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A place where students can further pursue their passions and desires in an ever so common American rite of passage: College. An experience that upon first glance refers to institutions of higher learning and research, and on closer examination constitutes a gateway to a successful life. For many Americans, college is the ultimate mediator, capable of remedying past generational wrongs and propelling oneself into a financially stable career. Yet, far too often the system has been subject to perversion–valuing those who have little to no true need of the advantages the system gives.

From the institutional advantages received by legacies to the falsifying of test scores to further one’s chance of being admitted to an elite university, it’s becoming increasingly clear that flaws exist within the college admission process. Most recently, many celebrities including actress Lori Loughlin paid for fake test scores for her daughter to gain entrance into UCLA along with bribing a sports coach say her daughter was on a rowing team. Many other collaborators involved such as the tennis coach at the University of Texas have also been charged with composite racketeering.

The legal trials which ensued this prominent college scandal reminded us just how much the system favors those with the funds capable of furthering their child’s chance of admission. With many spending millions of dollars in bribes or faking scores to gain entrance to college, the flaws of the admissions process have been made apparent the public. This scandal has recently pushed individuals to reconsider college admissions and whether the college admission process can be said to prioritize equity amongst applicants.

As of now many colleges across the United States present claims that they are “holistic” in their assessment of applicants, but upon further analysis, this would prove to not be the case. There are a variety of factors which go into deciding who goes to what school: academic prowess, race, socioeconomic standing, legacy status, student-athletes, extracurricular activities, international applicant. It would seem in the wake of a booming population pushing more and more individuals to apply to college that the system would favor candidates possessing the merit necessary to get into a good college. However, the idealistic meritocratic idea of college admission especially at elite universities fail to prove this assessment.

While it would be ideal for a college admission process to be an accurate measure of individual merit, the simple fact of the matter is that there is little time to spare. Most schools receive applications from thousands of students by January 1st and have to look at a variety of complex factors by April 1st. This leaves college admission boards with little over two months to sort through well-qualified applicants versus under-qualified applicants with the goal of deciding who gets to get in. However, not all students are equal nor can they truly ever be considered equal.

While there are those who claim otherwise the very real ramifications of systemic racism, ranging in effect from slavery and Jim Crow Laws to the Asian American discriminatory policies at certain universities, have proved that minorities have on account of the disadvantages placed upon them typically receive educations lower than the white counterparts. This stems from a lack of college-educated parents, less than optimal public education systems, and not possessing the same benefits those belonging to the middle and upper brackets are able to afford. Thus when we consider the privileges that come with being white, having college-educated parents, and the financial security that on average white Americans are granted, it is impossible to even imagine considering two applicants as equal. This realization has promptly entered public thought forcing colleges to attempt to remedy past injustices through equitable and fair college admission practices such as Affirmative Action.

Now, Affirmative Action has received much criticism from its opponents who claim that it unfairly benefits the more privileged members of historically discriminated races. At the University of Texas (UT) this issue reached the Supreme Court as Abigail Fisher sued UT over claims that she was not accepted because of her race, challenging affirmative action in the case Fisher v. UT. The major point of her argument was that the affirmative action violated the Equal Protection clause entailed in the 14th Amendment. This was not upheld in the Supreme Court, ultimately validating the legitimacy of using Affirmative Action as a factor in the college admissions process. While Affirmative Action is not a primary factor in the admissions process, it is justified to play a factor in the college admissions process for promoting diversity and equality in every University.

As colleges push to be more diverse and inclusive in their admissions process by adding or increasing the impact of factors such as race and socioeconomic status, another push has been made to advocate for a college admission processed based on one thing: merit. Many argue that including factors like affirmative action and taking into account things outside of merit bring in unprepared minorities compared to others who may be prepared for their future endeavors in college. These students who are typically white, coming from a good socioeconomic standing and from an array of strong educational opportunities feel as if they are being cheated out of an admission spot for factors out of their control.

While many things can hurt a more stereotypical college applicant, the benefits of these factors are innumerable as they establish a diverse college community that gives equal and fair opportunities to all students. Looking just at merit is not a well-rounded factor across different communities where many students will come from having options to take very advanced college-level classes while other students may be limited by the educational system in their community. This is why things such as socioeconomic standing, race and affirmative action policies should be implemented in order to nurture a holistic admissions process for everyone.