Illustration by Alycen Kim

Admissions of Bias

College-admissions officers should not inject personal biases into the selection process.

In the aftermath of one of the most unprecedented college admissions seasons in recent memory, a longstanding criticism of the selection process has a renewed voice. The reality of the personal biases and preferences that admissions officers, particularly those of high-ranked schools, may add when considering candidates across the country and globe has severe repercussions on students as a whole. In an HBO/Vice News piece entitled “How Broken The College Admissions Process Is”, several officers were interviewed about their unique perspectives when trying to understand an applicant’s file. Shocking revelations were made as to why some students were advocated for more than others. 

“I would always advocate for newspaper kids, kids who were interested in making the world and the community a better place…so all you had to do was talk about women’s rights or a student diversity leadership conference—I was all over you,” Crystal Artis Bates of NYU said. 

“I was a public school kid who had a guidance counselor who didn’t even know the colleges on my list! So I was always rooting for that public school kid who didn’t have a lot of resources,” Sara Harberson of the University of Pennsylvania said. 

At its surface, excitement about an applicant that an admissions official can relate to, especially in this year’s larger pool, could be applauded; it is when one examines the randomness of this form of biased advocacy that one can see its unethical and unregulated nature. 

Applicants have no control over where they’ve grown up, if their school was public or private, or whether or not they joined the school newspaper; each person has unique skills that they strive to strengthen and take pride in. Yet, even with their tireless efforts, their admittance or denial to a highly selective college could waver in the hands of an admissions officer who might appreciate them or someone with similar grades more because they share similar life experiences. 

Of course, all individuals will see the world through the lens of their unique backgrounds, but for college admissions officers to openly admit to training that lens on a pool of young applicants would not just be wrong, it would make a mockery of the principles that surround hard work. Never again could we believe our sleepless nights of homework and studying could come to real fruition if we do not actively call out the imperfections of such an important system. 

What we must do as members of the public is clear: loudly demand professionalism from college admissions offices across the country, have respectful discourse about the different factors that should or should not be considered in an application, and most importantly, check our own biases when we make decisions. The fate of all our students depends on it.

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