Bring Merit Back into College Admissions

On March 12, the U.S. Department of Justice charged dozens of parents for using fraudulent or illegal methods to ensure their children’s admission into elite universities.

While the scandal revealed illegal activities — including cheating on standardized tests and even blatantly lying about athletic accomplishments by colluding and bribing college athletics officials — it also sparked a national conversation about the legal, yet ethically dubious, ways parents help their children get into college. For years, standardized testing, donations with the implied promise of admissions, and privately hired tutors and consultants have been criticized — but not much has changed.

The Foghorn took this opportunity to lay out a series of steps to be made to make the college admissions system fairer.

The first thing we would do is remove legacy admissions.

It is understandable that parents would want their children to go to the same school that they attended, and their parents attended, and so on through the generations. However, legacy should not give their kid an advantage in the admissions process. The process should be purely based on merit, not who you’re related to or how much money you have.

Next, many of us think standardized tests have got to go. The scores of a standardized test are only indicative of what you were capable of in a particular four-hour time period. The test has less to do with the material and more to do with how good you are at taking tests.

A small minority of parents donate large amounts of money to a college with the intention of securing admission for their child at said school. Nothing about having wealthy parents implies that you deserve to attend that college. This process might be legal, but it is unethical for donations to give applicants an unfair advantage.

We do acknowledge that donations aren’t inherently bad and that many donors do not make donations with the intent of swaying a school in their child’s favor. Donations are necessary to a university, despite the fact they may be used for an unethical reason. There are many students from low-income families at USF, and the University has a reputation for giving generous financial aid packages. If the University did not receive gifts, donations and full-priced tuition payments from those with more financial comfort, a fair amount of the students we see on campus today would not be here.

If universities want students who are doers, the admissions process should reflect that, not through a subjective test, through a parental connection, or a sum of donation money. We must reward creativity and hard work over wealth and familial connections.


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