Do donors get special treatment in admissions?

I know – I promised to get to the thorny question of high scores, not so high grades, and will get back to that soon, but an aticle in yesterday’s Chronicle of Higher Education news blog focuses on accusations of preferential treatment for students in donor families in the admission process.

The truth is, admissions is far, far from a complete meritocracy.  Legacies, students who have close family members who have graduated from (or even just attended) an institution are often given preferential treatment.  This is based on the assumption that multiple family members attending increases connection to the school (and future donations, etc.).  Many special populations relating to talent, from athletes to artists, are treated differently at various schools to one degree or another.  Schools also often seek groups where they are under represented, which may be by ethnicity, gender, major, geography, or even particular schools.

There is a much more subtle level of boosting wealthy families when schools with large discount rates benefit those who are “full-payers”.  I’ll get more into that in a future entry as well. In the meantime, I don’t think anyone is REALLY surprised that some schools just might look a little more favorably on the kids whose last names are on campus buildings.  The real question is, how does that impact you personally?  My recommendation – use that knowledge to depersonalize this process even more.  Once you KNOW that there are a lot of things in the process that have NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU, you get the idea that this isn’t just about picking one perfect school or finding the ultimate match.  It’s finding a variety of schools that will be great for you and that likely match your qualifications. 

Of course, Mason is the perfect school for you and your ultimate match.

That having been said, keep in mind that this isn’t like finding a spouse, or even dating – it’s picking a place where the energy and excitement you put in will have a huge impact on how successful you’ll be, much more than some admissions committee that doesn’t know you can ever have. 

Be seeing you.


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