5 Ways White Privilege Plays Out in College Admissions

The recent college admissions scandal raised the hackles of many in America. It created a discussion around white privilege and its effects on society. The news cycle has come and gone, but the question remains. How does the act of college admissions demonstrate the advantage that white kids have over children of minorities in all aspects of life. The scandal has caused an examination of the college admissions process and the existing disparities.

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It all comes down to mobility. When a family can move to a “better neighborhood” to take advantage of the “finest schools,” then that family is exercising a privilege overwhelmingly restricted to those that identify as white. Though the right to move is available to everyone, not every family has the ability to do so, especially when that move is based on the desire to find a better school for the children to attend and thus have a better opportunity to be admitted to the college of their choice, or any college for that matter.

More Exposure to Extracurricular Activities

There is no secret to the fact that college admissions take extracurricular activities into account on a student’s application. White parents encourage their children to seek out extra activities while in middle school and high school. Playing in the band, singing in the choir, competing in sports, and entering speech or talent competitions are freely available to students in better schools. Partaking in these activities lends greater weight to an SAT score. White students are also more likely to receive tutoring as the parent pushes the child to take steps toward the college dream.

The Advantage of Affluence

The truth of the saying that “Education begins at home,” is demonstrated most effectively through observing the social injustice of poverty and the struggle to feed and shelter the family. As shown in an article in The Commonwealth Times, the family that struggles financially has greater difficulty providing a nurturing and education oriented home for growing children. The image of both parents holding two or more jobs just to make ends meet is not only a harsh judgment on a society that propounds equality for all; it is a blocking force for any child seeking to attend college. Though these students would undoubtedly pursue a college degree with more attention to detail and energy than those who have not experienced hardship, most are afflicted with lesser test scores due to the necessity of working while attending high school.

The Buy-In Strategy

One thing about the recent scandal in college admissions, it exposed the tip of the iceberg of white privilege. As discussed in Insidehighered.com, the buy-in strategy has worked for over two centuries in the U.S. The temporary exposure of shite parents buying an education for their children is already a passing topic and will soon disappear from public discourse altogether except amongst those who choose to blame or point fingers. In the past, wealth bought acceptance through donations to construct college buildings or new wings for departments. These means of gaining admittance will continue in the guise of “philanthropic” gifts.

Legacy Admission

Every prestigious university or college lends extra weight to applicants who have parents that graduated from the institution. Though this appears to be a way in for non-white students whose parent participated in collegiate level sports, the facts are that only eight-percent of college admissions of legacy students come from non-white parents. Colleges have used the legacy admissions process for over 200 years, and only the recent admission of non-white students have created new legacy admission advantages for non-white students. Though inroads have been made, those inroads are insignificant compared to the centuries of “white only” admissions.

White privilege is a systemic issue. Most who use this privilege don’t realize their contribution to its persistence. It will take years of struggle and reflective mirror perception to rectify and resolve the unfairness of white privilege. The beginning of that struggle begins with understanding the existence of white privilege in the college admission process.