Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Opinion
Education Opinion

The Surest Way to Be Admitted to One’s Dream College

By Walt Gardner — November 08, 2017 1 min read

High school seniors are hard at work trying to write an essay to accompany their college applications that will impress admission officers. They’ve been told time and again that their ability to distinguish themselves from others through their essays, grades and test scores is the key. But the truth is that the surest way to be accepted is to have parents who are mega donors (“What Colleges Want in an Applicant (Everything)” (The New York Times, Nov. 1).

Let’s get real. Colleges and universities are essentially businesses. A recent report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that about half of institutions said an applicant’s “ability to pay” was of at least “some importance” in admissions decisions. I say that’s a gross understatement.

Yes, colleges and universities admit students who can’t pay the full freight or any freight for that matter. But “the grubby secret of American higher education” is that the very rich buy their underachieving children’s way into elite schools with huge, tax-deductible donations,” according to Daniel Golden writing in The Guardian. Golden is the author of The Price of Admission (Crown Publishers, 2006). What really goes on behind closed doors is a closely guarded secret. Rarely, an outsider is allowed access. I’m referring now to Jacques Steinberg, who wrote The Gatekeepers (Viking 2002) after spending nearly a year observing the process at Wesleyan University.

The more selective the school, the more that money counts. I’m not saying that these colleges and universities are corrupt. Instead, I’m saying that they are unduly influenced by money and power in deciding whom they admit. As a result, academic integrity is compromised. Even schools with huge endowments are not exempt from this accusation. Does that mean applicants from rich, famous families are necessarily mediocre? Of course not. But all other things being equal, they will surely be admitted before applicants whose parents have not been generous donors.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read