The College Admissions Process Is Too Expensive
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The College Admissions Process Is Too Expensive

College tuition is expensive enough. How can we expect students to pay outrageous fees for the admissions process, too?

The College Admissions Process Is Too Expensive

In the next five days, high school seniors across the country will be scrambling to turn in their first round of applications for early action to colleges such as University of Georgia. They—or should I say, we—have been working our entire high school careers for this moment, the moment when we can click "submit" on our Common Apps; from here on out, all we can do is wait for our colleges' responses.

The importance of good grades and a rigorous course schedule, of balanced extracurriculars, of volunteer work and strong essays, has been beaten into my head since eighth grade. And I have a pretty stellar record—almost straight A's in mostly honors and APs, several leadership positions in clubs and activities both in and out of my school, a natural talent at writing personal essays as required by the Common App. But what no one could prepare me for was the cost of the college application process.

I'll be the first to say it: My family is nowhere near poor. I go to an excellent private high school in Norcross, Georgia, and I live in an affluent neighborhood. Money has never been an issue. For my sixteenth birthday, I inherited my dad's 2008 Toyota Rav4, and my parents pay for my gas. I go to events like DragonCon almost yearly, and a few years ago my dad and I split the $800 cost of building a high-tech gaming PC. If I stay in-state, I will most likely be eligible for the Zell Miller scholarship, which almost completely covers the cost of college.

I knew that college was expensive—it's one of the reasons I worked so hard in school, for scholarships. What no one told me is how expensive the college admissions process itself is.

I first began to discover these surprising expenses when I took the SAT for the first time in March. It was $60 usually to take the SAT with essay, and because I had registered late, the price had jumped to around $90.

And, of course, because I'm no child genius, I took the SAT twice more after that (both times with essay), which brought the total cost up to $210, just to take the test. I also took the ACT in this time, which was around $60 as well—$270. My scores were nowhere near where I wanted them to be, so my parents and I decided that I should try tutoring. We figured it would be a couple hundred dollars for the tutoring—but no. It was $2100 for 40 hours. That brings the total cost to around $2,370 so far.

And then, of course, I had to take the test again—this time, the ACT, which my tutor and I had decided was the better option. Add another $60. Total: $2,430.

And don't forget that score reports cost money, too—in all, my score reports cost around $70 to send to all my schools. Total: $2,500.

And then I got into the actual application process. I'm applying to six schools. I'll put the average application fee, per school, at about $70. Total: $2,970.

Almost three thousand dollars. And this doesn't take into account the money I spent travelling for my out-of-state college visits, some of which required plane tickets, nor does it take into account the six AP exams my parents have had to pay for. No, this is only the rough estimate of the cost of standardized tests, tutoring and application.

Even coming from a well-off family, the cost of college application is putting financial hardships on my parents, especially considering that those costs will skyrocket next year when I actually begin attending university. The system is completely corrupt and gives an incredible advantage to people like myself, people who can afford tutoring and can afford to take the tests multiple times and can afford to go to a private school that adequately prepares you for the process.

What about the student out there who has equal intelligence to me, who takes hard classes but can't afford SAT or ACT tutoring? What about the student who has had inept math teachers and would understand the material if it were presented like my teachers presented it to me? What about the student who can only afford to pay the application fees for one or two schools, and therefore has to limit their choices based on what is economically feasible? How is this situation fair to them in any way, when it is so clearly tilted in favor of the rich and—dare I say it—privileged?

Sure, there are waivers and financial aid forms that can be filled out, hoops that less fortunate students can jump through, loopholes that can be taken advantage of. But wouldn't it make more sense for the process to be infinitely cheaper? Maybe I sound like a socialist, advocating for free college admissions processes. And I understand that corporations have to make money somehow. But spending more than $3,000 on the admissions process alone, with college tuition hanging on the horizon ahead, is simply not feasible for most families.

The college admissions process isn't supposed to be easy. It's rigorous, challenging—it pushes students to be better, to try harder, to dig deeper. But the one place they shouldn't expect us to be better in, to try harder in, to dig deeper in, is our wallets because most high school students have no control over their parents' finances. So, then, why are we being penalized—or unfairly rewarded—for something out of our control?

I don't have an answer for how to make the process fairer. But we could start by questioning why it's so expensive in the first place. Out of necessity, or out of greed? And maybe then we can find a way to make the admissions process a truly even playing field for all students, no matter their parents' financial background.

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