Would you say that the American college admissions process is meritocratic? Understanding that a meritocracy is a system that allows the people in power to choose people (more specifically in this case: applicants) based on their abilities, can American colleges truly accept students based on what they are capable of if the American K-12 education system reflects not on people’s capacity to learn or intellectual abilities, but of their socio-economic status?
Yes, on paper, the idea is that many students who are selected for said colleges are indeed prepared, better prepared, than those who are not. Majority of those students just so happen to come from distinguished families, with better options for schools or (to make the playing field fair) an area where better public education is available (Here’s a hint: The more wealthy the neighborhood, the better the surrounding public education).
Although there could be other extenuating circumstances related to the correlation between wealth and being admitted into more selective colleges (but please, let’s stay away from social darwinist idealism), there is a very clear distinction in the way that public schools are funded and the educational opportunities each student has because of that funding, depending on the different areas the schools are in and the wealth of the surrounding neighborhood.
There also exist the regulations that only allow people to go to schools in their zip code. Basically if you do not live in that district or specific zip code, you are not eligible for enrollment in that specific public school. The idea is “your parents do not contribute to paying taxes for our school, and our neighborhood is also too expensive for you to live in so you cannot come here to get a better education”. While the idea of taxes in America and contributing to society and that whole point is taken, the act of property tax based funding for education and denying students access to a better (public) education gives disadvantages to the poor, and poorer neighborhoods as a whole.
These disadvantages create a division that limits the quality of education that students receive in poorer neighborhoods. Can people honestly reach their full potential if they aren’t given a fair experience? Can there be a true meritocracy in the American college selection process if there are standards in place that keep specific groups of people from getting the resources that could increase their chances to compete?
There are colleges (like the University of Michigan), that have procedures in place to look at applicants in the context of their high school and surrounding area. They pose the questions: Was this student able to succeed in comparison to their surrounding competition? Did they take advantage of all their available resources and make the best of their situation? They acknowledge the differences among school districts and the different opportunities that students have. But, not all colleges have that same process.
If (public) education in America were at a higher overall standard and if the public education system had a better method of funding schools and/or people were allowed to go to schools in different districts, would the college admissions process be truly meritocratic?