The Truth About College Admissions

The Truth About College Admissions

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Parents and students are overwhelmed with news and statistics that getting into top colleges and universities has never been as challenging as it is now. Any “name brand” university now has an admissions window at or fewer than 30%, which is daunting to even the most ambitious students. What is the reality of attaining that coveted acceptance letter?

Under the strain of the massive volume of applications colleges are now receiving, the average high school student has to be treated like a number in order for admission staffs to realistically churn through decision by the spring season. This spike is not a recent phenomenon; rather it’s a culmination of two factors working against the aspiring student. One is the simple fact that the demographic of ages 18-24 is also proportionate to their parents’ baby boomer generation- they’re simply a larger generation. Over the past ten years alone from 2000 to 2010 this age group increased by 13% from in comparison with its cohort generation from 27 million to 30 million. In addition to sheer greater amount of people, there are now more people than ever before going to colleges and therefore applying, with enrollment rates jumping from 26% to 41%. A college degree is simply as much as a necessity now as a high school diploma was 30 years ago.

So the amount of the people has risen along with the demand to go to college, so what? How does this affect me? That question is answered with that, as was mentioned above, you are even more a number to colleges. If your GPA and SAT/ACT are not hitting their percentiles, colleges simply cannot allocate as much time to you as in the past. The benchmarks have to be cleared in order for many students to have a shot to have their application to be considered. Everyone is hurt by a less individualized admissions plan. But who is truly hurt the hardest? With affirmative action cases taking center stage, it was would be good guess that racial minorities may be ones taking the brunt of the hit. However, it is lower and middle class who really bottom out on admissions.

College admissions are now a race of resources. The upper-middle class and the wealthy are able to live in areas that allow their children to attend good public schools in better school districts or have the money to send their kids to private prep schools. The lower-middle class are already limited in their mobility to move to good school districts; property is too expensive. So their children are likely to attend the worst public schools. Many of them will not have stability at home to encourage strong academic success, have the advanced, honors, IB, or AP course that will be competitive on their transcript, or will be failed by their public school’s guidance counselors, who are too overwhelmed with pumping up graduation rates, while already understaffed, to effectively handle highly important college applications. Colleges claim to be aware that students from different socioeconomic backgrounds have differing circumstances that affected their ability to perform perhaps in the arena of GPAs. What is used then as the “great equalizer?” Testing.

Testing is the silver bullet for colleges. If college entrance test quantifies general aptitude, then the performance gap between the rich and poor is therefore neutralized. However, the SAT/ACT fail to be this great common denominator for students. In fact, it’s become a way for testing companies to reap huge profits from parents and students desperate for a top quartile score. College test prep has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Regardless of the fact that both major test companies have attempted to conform their tests to mimic high school curricula, I surmise that the tests will NEVER be quite fair, because the profit margins that test companies reap from these tests being prohibitively gimmicky and tricky serves to incentive them against making real change. Unsurprisingly, numerous studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between family wealth and test scores.

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One of the most common forms of the upper-middle class and wealthy converting their resources into better SAT/ACT scores and GPAs for their children is through one on one tutoring. One on one individualized attention has been proven in many studies to increase students’ performance by a wide margin, most famously by Benjamin Bloom (Bloom’s 2 Sigma Problem) in which Bloom shows that a combination of one on one attention and the use of mastery learning can lead to a student performing better than 98% of his/her peers in a regular classroom setting.

At Aquillous, our main objective is to level the economic playing field for college admissions. We offer one on one tutoring for the SAT/ACT (we will also be adding subject tutoring for APs and IBs soon, so stay tuned) for $20/hr, as opposed to traditional tutoring center’s costs of $100+/hr. In addition, all of our tutors are highly qualified, scoring within the top fifth percentile of their respective test. Our tutors utilize the methods of mastery learning and individualized attention to ensure students are performing at their absolute best. We want to ensure that each and every student has the opportunity to attend his/her top choice college, regardless of economic status.

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