College admissions is a system that is designed to perpetuate inequality.
For years, top universities have employed admissions practices that favor students from better-funded school districts and those with familial connections to the institution.
Though some elite universities like MIT and UC Berkeley have taken a stand against legacy preferences in their admissions process, the practice of favoring students whose parents attended the university still is the norm at most top schools.
So how can we begin to tackle the multifaceted issue of college admissions inequality?
I started with the SAT.
Take a look at this graph displaying the Wall Street Journal’s findings from the College Board’s 2014 SAT test-taker data (keep in mind, this is the old SAT with scores out of 2400).
The SAT is a crucial factor in determining student outcomes of the college admissions process.
There’s a reason that the recent college admissions scandal was centered around wealthy parents bribing admissions officers to fake test scores. It was the clearest cut way to increase their child’s admissions favorability.
But there are other less-publicized resources that wealthier students have access to that contribute to the direct correlation on the graph between average parental income and average SAT score.
SAT tutoring can be extremely expensive, and is not a resource that is commonly available to lower-income students. Some tutors get paid up to $1000 an hour, further affirming the widespread belief that tutoring and educational services are a privilege, not a right.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
When I founded SoFlo SAT Tutoring, I wanted to create a digital platform for socially responsible SAT Tutoring. The tutoring company, which has now served over 500 students in its first year of operations, aims to break the cycle of inequality in college admissions through the SoFlo Scholarship, which provides free and discounted tutoring to students in need.
SoFlo operates almost entirely online over virtual classrooms. By removing the necessity of in-person sessions, we are able to connect tutors with students from all over the country and cut the transportation cost for both tutors and students. Students from rural underserved areas who don’t have access to SAT prep are now able to work with our tutors. Tutors at ivy-league universities who normally would be busy writing dissertations and theses can now take a few hours a week to work from home mentoring students and sharing the tricks they used to beat the SAT. Using technology we are able to significantly reduce cost and connect students and tutors who otherwise would never have the chance to work together because they would be limited by geography.
Our digital platform has made for easier and more flexible scheduling that accommodates the busy lives of students and tutors, leading to an increase in profits. This has allowed us to reinvest an increasing amount in the scholarship program. Currently, 15% of all of our students are on scholarship, and we plan to offer free tutoring to over 120 students in 2020.
This doesn’t end with SoFlo. We want to inspire other companies to dedicate 15% of their resources to free or low-cost tutoring as well. College admissions is systematically built on inequality, which means that it requires systemic change to create a solution. Equitable tutoring is an effective first step to attack the notoriously wealth-based outcomes on the SAT.