College Admissions Are Unfair

By Jovillene Datu

Both ACT and SAT scores are used for college admissions decisions and awarding merit-based scholarships. It measures what a student already knows and covers material that the student should have learned in high school. The test is used more as a predictor of what a student is capable of learning, including material that was not taught in high school. 

In May 2020, Universities of California regents voted to suspend SAT and ACT testing requirements through 2024, and eliminate them for California students by 2025. On January 19th 2021, the College Board announced that they would stop offering the optional SAT essay after June 2021. But why would they remove one of the most efficient ways to help colleges make admission decisions? Put simply, it is because these tests are unfair and especially biased towards people of certain races and those with financial struggles.

Critics of these test sites indicate that the tests are inherently biased in favor of affluent white and Asian-American students. During a debate among the California regents, numerous speakers used the word “racist” to describe the exams. Legacy admissions preferences, “favor wealthy white students,” perpetuating long-standing inequalities in college access. In some states, prohibitions on affirmative action preclude any consideration of race admission process. 

A recent report on Black and Latinx enrollment by “The Education Trust” shows that only 9% of the nation’s top 101 colleges enroll representative numbers of Black students; just 14% of them enroll representative numbers of Latino students.

They also say that these tests are easily gamed by students who can pay thousands of dollars. Essays can be bought or plagiarized; while we may have tools to detect plagiarism and chatting, it’s not perfect. There is always a weakness in a system, and once it’s found it’s easy to manipulate. Nowadays, you can find and buy essay’s online, or pay someone to take a test for you.  The fact that these test scores can be easily fabricated is problematic because of how much weight these scores hold in the academic application process.

Learning is different with everyone, so there can be students that can score high on a test, yet fail an oral or written exam, or vice versa. Colleges applications have very vague essay questions or ask general personal statements, which makes expressing your personality difficult and it doesn’t give the admissions team a clear picture of the applicant. 

These tests also place an unfair burden on students of low socioeconomic households, as they are forced to pay large sums for the entire process. College applications can be expensive, especially if you apply to more than one school. The national average fee is $50 to apply to college, but I personally had to pay 70$ per campus to apply to CSU schools. While these fees can be waived for low-income students who apply for financial aid, when you add other costs such as the registration fee for taking the ACT or SAT, and consider travel costs for campus tours, and many other expenses, many students are placed at a distinct disadvantage. Since the FAFSA system can be inexact, some will be in a semi bad financial position or receive less than a 500 dollar loan. That alone can only pay for food and transportation for a month. 

On The Best Colleges website, a survey from Generation Z says that only, “23% of high school students believe the college admissions are fair.” If college admissions truly want to provide an equal playing field for all students, they must critically revisit the processes they have established for application and enrollment.

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