pennsylvania or Stanford University. “Won’t that impress top colleges that my son went to such an elite school over the summer to do research, Ivy Coach?” No! Participation in such programs will convey to college admissions officers that mom or dad spent a lot of money to send you to such a fancy-schmancy summer camp. It’ll convey a lack of initiative. And it’ll convey — in the event you end up in the Regular Decision round — that you likely applied to Penn or Stanford Early and didn’t earn admission (even if that’s not the case). So the school to which you are applying Regular Decision now has a sense they’re second fiddle in your view when it would have behooved you to appear as a procrastinator who didn’t apply anywhere Early.

And there are lots of other ways students — so often unknowingly — flaunt their privilege in unlikable ways on their college applications. Maybe they write about summer travel with their family to all sorts of places, like India, South Africa, and Switzerland. Maybe they write about how their nanny helped shape their character during their childhood. Maybe they write about a service trip in Nicaragua in which they learned about the importance of giving back (can you say trite?). Maybe they even write about money (yikes!). Anyhow, we have a feeling you’ve got the idea. But it’s one thing knowing not to flaunt your privilege in college admissions. It’s quite another thing to actually avoid doing so.


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