Do admissions officers put high-income students at a higher level?
I'm a part of an upper-middle-class family, and I was wondering if admissions officers, especially those for t20 schools, hold students like me to a higher standard. Do they expect a higher GPA and sat/act scores? Do they expect better ec's? better essays?
Most applicants from upper-middle-class families also live in upper-middle-class zip codes and if that is the case, the admissions officers only have to look at your zip code and your HS code to determine whether your demographic has an innate higher standard for test scores and course rigor, and EC opportunities as well as other factors that will influence their bias about who you are and where you come from. It's hard to hide your identity these days because a lot can be derived from your house number, street address, zip code and if you go to an elite boarding school well you are going to be held to the demographics and test score averages of the boarding school. They will be able to tell if you are a high performer or scraping by. For instance, if you live in 90201, 10583, 94031, 10007, 02199, 11962, or something similar they will expect your stats to be higher than the kids that are applying from neighboring zip codes with cheaper houses and less-resourced schools. They will assume your HS has great teachers, a variety of AP/Honors classes, and all kinds of clubs and sports to join and excel at. They will also assume that if you are struggling, your parents have the ability and the means to provide for private tutors, subject-specific help like Mathnasium, ACT/SAT Prep tutoring or services, Club sports teams outside of HS, and the ability to enroll you at expensive summer camps at colleges or universities or National Geographic travel programs. And yes, they will assume you hired a college consultant who edited your essays. So unless you write your personal essay in prose, they will scrutinize over it much more than a kid from East LA or the South Bronx.
So unfortunately with privilege comes higher benchmarks you have to meet. Keep in mind that when you submit your application to a T20 school it's not going to a random person in the admissions office. It's going to the one person assigned to your State or Region if you come from a small state like Idaho or Hawaii. If you live in NY or CA, a T20 school might have 1 or 2 people for each state, one focusing on SoCal vs NorCal and one focusing on the Tri-state area versus Upstate NY. They will read your application along with the other applications submitted by your peers at your HS and neighboring zip codes and evaluate them accordingly. So it's 100% likely that you are being evaluated against the Valedictorian and Salutatorian as well as the kid who put the school down as a super reach. And they are weighing your application against kids with broken homes with low incomes who are the first generation to attend college who also might by BIPOC Queer as well.
Therefore, if your school uses a tool like Naviance, pay attention to the Scattogram (sp?) picture charts from Naviance. If no one gets admitted to Princeton or Brown from your school and like 10-12 people apply every year for the past 5 years, you are not a good match for Princeton or Brown, unless mom or dad went there. And if Stanford, Yale, Tuft, and Georgetown like your HS, ride the wave of that as well. And pay attention to the GPA and ACT/SAT scores of the kids that get admitted. Keep in mind that Naviance is slow to update stats so when it shows 3 people got into Colgate with 3.91/1420, 3.85/1440, and 4.20 and 1470 those GPAs are final GPAs calculated after these kids graduated, they are not mid-year GPAS.
Also, use the CV chancing calculator and be as precise as possible with your Gender, Orientation, Course work, Test scores, ECs, etc, and you will get a very good idea of how you personally stack up against the published admission rates. So if you are like Cornell and get a range of 33-45% and the published rate is 12% then you are doing really good. If you get like 17-22% then this is still a hard reach for you. Don't forget to pick a couple of targets/safeties as well.
Hope that helps. And good luck with your T20 college admissions journey.
Short answer: no, long answer: it depends. I say no because most colleges at that upper echelon are need-blind for US applicants, which means they can't use how much money your parents make as a factor in admissions decisions. That said, there are some things that can indicate that you might be affluent, which might factor slightly but usually not too much. For instance, attending a private school can often show more wealth and greater opportunity. Factors like those might be considered a little, but I don't think it's anything to worry about.