- Counselors:... While many of those counselors talk of taking on pro bono clients, the general practice is to charge. According to the Independent Educational Consultants Association, comprehensive packages for a student range from $850 to $10,000, while the average hourly fee is $200. Such fee levels mean that many middle-class families are able to find private counselors, but the wealthy have access to services that are priced beyond the reach of most Americans. In 2005, Inside Higher Ed wrote about a three-and-one-half-day workshop for which the fee was $9,999. Last year, Inside Higher Ed wrote about a service that charged $1.5 million to help an applicant seek admission to 22 colleges.
- Essay "help": Beyond private counselors, a growing number of wealthy applicants are hiring people to help them write their college essays.
- Testing: ... For the most recent year, the average combined score on reading and mathematics was 990 for those who received fee waivers that are available to low-income students. The average was 1088 for those who didn't receive waivers. The waivers cover two SATs, but those who pay for the SAT can take the test as many times as they would like.
- Where Colleges Recruit Numerous studies have found that colleges are more likely to recruit at high schools with wealthy students than students whose families are middle class or poor. In 2012, Caroline M. Hoxby and Christopher Avery kicked off discussion of "undermatching" with their study that found that more than half of high-academic-achievement, low-income students never apply to a single competitive college.
- "Demonstrated interest": This is one of the admissions criteria used by many competitive colleges. ...But a study by Lehigh University economists published last year in Contemporary Economics Policyfound that colleges most favor demonstrated interest of the kind that costs money.
- Early decision: ...An analysis by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation pointed to evidence about who applies early. "Twenty-nine percent of high-achieving students from families making more than $250,000 a year applied early decision, compared with only 16 percent of high-achieving students from families with incomes less than $50,000. In short, low-income students are half as likely to apply early, even though doing so would dramatically increase their likelihood of admission."
- Legacy preferences: In the United States, graduating from a college is associated with higher levels of educational attainment and standardized test scores for graduates' children. Legacy preferences -- in which colleges favor the children of alumni -- add to those advantages.
- Minimal transfers: In states such as Florida and California, transfer admissions -- primarily from community colleges -- are a major source of socioeconomic diversity at public universities. At places like the University of California, Berkeley, which is barred by the state from considering race in admissions, transfer admissions also add significantly to black and Latinx enrollment. Berkeley this year enrolled 221 new black transfer students and many more Latinx transfer students (and students of other backgrounds). Elite private colleges, in contrast, tend to enroll relatively few transfer students. A report released in January by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation found that relatively few community college transfers are admitted to elite private colleges, even though those who enroll do succeed and are more likely than those admitted as freshmen to be from underrepresented minority groups, from low-income backgrounds or to be veterans of the U.S. military.
- Rankings: For years, many have said that the rankings by U.S. News & World Report favor institutions that admit wealthy students.
Brown University is among the institutions that considers legacy status, and recent articles have drawn attention to other advantages that legacy applicants and wealthy applicants have had or continue to enjoy.
On Thursday, The Brown Daily Herald reported, and the university and some faculty members confirmed, that the university's fund-raising office sets up meetings with faculty members for applicants who are either legacies or are related to wealthy individuals or others in touch with fund-raisers. In some cases, the faculty members have been encouraged to write letters to the admissions office about their (positive) impressions of the applicants.