The Black Box of College Admissions

When applying for college admission or for financial aid it can feel like you are in the dark. Once you submit your application the decision process is out of your control, and your fate is up to the university. No one really knows what specific criteria each university uses when selecting applicants; This can cause frustrations among students, parents, and counselors.

People want more transparency and communication during the selection process because they believe it will make the application process more efficient and will allow students and their families to make the smartest financial decisions possible. Whitney Gouché, Vice President at EMERGE gives an example of an engineering college in California not admitting students if they don’t have credit for AP Calculus BC. Since this information isn’t readily available to students and high school faculty some schools might not offer AP Calculus BC. This puts them at an early disadvantage without them evening knowing it. Another example is how schools are using test scores from the ACT/SAT more casually. People are wondering if it is even worth submitting your score since they don’t know how much these scores affect the final decision.

The opposing argument focuses on prestigious universities like Harvard and Yale, where there are tens of thousands of applicants and only a handful are selected. If these schools were to publish general parameters on how their selection process works, it will bring false hope to students and parents since the posted requirements would be inaccurate. This is because these schools use super-specific formulas and are on a more case-by-case basis rather than a one-size-fits-all.

The bottom line – universities are businesses as much as they are educational institutions. They will primarily act in their best interest. However, a more transparent selection process for schools (would be beneficial for students and parents. They would know exactly what classes to take and exactly what test scores are required.  This would save time and hopefully reduce some of the family’s stress. Congress needs to act now.