POINT: New admissions application makes college more accessible

pointRecently, more than 80 universities — including all eight Ivy League schools — announced their adoption of an alternative to the traditional college application process. The new application, helmed by the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, allows students to develop digital portfolios as early as the beginning of their high school careers. Expected to roll out early next year, the free website levels the playing field for minority and low-income students who might not have access to academic counselors or expensive advisement services. Despite its shortcomings, the online portal creates a mindset that college is, in fact, attainable and is an effort that USC should join.

Undoubtedly, college application season is a stressful period, marked by perfecting standardized test scores, maintaining a high grade point average and honing in on the “dream” school. Some are concerned that if this mentality were to translate over four years, students will be bombarded by an excessive pressure to succeed. Though going to college is not the only indicator of accomplishment, its significance is increasingly becoming a reality. Between 1980 and 2012, college enrollment rates in the United States rose from 26 to 41 percent. And as the job market grows more competitive, it is ultimately educational backing that creates an edge over other candidates. Privileged settings foster this awareness by offering resources.

However, for some minority students, access to college, especially the selective ones, might just be an illusion. The coalition application, in turn, does its best to make clear what students need in order to advance in education. The website allows applicants to work concurrently with their teachers, counselors, other peers and admission officers to create the optimal application profile. The admissions officers are also on hand to give the students advice. These facets of the new platform deviate from the Common Application, which makes the admissions process uniform, but offers no support for the applicant. The immersive process, which will hopefully be used by high schools across the nation, highlights that all schools can be a possibility.

According to a study by labor economist Caroline Hoxby and Harvard University professor Christopher Avery, high-achieving, low-income students tend to not apply to top-tier colleges, despite the fact that these institutions offer more financial aid, and as a result, end up costing less. This is due to K-12 schools’ lack of focus on matriculation and concentration on solely getting the students to high school graduation. Given the opportunity for social reform, notably absent from the list of more than 80 universities is USC.

Though it is commendable that the University has multiple programs — such as Upward Bound, which works with inner-city Los Angeles students — these programs do not reach the vast majority of under-privileged areas in the United States. The coalition application broadens the opportunities for all disadvantaged students. The current college admissions landscape does not cater to the entire applicant pool, particularly those living in underprivileged circumstances. USC needs to adopt the methods put forth by the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success in order to be a better stepping stone for all students.

Danni Wang is a junior majoring in psychology. She is also the lifestyle editor of the Daily Trojan. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Mondays.