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The problem with college admissions

Katelyn Keenahan, Guest Contributer

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It is no secret that the college admissions process is rigorous. 20.4 million students are expected to apply in 2017 to over 4,000 colleges and universities across the United States (Edmonds, Dan). Each is preparing to sign a check with a fat average of $40,000 per year for an extended education. For students, it is a time of stress, fear, and a shadow of oncoming college debt. But for colleges, it is the time of year they stuff their pockets (and bank accounts) with students’ lost hopes and dreams.

The tuition for admissions into University of Chicago is $64,965, and Northwestern hits $68,060 PER YEAR in order to attend their prestigious university. Now, I admit that these are among the more expensive colleges in Illinois, but even schools that are considered a “cheaper” alternative round up to at least $40,000 a year.

Now, it is not just tuition that pulls coins from piggy banks across the nation. Test prep averages at $650, standardized tests such as ACT and SAT, both range around $75 per exam, sending scores to every college each costs $15, gas to commute into the city for college interviews, airline tickets and hotel rooms for college visits each adds an additional charge. All of this adds up to around $4,000 after you account for all the travel expenses (Simons, Victoria).  But all of these costs do not even compare to the most unnecessary one of all, the application fee.

In 2016, Northwestern university had 35,034 first year applicants, all of which had to pay the $75 application fee to apply. That fee alone brought in $2,627,550 to the school before tuition costs. Of the 35,034 students that applied, only 2,208 were admitted (Waldman, Dan). That is 32,826 students wasting $2,461,950 on a school that sent them nothing but a denial stating that they were “simply not good enough.”  So where is the excess money  going?

Well, perhaps it could be to give bonuses to all the hard working college admissions counselors. The dean of the admissions office is practically living in the dirt with an average $192,000 annual salary. They deserve not only a bonus for all their quality work, but a pat on the back, and a letter of appreciation.

One example of an admissions officer’s hard-work was revealed on thedailybeast.com by a current admissions counselor at an Ivy League University,  “One night, I got food poisoning at a restaurant in Buffalo. The next day, I rejected all the Buffalo applications. I couldn’t stomach reading them. (Kingsbury, Kathleen).”

And this kind of effortless rejection is not an isolated incident.

Also revealed on the Daily Beast, “If my favorite sports team was in a slump, it affected who made the cut. If the [Pittsburgh] Steelers lost a game and I read your file the next morning, chances were you weren’t getting in. Where I could have been nice, I just didn’t go out of my way — I was a lot less charitable. Those are things that you, the applicant, have no control over (Kingsbury, Kathleen).” admitted a current admissions officer from a state university in the Northeast.

And with all the time prospective students spend on their college application essays, many do not even get read in full.

In middling cases, personal essays rarely got even cursory attention from admissions officers. There are simply too many files to consider in too small a time frame, and too many other evaluative factors that matter much more.” said sociologist Michael Stevens, who spent 18 months embedded with admissions officers at unnamed top-tier liberal arts colleges (Alter, Charlotte).

It is clearly not a quality review that families are paying for. So what is it?

Perhaps families pay this fee for a quick reply on behalf of the student’s acceptance or denial. According to Geoff Broome, the assistant director of admissions at Widener University, often an admissions officer will only look at a student’s application for 1-2 minutes before putting them in the accept or deny pile (“How Much Time Do Admissions Officers Spend on Each Applicant?”).  Obviously, this gives them an ample amount of time to fully evaluate the student, their involvement, and personality before making the life-altering decision. With these counselors sorting students so efficiently, it makes no sense why stressed out students who applied in the fall, do not get an acceptance letter until March or April.  

Now, I understand that colleges want to limit the amount of students that apply. For example, in 2011 Northwestern received 30, 529 applicants. If the application fee was abolished students could apply to hundreds of schools across the country as super-stretches and ultimate safeties. However, this should not be an issue for college admissions staff. Their sole job is to review students’ application materials, which takes  up only about five months of the entire year. Every other day, they sit in their office planning for the next year’s enrollment and sending prospective students useless junk mail that ends up in spam folders and landfills.

Application fees are also a rip off due to the high price of college tuition. Once again, Northwestern costs $68,060 per year to attend their institution. According to Northwestern admissions, $14,946 go towards room and board, $1,620 towards textbooks and other supplies, and $2,457 for other expenses such as meal cards. That means that $49,047 is the expense just to take classes. A portion of that money should be able to cover the salary of an admissions office counselor, as well as contribute to a professor’s salary.

The money spent on testing, tuition, and travel may be worth the price of a good education. But one things is for sure, the application fee is ripping off families across the United states. It is not buying a quicker review of student’s applications, nor providing a quality review of materials. It is solely a money grab, nothing more.

























 

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The problem with college admissions