These are the (very) few US universities where merit isn’t dead

BERKELEY, CA- Apr 16, 2016: University of California Berkeley mascot Oski the Bear greets newly-admitted students on Cal Day, who are invited to tour the campus and decide whether to attend. Source: Shutterstock

Reading the news today can make it seem like meritocracy in US universities is dead.

For the most part, that’s true. If it’s not celebrity parents faking their child’s athletic prowess, it’s legacy parents donating millions to skew admissions teams in their favour. Then, there’s the affluent who groom their kids to become the perfect candidates through private tutors, elite admission schools, test preparation classes and campus visits – all advantages which are out of bounds to those with little money.

Where’s a morally-sound candidate to find fair and just admissions team in US higher education?

It wouldn’t hurt to start at these three universities which do not or no longer consider legacy when evaluating applicants:

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

“There is only one way into (and out of) MIT, and that’s the hard way.” Source: Facebook/@MITnews

At the nation’s premier and most respected university, “alumni relations” are “not considered”, as stated on the institution’s website. One admissions director said: “And I can tell you, from having sat on countless committees, that we simply don’t care if your parents (or aunt, or grandfather, or third cousin) went to MIT. In fact, one of the things most likely to elicit a gigantic facepalm is when a student namedrops some incredibly attenuated connection because they think it is going to help them get into MIT.

“There is only one way into (and out of) MIT, and that’s the hard way. The people here value that.”

2. University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)

Smiling because they got in on merit. Source: Facebook/@UCBerkeley

UC Berkeley does not consider legacy status in its admission process, according to a 2017 report by student-run newsroom The Daily Californian. “The University of California does not consider the legacy status of undergraduate applicants at any point during the admissions application and review processes,” a spokesperson said.

This translates to all application materials, from questionnaires to recommendation forms, not containing items related to an applicant’s legacy status. Selection at this competitive school is done via a “holistic review,” which refers to the process of evaluating freshman applications where no one piece of information is weighted more heavily over another. You can find the 14 factors University of California institutions consider here, and the more specific one for Berkeley here.

3. California Institute of Technology (CalTech)

You can’t buy a slot here. Source: Facebook/@californiainstituteoftechnology

Just like there are no athletic scholarships at CalTech, there aren’t legacy admissions either. The university takes a “holistic” approach to admissions. It’s “much more of an art than a science,” its website states. To gauge academic preparation, the school looks at test scores, grades and recommendations. Candidates must also demonstrate “a consistent interest in science, technology, engineering, or math”  and “your ability to live and work within our campus community”.

Here’s a snapshot of CalTech’s Class of 2022: 6.6 percent admittance rate, SAT score range of 1520-1570, SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 740-780 and SAT Math: 790-800.

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