2 years ago
Admissions Advice

Wrote about a controversial topic on college essay

Hi! I'm a HS senior applying to QuestBridge, and for my final essay in which we can choose a topic that interests us, I chose to write about the College Board monopoly on education. I was, and still am, confident in the essay, but how does this reflect upon me for choosing such a brassy topic?

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2 answers

2 years ago[edited]

I commend you for your bravery and open-mindedness to solicit feedback on this move. Nevertheless, don't judge my opinion too harshly because it's only my own. What's done is done so it doesn't matter what I write here because you have already submitted your QB application.

I think that was indeed a risky move on your part, especially since you are a high-achieving, low-income, perhaps even a first-generation applicant getting a huge hand up by a community service organization that is running cover for you, quasi-mentoring for you allowing you to cut the line and apply to 15 ranked schools before anyone else can even apply to 1 and only 1 ED or SCREA school. What I mean by this statement is that QB has cut special deals with 48 of the best colleges in the US to help close the gap in diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. So together with QB, these schools have a different process of evaluating potential match applicants that take into consideration the possible hardships and difficulties many QB applicants have endured over their academic life. This means that these schools are NOT likely to use a strict academic index cutoff based on SAT/ACT or GPA or SAT II subject tests like other non-QB applicants who apply for RD or ED through the common app. In addition, each of the 48 schools has worked out its own methodology on how to evaluate QB applicants for their purposes. So maybe they already have a lower target threshold for test scores like SAT/ACT, APs, and even some ECs and intellectual vitality because low-income students can't travel the world, attend $10,000 summer programs and some have to work to support their families instead. That being said, QB is acting like a big brother/big sister in this whole complicated admissions process and trying to place deserving kids up front rather than waiting around until the RD cycle is over. If you are going to get some level of test forgiveness up front for SAT or other test scores, it's sort of an odd thing to bash CollegeBoard, asserting they are running a monopoly on education.

While there are many students, parents, and educators in America who think that there is no place for standardized testing whether it's the PPSAT, PSAT, SAT, or APs, there are many who feel that having such tests available serves a purpose. If colleges felt that standardized tests served no value, then they would simply change their Test-Optional policy to Test-Blind, effectively null and voiding each and every SAT and ACT for the millions of applicants applying to US colleges. But they do not because they obviously serve a purpose in the selection process. When there are only 15000 available seats at the 8 Ivys and over 400,000 applicants apply, that tells you that test scores matter to some degree. I don't think they matter if you are a certifiable genius and have shown evidence of your intellectual capacity by submitting research papers, taking college courses, and doing amazing ECs in your free time. Then GPA, Test scores are just unnecessary icing on the cake. But deciding which 385,000 applicants do not get into Ivys is not a meritocratic process and I think test scores give colleges some data points to help them shape their classes the way they want to shape their incoming cohorts. I do believe some Ivys use race and test scores and have specific bands of scores for Blacks, another band for Latina, other bands for Indigenous, and bands for Whites and East Asians.

Why Test Scores?

-For high achieving students it is yet another way for them to differentiate themselves against their school peers and others from the same demographic. And Khan Academy which is owned by College Board provides a free level playing field to low-income students around the world to test prep and improve their scores. As well as gain the tools to take AP coursework and test prep for at least 1/2 of the most popular AP courses.

-For parents, supporting and mentoring their kids to do well on standardized tests gives them some assurance that their children are on the right track. Just as good parents are there to support kids in their academics, sports, ECs, spike activities, and community service, I feel that test prep is just one of those necessary evils or rights of passage that many high achieving students have to endure in order to make the cut in an ever more complicated and competitive college admissions landscape.

-For educators and college admissions officers, I feel that evaluating someone with a high SAT score and a good sampling of AP course rigor backed up by high AP exam scores takes the doubt out of the decision to accept certain students for whom they are not 100% sure they can excel and thrive at some of these very top schools. Test scores provide a loose predictive future performance measure that they find reassuring.

I personally do not think CollegeBoard has any more power than ACT.org or USNewWorldReport Rankings or Niche Rankings or PrincetonReview or StanleyKaplan or the thousands of high school tutors and paid college consultants or school pay-to-play programs.

I think both Private and Public Institutions have their own agenda and sets of problems and challenges.

Two weeks ago, I would have told you a more compelling argument would have been to bash USNewsWorldReport for its monopoly on how capital flows in and out of colleges both for the business of educating paying students and how research funds are allocated. Whether you are ranked #1 or #50 or #150 makes a huge difference in institutional prestige, clout and funding. If you don't play well with other kids in the same USNews sandbox, you can easily go from a #2 University to number #18 overnight. I'm talking about Columbia University. But then I read yesterday that out of the 8 Ivys, Columbia is the only Ivy that has double-digit Transfer acceptance rates which makes it more DEIA friendly than the other 7 schools. Harvard and Yale only accept 0.80% as transfer students so they really want to KEEP OUT hard-working kids who are in a community college or had to go to a state school because of money issues or Military personnel or older students. Columbia's admit rate for transfers is 15.4% and Barnard is 20% and Columbia GSIA is 50% for transfers. So, on one hand, it did lie stating that 100% of full-time professors had PhD.s and terminal degrees when the number was 95.3% still the highest level of any college in America. And it lied that that X percentage of classes were 20 students and under. But I personally think providing low-income or marginalized students an alternative access path for getting an Ivy education by transferring in trumps all their deliberate mistakes because the school has a big heart, it's not just a place for rich White and Asian students.

Good luck with your ranking list and good luck with the Oct 26th finalist decision.

2 years ago[edited]

Well, to be honest, I think that this is a very interesting issue to write an essay on. Of course, it's also risky to write about something like that because you never know how the commission will react to your writing. But the done is done, so I can only wish you lack. For me, it's pretty hard to decide what to write, and I even have a few options, but I want to choose something interesting, not ordinary. But I still have some time to think about it. But I know for sure that I'll also use https://edubirdie.com/essay-editing-service because it's important not only to write on the best theme but also with good quality. And somethimes I have problems with grammar or something like that, so I think that using an editing service will be a good thing, and will also improve my chances.

What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
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Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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