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One in Four Colleges Say They're Pressured to Rig Admissions

While students are trying to break open secretive college admissions decisions, the people who make them are openly admitting bias

Twenty-five percent of college admissions officials said they are pressured to admit low-quality students because of their connections, according to a survey released on Wednesday by Kaplan Test Prep. The poll asked officials at 400 U.S. colleges a question currently torturing scores of American parents and high schoolers: Do connections matter more than a carefully curated résumé?

The college gatekeepers acknowledged that they'd been nudged toward “accept[ing] an applicant who didn’t meet [their] school’s admissions requirements because of who that applicant was connected to.” As for who got an edge, 16 percent of officials said that they look particularly closely at the children or siblings of alumni from their school.

These figures are self-reported. Just as with polls that ask people if they have ever done drugs or cheated on their spouse, it's possible that more people have lowered their standards in the interest of nepotism than are willing to admit it in a survey.

"The acceptance of applicants whose qualifications may take a back seat to their connections is an open secret," said Seppy Basili, vice president of college admissions at Kaplan, in a statement. That secret may become public knowledge, Basili suggested, as a growing number of students are demanding to know why exactly they got into college. After a group of Stanford University students publicized an official method students can use to obtain their admissions files from schools in January, several schools reported an uptick in requests. At the University of Pennsylvania, there has been an "avalanche" of such demands, the Duke University registrar complained that a surge in demands has put a strain on the office at "a very busy time," and Yale Law School dodged a "flood" of requests by simply deleting all its records

It's almost as if these universities do not want to hand over written records of their admissions decisions.

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