Getting into a college seems to be the goal of nearly every high school student. Students take on heavy workloads in challenging classes, spend their spare time on extracurricular activities, and pray that their hard work and sleep deprivation will ultimately pay off with an acceptance letter from a decent university. But what if hard work and brains are not enough to secure success?
The truth of the matter is that a student’s chances of being accepted into a good school are largely impacted by his or her social class. In an age of monumental academic competition, families with the means to do so are pouring a great deal of money into resources to help their children look better on college applications.
Many students take costly classes to improve their SAT and ACT scores. Another common practice is hiring college coaches, the best of whom can cost thousands of dollars. Students who cannot afford these services are greatly disadvantaged when competing with those who have access to them. They cannot be expected to perform as highly as students with outside coaching when going through the process of applications on their own.
Wealthier students also have an advantage when it comes to the basics of the quality of their education. Children from affluent homes can afford to attend private schools, where they often have access to more programs than students in public schools. Teachers at any school may also cater more to the needs of students from wealthier backgrounds, sometimes perceiving students from lower socio-economic backgrounds as less intelligent, and therefore are not worth spending large amounts of energy on. Less wealthy students have a more difficult time with finding help for classes they may be struggling in, as their parents may not be able to afford to hire tutors. All of these factors make it so that students from poor families have to work much harder than students from wealthy families to reach the same level of academic achievement, the leading factor considered in college applications.
Improvements can be made, however, to close the gap in opportunity for students of different social classes. Schools should provide training for the SAT and ACTs that can be accessible to all students. Staff members could make services available where they offer individual coaching to students on ways to improve their college applications and chose paths that best fit their goals.
And college acceptance should be based on natural abilities and work ethic – not the amount of money spent by students’ families.