Students and their families nationwide seek the life-altering opportunity to attend an Ivy-Plus institution. After all, these alumni account for a quarter of U.S. Senators, half of all Rhodes scholars and 75% of Supreme Court justices appointed in the last half-century.
While test scores are no longer a requirement across many institutions, such as the majority of Ivy Leagues, most students would not miss out on a chance to tip the scales in their favor. However, 99% of candidates must face an additional roadblock to their admission: not being sufficiently wealthy.
A new report by Opportunity Insights found that, among those with comparable test scores, students from the highest-income families are more than twice as likely to be admitted to an Ivy-Plus college than those from low- to middle-class families.
The disparity becomes even more prominent the wealthier a student’s family is and the better their test scores. Students in the top 0.1% of the parent-income percentile who also score in the 99th percentile of the SAT/ACT have more than a 40% chance of being admitted to an Ivy-Plus. Conversely, students with the same score whose family sits in the 40% to 60% percentile barely have more than a 10% chance.
The odds of being admitted to an Ivy-Plus at a higher rate than students from humbler backgrounds can still increase. Legacy applicants from the top 1% of families are five times as likely to be admitted than students with similar credentials.
As more admissions offices at prestigious institutions continue to ditch test scores and even students’ legacy statuses for more “holistic” approaches to college applications, inequities persist among income lines. Opportunity Insights found that the second-largest factor contributing to high-income students’ admissions to Ivy-Plus colleges stems from their non-academic ratings. The report posits that high-income students tend to join private schools with greater access to extracurricular activities, knowledgeable guidance counselors and more robust avenues to athletic recruitment.
The consequences of disproportionate admissions
Students in the top 0.1% of the income distribution make up 15% of all graduates from the 12 Ivy-Plus colleges. Attending one of these colleges over a public flagship school triples a student’s chance of obtaining a job at a prestigious firm. Also, it increases their chances of earning in the top 1%.
Consequently, Opportunity Insights urges all eight Ivy Leagues, including the University of Chicago, Duke, MIT and Stanford, to consider changing their admissions practices to “meaningfully diversify the socioeconomic origins of society’s leaders.”