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.

王文君 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.

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.

Megan Dorsey
SAT Prep & College Advisor College Prep LLC

Do rich kids have an automatic advantage in college admissions?

It would be idealistic, but naïve for me to say no. Students who’ve grown up with money do have some advantages. They’ve probably attended good schools with recognized academic programs. (However, there is still a bottom 50% to every top school.) They’ve had the means to hire private tutors, test prep coaches, and private college consultants if needed. Parents probably didn’t limit their participation in extracurricular activities based on cost. (But they still are limited to 24 hours a day like every other student.) In researching colleges, they could afford to visit more campuses and apply without regard to financial aid. Money can buy advantages, but it doesn’t guarantee admission.

Edward LaMeire
CEO LaMeire College Consulting (

Do rich kids have an automatic advantage in college admissions?

No, not for the schools that matter. Mid-level privates will give an edge to full-pays, and will court wealthy families as potential future donors. But, the money alone really doesn't mean a thing to sweatshirt schools with massive endowments. I've found that the further you get into the top 25 schools in the country, the less inclined schools are to look at bank accounts. What I have found, though, is that these schools look for is connections. Who's important in China? Who has a father high up in the Communist Party, where we could use a personal connection to get a foot in the door in a heretofore closed-off province? These are certainly not questions at the front of anyone's mind when reading an application for the first time, but these connections can ultimately play a role - especially if they're significant enough. This all said, I think that colleges are just as inclined (if not more so) to give an advantage to low-income students. Of course, there are a ton of things about college admissions that are sketchy, but you can't impugn the motives of most people in the industry; people in admissions are almost all true educators. They love to hear about students with commitment, passion, overcoming obstacles, and so forth. The Dean and Provost might push for connections, but the worker bees in the office will always be pulling for the interesting kid who's had to work and fight for what they have.

Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

Do rich kids have an automatic advantage in college admissions?

The honest answer to this question is unfortunately "yes" - at least at most colleges. The bottom line is that schools want students who can pay the tuition or at least have the capacity to pay the tuition - even of the school offers a gratuitous scholarship. The exceptions to this rule are sometimes the need blind colleges that claim to take financial means out of the admissions equation.