- DePaul University’s associate vice president, division of enrollment management and marketing, adds letters of recommendation to the list of unfair admissions considerations that disproportionately benefit students from wealthier, or college prep-oriented high schools.
- Jon Boeckenstedt writes for The Washington Post that admissions committees look to these letters to differentiate students who otherwise look very similar, but the quality of the letter is more a reflection of the person writing it than the student it is written about.
- Beyond letters from teachers, some colleges require letters from counselors, and in under-resourced high schools, college counselors either don’t exist or have extreme caseloads that limit their ability to give students a leg up in admissions.
As the nation has become more conscious of access and diversity in higher education, admissions decisions have come under increased scrutiny. Research has collected over the biased, non-predictive nature of standardized tests like the ACT, SAT and GRE. Low-income students, nonwhite students, and women are at a disadvantage, in some cases, no matter how much they prepare. But like letters of recommendation, standardized tests offer the chance to make a quick assessment about an applicant, and replacing either one would create a hole in the admissions package.
While colleges and universities continue to work out out how to create access and diversify their classes, it is important to keep in mind that increasingly competitive admissions lead also to litigation from those who feel they were passed over for ostensibly less qualified, or less deserving, applicants. No doubt admissions offices have a narrow line to toe.