Wash. U. should be more available
It is common knowledge that kids from disadvantaged high schools are disproportionately represented at elite universities. And while financial restraints are a major reason for this, with all the scholarships available, money is not always the main issue for kids from poor areas applying to elite schools. The problem is that nobody ever gives them any information or help in the process. Schools like Wash. U. do not actively reach out to inform kids in particular zip codes about the opportunities available to them and as a result miss out on a lot of brilliant, talented kids.
Wash. U. has always prided itself on its reputation as a school that encourages diversity— diversity of race, diversity of religion, diversity of sexual orientation and diversity of beliefs. I remember that every campus tour I took, every admissions pamphlet I read and every faculty member I talked to during the admissions process mentioned Wash. U.’s diversity. And once I came to Wash. U., I realized that they were telling the truth—Wash. U. is indeed a pretty diverse place, definitely more so than my high school was.
However, when I went home for Christmas break, I realized that Wash. U.’s self-proclaimed love for diversity does not necessarily extend to every part of the United States. Over break I talked with a good friend of mine from home who is going through the college admissions process right now. My friend goes to a very low-income public high school in a very rural part of Alabama, my home state. He’s valedictorian, captain of the track team and class president of a class where only around one in 10 kids will graduate from a four-year college. Over the summer, he mentioned that he wanted to apply to some selective out-of-state colleges to see if he could get a scholarship.
I told him to give Wash. U. a look, so he mentioned it to his guidance counselor. His guidance counselor had never heard of Wash. U. Neither had his principal. No one in his school system or town could direct him to any scholarships to apply for at Wash. U. Wash. U. was just never presented to him as an option.
My friend wound up getting a full scholarship to a different school and is doing fine, but his story made me realize something about Wash. U. and the ultra-elite college admissions process as a whole. Even with all of the financial aid and scholarships available today, elite colleges like Wash. U. are simply not presented as an option to high-achieving kids in many low-income high schools. There are definitely exceptions to this rule to be found, but for the most part, the typical Wash. U. student, no matter what his or her ethnic or cultural background, came from a relatively respectable high school.
I am not trying to say that Wash. U. needs to lower tuition or increase scholarship opportunities—plenty of people have said that already. Wash. U. simply needs to be more proactive in promoting itself in places other than prep schools. There are plenty of students in rural or inner city high schools who would be excellent candidates for admission at Wash. U., and Wash. U. offers enough financial aid to make this a possibility. The disconnect is in information—many people just do not realize that elite schools like Wash. U. could be an option for them and do not even apply.