Acceptance pressure transforms admissions process

Emily Stisser
Entertainment Columnist

Addie Palmquist
Contributing Writer

The college admissions cheating scandal, progressively lowered acceptance rates and thousands of dollars spent on private test tutoring and college consulting are just a few effects of the extreme college admittance pressure students face today. When will the increasing standard of severity regarding the college process end?

Senior Peyton St. James prepares for the Oct. 26, ACT by taking an at-home practice test provided by a private tutor. Photo by Emily Stisser

Society’s gradual obsession with the elite success has perpetuated the intensity of the admissions industry beyond reasonable limits. The pressure students face today is inexplicably higher than what students faced 20 plus years ago.

In fact, according to a poll sent out to WGHS students, more than 75 percent of respondents reported that their parents only took the ACT/SAT once, twice or not even at all. These same students reported that they had all widely started the college process at the beginning of sophomore year. Finally, when asked to choose an adjective that describes their college process, 75 percent chose stressful, hard or confusing.

Generically speaking, the parents of high school students today faced much less demands in the process. The standard of testing, formality of recommenders and communication between universities and students is inexplicably higher than it was several years ago.

Nowadays, it is much more common to hire a private college consultant outside of school. At most large high schools, including WGHS, college counselors are responsible for helping 150+ students with their personalized college process. In fact, according to IBIS World, the annual growth of the college consulting industry is going up by at least 4.1 percent a year.

Additionally, according to Poets & Quants, the number of private consultants has exploded since 2005, according to a survey released in 2015 by Independent Educational Consultants Association. The IECA reports that in 2015, there were around 8,000 domestic consultants in the industry, up from 1,200 international consultants five years prior. Since this boom, the industry has exploded even more to around 40,000 consultants, IBIS World reported.

This detail has also taken extremes in the past couple of years. The infamous college admissions cheating scandal has impacted the process in one way or another. The culprits include are not limited to, Lori Loughlin, “Full House,” Olivia Jade Giannulli, YouTube, and Felicity Huffman, “Desperate Housewives.”

In early March, federal prosecutors charged over 50 parents regarding their involvement in “Operation Varsity Blues,” a long-running supercilious enterprise to secure illicit admission to several elite American Universities through bribery, deceit and manipulation of standardized testing. Those charged spent anywhere from $15,000 to $6.5 million to bribe university personnel, stage athletic recruitments, alter standardized test scores and more.

In this scheme, parents could often pay to give their children “a little extra help” when it comes to standardized testing. This could be a bribed proctor changing answers, helping the student with the test, doing the test for the student, and more. The options became limitless.

Everyday high schoolers spend months studying, practicing and preparing for what seems like the most important test of their lives. When the time comes, students file into a testing center to embark on the three-hour-long ACT exam.

Participants can study various ways for the exam, including practice tests, ACT book reviews and private tutoring. Some students opt to hire a tutor outside of school; however, many take the ACT prep class offered at WGHS.

College freshman Theresa Palmquist argued, “You can’t practice certain problems or read certain books that are going to give you an advantage. My suggestion would be to see a private tutor, but the cost can be expensive, especially compared to the free class at the school, but one-on-one tutoring is a lot more beneficial.”

Tutoring is not the only way to boost scores on the exam. There are things one can do at home individually or with a parent, that can help ensure better results. For example, pinpointing weaknesses from previous test scores is a great way to zero in on what to focus on when doing practice tests.

A new change, however, may change the test taking process forever. Beginning September 2020 students will have the chance to retake individual parts of the ACT exam, but that’s not the only upcoming modification.

According to, “Students will also have the choice of taking the ACT online, with faster test results, on national test dates, and those who take the test more than once will be provided an ACT ‘superscore’ that calculates their highest possible ACT composite score.”

With these additions to the test, students are predicted to have a better test taking experience as well as significantly better results, further impacting acceptance rates and superscore regulations.

See Also: Voices of Webster: November 8, 2019

Emily Stisser – Opinion Editor 

This will be Emily Stisser’s second on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her sophomore year.


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