Ever since last month’s uncovering of the now infamous elite college admissions cheating scheme, renewed focus on the extreme means to which many parents resort to for the sake of their children has sparked a painful and frustrating conversation about wealth in society. Wellesley was not one of the colleges involved in the scandal, so we have mostly escaped nationwide scrutiny. Yet, we should take this opportunity to look at how wealth and privilege factor into the Wellesley community.
There are many ways to ‘buy’ your way into a college like Wellesley that don’t involve millions in cash wired to a phony charity bank account. However, there are thousands of other desperate parents all over the world ready to sacrifice everything for their children’s success. Our parents may not have been charged in a federal sting operation, but every check that was cashed by a private tutor, admissions counselor or boarding school with their names signed on the dotted line is a complicit reminder that access to an elite secondary education is really only meant for the wealthy.
Without a doubt, many parents, as a show of love and caring, will go to extreme lengths for their child’s success with very few questions asked. An environment of competitiveness — between the students and also amongst the parents — creates an overwhelming pressure for parents to provide their kids with the most expensive tutor, the most expensive instrument, a spot on the most expensive club sports team. And in turn, kids feel they need these advantages from their parents for guaranteed success. We –– the kids –– spend our formative years not playing or leaning into our natural curiosity, but rather crafting and living a college-ready resume, stacking all of our commodifiable experiences and skills onto a single sheet of paper to present to an apathetic admissions counselor — who, might we remind you — could just as easily turn their head towards a $1.2 million bribe.
Despite efforts to welcome first-generation and low-income students, Wellesley is not always accessible to students who don’t come from elite backgrounds, with parents or siblings who can help them navigate all the unspoken rules of the elite private New England institutions, such as Wellesley. Indeed, for all of the College’s goodwill towards its first-generation and low-income student population, both implicit and explicit barriers prevail as a result of administrative policy and the elite secondary education system as it currently stands.
We admit that we are not exempt. This editorial staff is comprised of members who had an advantage in the current admissions process, and we must acknowledge how we have benefitted from the current college admissions system, just as you, the reader, likely did as well. So before you accuse us of attacking the student body, let us remind you that what’s done is done. We cannot go backwards in time and rip up the check for the SAT bootcamp you endured in tenth grade. But we can, going forward, recognize and educate the families in our communities that every dollar spent on these college admissions prep schemes is a complicit agreement that wealth, above anything else, breaks barriers. Not, as we are conditioned to believe, intelligence, acumen, curiosity, passion, determination, grit or the other buzzwords we’re told to include in our Common App essays.
We can take the lessons of the college admissions scandal and do two things with them. We can continue to provide the demand for elite college services such as the ones from which many of us benefited, or we can recognize and work to dismantle the environment that allows the wealthy to succeed over even the most deserving individuals. So, for all of our sakes, if you’re in a position to help others — do it.