Do rich kids have an automatic advantage in college admissions?

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Our counselors answered:

Do rich kids have an automatic advantage in college admissions?

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Advantages for the Wealthy?

I would really question that wealthy students have an automatic advantage in college admissions for the same reasons as prep school kids. Colleges are seeking first-generation and underrepresented minorities, and that means that wealthy applicants still need to prove themselves. I do work with some wealthy families, and they receive the same advice as any students: challenge yourself to the max in high school and show colleges that you are ready for their demanding courses. That is not to say that wealthy students aren't sometimes well connected with certain colleges - they can be - but colleges know what they're dealing with.

็Ž‹ๆ–‡ๅ› June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

Yes, they do

as a private counselors for the most elite families or middle class families, I am in the better position to share with you about the extra help that will add advantages to the student for college admissions. I don't personally agree with the fact that only rich kids use counseling services or counselors to help with the admisisons process. they are afforable to many middle class families and some counselors will offer discount for disadvantage families such as me. the advantages of useing counselors will work for the benefit of the students, therefore, actually save time and money for students in the end. it is the best way of helping students with college access and success.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Do rich kids have an automatic advantage in college admissions?

In the current difficult economic climate, ability to pay does play a role for need aware schools. The few schools that are need-blind do not consider finances in admission decisions. Universities are also aware that students who come from low income backgrounds do not usually have as much guidance available regarding college as students from wealthier families.

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach


Students for whom cost is not a factor benefit in a myriad of ways. Here are my top 3 ways that students from financially comfortable backgrounds may have an advantage in the college admission process: 1. Early Decision: Applying through a binding agreement is a more viable option for students for whom final cost is not a factor. Most colleges and universities offer admission at a higher rate through early decision. 2. Need Aware: Increasingly, the economic downturn is impacting admission decisions colleges make with clear benefit for "full pay" families. Check out the NY Times article: 3. Far and wide: When cost is not a factor, students apply to schools far from home with greater ease. Visiting schools nationally and having the capital to return home via air once enrolled are privileges afforded to financially comfortable families.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures


There are advantages to being in the middle and upper classes, but not in the way you might think. Look at it this way: parents who do not have to worry about keeping food on the table have more opportunity to encourage their children's academic studies. Parents who have a college education are more likely to spend time talking with their children about college. These families are more likely to live in a neighborhood with good schools. That being said, there are also advantages in being a first generation college student. Colleges like to encourage these students to come to their college, and they have many support groups available to help these students succeed. Students from less fortunate backgrounds often work, which takes time away from their studies, while the more fortunate student doesn't have to work. One other issue: in this economy colleges are looking for more full pay students (students who do not receive financial aid). However, it does not mean they are accepting students who are not qualified. Being full pay might help when a decision is down to two students: one who needs financial aid, and one who does not.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Do rich kids have an automatic advantage in college admissions?

Not necessarily. It can help at some schools, for running a college is not cheap, schools have to pay their bills, and tuition is no small part of how they do it, but most school also have large amounts of financial aid intended to ensure that students who are not rich cannot only get the opportunity to go to college but can also bring their talent to the school community. At the same time, wealth can help in other areas beyond direct admission whether it be tutors, test prep, or independent counselors. For better or worse, financial inequality is a piece of our society, but college is one vehicle for addressing it both in the long and short term. Present who you are and good thing can happen regardless of your bank account.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

Do rich kids have an automatic advantage in college admissions?

Almost never!

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational Advisory Services, LLC

Do rich kids have an automatic advantage in college admissions?

Ability to pay is an advantage at some but not all colleges. Determine from the colleges' websites whether they are "need blind" or "need aware". Need aware colleges' finances require that they take a student's ability to pay into consideration when making the admission decision. Need blind colleges are able to admit whom they choose without regard to a family's finances.

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton College Consulting, LLC

Do rich kids have an automatic advantage in college admissions?

Yes and No. Academic opportunity and achievement is largely correlated with wealth, but students are often evaluated in context which means that at many selective colleges, wealthier applicants actually have a harder time standing out. At some schools that do not have large endowments however, being able to pay the full tuition can be an advantage.

Lora Lewis
Educational Consultant Lora Lewis Consulting

Do rich kids have an automatic advantage in college admissions?

No one has an "automatic advantage", but some schools do take into account an applicant's ability to pay as well as whether or not he or she has family members who were alumni (and possibly made financial contributions to their alma mater). That being said, some schools are also "need blind" and actively recruit first generation college students and under served populations. Don't worry about whether rich kids (or poor kids, for that matter) have an unfair advantage. Work at your absolute best, craft stellar applications, apply to an appropriately diverse range of schools, and you'll create your own admissions advantage.