It wasn’t but a few years ago, at most, that the majority of the student population at TCU were seniors in high school, anxiously waiting for the letters that would bring news of acceptance or declination to various colleges.
Most students at TCU worked hard to get good grades in school, receive excellent scores on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT and to diversify their portfolio via extracurriculars and community service. Most students at TCU believed that it would be their proficiency in these matters that would determine a large part of their future.
The real truth behind college admissions is both more enlightening and disheartening than the naive notion that qualifications are at the base of admissions determinations. In reality, college admissions officers look at a student’s ability to pay, their race, home, association with the school and more.
It’s no secret that affirmative action led to an immediate uptick in minority admissions when it was passed. Or that athletes and children of alumni have a higher likelihood of getting into any particular school–that just makes good business sense. Give a school a good sports program and a deep alumni donor base and everybody is happy–who cares if the students associated with these perks are below average? They’re still indirectly making a contribution to the institution as a whole.
A slightly lesser-known fact is the ease with which full-pay students are admitted to a university. If a student doesn’t have a scholarship, doesn’t qualify for financial aid and is still willing to come to the university, this is where the university makes the most money. A survey of admissions officers performed by Inside Higher Ed found that nearly 20 percent of admitted full-pay students have lower test scores than the average student.
It can be all too easy to “boo-hoo” on this admission tendency, citing the already-easy lives the rich or privileged citizens of America have. The wealthy (nowadays, simply economically ‘able’) do have easier lives, it’s a general fact. They attend better schools, get the best tutors and coaches, have the material items required to fit in and have far more opportunities to make the connections necessary to become successful in any line of work. With all this, it can be hard to see why full-pay students should get into a college they didn’t have to work as hard to get into.
What is often forgotten is that many academic scholarships and on-campus perks are paid for via these students’ full tuitions. Texas Christian University, for one, would be a far less enjoyable place to be without a considerable number of students paying for the concerts, Crew events, free game admission and more. It would also be less diverse and academically competitive without full-pay students. There would be fewer scholarships to go around and fewer students who relied on scholarship support would be able to attend. Without the less talented full-pay students, the more talented ones wouldn’t even have the option of attending, were they to get in.
Full-pay students may take spots from fringe applicants, who qualify slightly more, but they provide the means for the stellar students, the students who raise TCU’s reputation and make it an attractive and prestigious enough school that a diploma actually holds weight in the hiring world.
Allana Wooley is a freshman anthropology and history double major from Marble Falls, Texas.