Escaping the College Machine

Phoebe Chapnick-Sorokin, Executive Editor

Families throughout the United States spend thousands of dollars to pay for services like ACT tutoring, essay tutors, and college application advisers. One of my relatives spent $1,625 on ACT tutoring alone. They also had an essay tutor, college counselor, and various other assistance with completing their college application. This person got into multiple selective universities as a result of not only their exceptional grades and hard work throughout high school, but the fact that their family had the means to provide them with these resources.

The help that my family member got with their college application process is not uncommon where they live; in fact many of their friends had the same college counselors and ACT tutors. This segment of the population literally has a team of people walking them through their college application process. But what about the students who cannot pay for these services?

This assistance is not a common practice in Iowa City. But even though it’s not prevalent in our area, it still affects us during our college application process because we are applying to the same schools as these people and, therefore, competing against them for limited admission slots.

This assistance costs a lot of money. In areas like New York City, there are opportunities to hire someone to write your college essay for prices close to $700. The company that my family member got ACT tutoring through charges $100 per hour for a session in one subject, and it is the primary career for the owners of this business. Businesses like this exacerbate inequality throughout the college application process.

College admissions should not be a business. The point of college applications is for the schools to see who a person is without knowing them. Having someone else write the essay, and having test scores that do not represent a person’s intelligence, defeats the purpose of college applications.

As someone currently applying to college, it irks me that there are people out there paying others to do the work that my friends and I are spending all of our time on. Writing a multitude of essays, navigating poorly designed websites, and organizing our own appointments with school guidance counselors is all part of the experience.

In my mind, there are two options to improve this. The first is to make application assistance resources equally available to everyone. The second is to put restrictions on the extent of help students can get on their applications. After all, the point of college applications is to show the abilities and accomplishments of the student, in addition to providing admissions committees with information about which students are likely to succeed in their institutions, and doing it themselves would be the best way to show this. But, unfortunately, neither of these solutions have any chance of being implemented so the best thing to do is to know that the college application process by no means defines one’s intelligence or deservingness.