By Julia Kemp
Almost every advisor, parent, and teacher has the same response to students who ask how to succeed in their future careers: go to college. However, the price of higher education prevents lower-income students from ever achieving that goal. More specifically, the price of applications and admissions is a financial burden on these lesser-off students. As a senior who endured the college admissions process, I can confirm that the cost of admissions is enough to deter plenty of potential applicants. The fees themselves make any wallet nervous; paying an average of 75 dollars per application, and applying to 10+ schools, the typical teenager ends up spending hundreds of dollars before they even decide on a school. What about teens who can’t afford to pay for applications? Low-income applicants are forced to rely on an unforgiving application relief system, and often have to settle with a small, invariable school list.
Aside from the application fees themselves, wealth inequality diminishes the eligibility of students and makes a difference in whether or not a student gets into college. Most middle and high class students applying to college pay for a college admissions counselor. An all-knowing professional who knows just the right way to format college essays and fill out applications, admissions counselors provide students with a significant advantage in the admissions process. Those who can’t afford a luxury like a counselor might have poorer essays, and they might make errors or miss deadlines that prevent their applications from being considered.
Additionally, standardized tests like the SAT and ACT are proven to discriminate based on wealth and race. These standardized tests, known for a discriminatory history, are still required for many schools. Some schools have decided to pause the test requirements for applications due to the pandemic, however many have chosen to require test scores again for the class of ‘24. While many schools have gone “test blind” or “test optional,” (meaning that schools don’t consider standardized tests in the application process) SAT and ACT scores are still required for many schools and, more significantly, scholarships. I find it extremely ironic that many scholarships, necessary for low-income students, require scores from a test that historically discriminates based on economic status.
Overall, I believe that the college admissions process needs to be completely reformed. Low-income students are deterred from the process due to the expensive fees, have a lower chance of getting in without a counselor, and are not eligible for many scholarships due to standardized testing. In today’s workforce, it’s difficult to earn a living without a college degree, so why are we making people pay to be educated? The college admissions system is an arc in the exclusive circle of wealth that prevents people from climbing the income ladder. While it’s already outrageous that college tuition is so outlandish, it’s even more outrageous that application fees themselves put a strain on prospective students.