While the recent college admissions scandal — permeating national news and implicating many well-known celebrities — has sparked outrage among Americans, it has also highlighted unfair advantages wealthy students gained in the college admissions process, especially to highly ranked universities. In recent years, many colleges and universities have committed to enrolling more low-income students by increasing the number of Pell Grant students on their campuses, implementing summer bridge programs and reaching out to low-income communities, among a number of other approaches. However, many low-income students say the application process itself serves as a significant barrier. In interviews with The Observer, two Notre Dame students from low-income households shared their experiences with the college admissions process, noting the obstacles they faced along the way.Rathin Kacham, seniorRathin Kacham, a DACA recipient, first-generation and low-income student, said he applied to over 30 colleges and universities his senior year of high school. He knew he would not qualify for federal aid because of his undocumented status at the time, so he was forced to apply to a slew of schools in hopes he would be accepted somewhere and receive financial aid.Kacham’s underfunded high school rarely sent students out of state for college, and many kids did not proceed to higher education at all. At the time, his guidance counselors knew little about his situation, so Kacham tackled the admissions process alone, calling individual universities and researching programs intended for low-income students.“I had this challenge I had no control over,” Kacham said.By the time regular decisions were announced that spring, Kacham had been wait-listed or rejected to the majority of schools which he applied, despite having a 4.0 GPA and a high ACT score.“I got into one school, I think it was [University of Texas] Dallas, where I would’ve gotten a partial scholarship, and that was honestly where I thought I was going for the longest time,” he said. “Then I checked my spam folder and Notre Dame and had sent me an acceptance letter and I ended up here.”Jazie Valenzo, juniorJazie Valenzo was born in Mexico, but his family moved to Wilmington, Delaware when he was 1 year old. Valenzo said his parents wanted to immigrate to America in order to escape family tensions back in Mexico, but when they arrived, both of his parents were forced to work multiple jobs in order to support their family of five. After attending elementary and middle school in the inner city of Wilmington, Valenzo was accepted at Salesianum School — an all-boys private Catholic high school — on financial aid.“I did well my freshman year, and the guidance counselors kind of noticed that — they really wanted to get me on the right track, especially as an individual coming from my kind of background and area, [that] wasn’t too common,” Valenzo said.Valenzo was not able to visit any of the schools he applied to because his family couldn’t afford to travel, but after researching a number of schools online, he decided to rank Notre Dame in his top three schools on his QuestBridge application.“I remember coming back from track practice and looking at my phone, because I knew when they were going to release the decisions to see if you were accepted to one of the universities that you put on your list,” Valenzo said. “And I clicked on the link and the first thing I read is ‘Congratulations,’ and then the following line, ‘You’ve been accepted to the University of Notre Dame,’ and it was fantastic. I went home and I cried, and I thought, ‘All my work has kind of paid off.’”Analyzing admissionsDon Bishop, vice president of undergraduate enrollment, said about 12 to 13 percent of Notre Dame undergraduate students currently live in households earning under $65,000 per year, but admissions is working to increase that percentage by reaching out to underserved high schools and working with organizations including the American Talent Initiative, Cristo Rey, KIPP and QuestBridge.“Notre Dame needs to be in all these communities recruiting because we want the leaders of those communities to be, at least some of them, [from] Notre Dame,” Bishop said. “And I think it becomes a better world in our mind when we are more a part of all those worlds.”Although admissions faculty and staff were not implicated in the cheating scandal, Bishop sees the scandal as an opportunity for Notre Dame to articulate exactly how it approaches admission decisions and why he believes their approach is most effective.“I think the public feels outrage because there are some very high-end schools involved in the scandal, and it’s migrated from the scandal to the whole conversation about influence, and in both of those groups people feel betrayed by the top colleges,” Bishop said.Bishop said the Notre Dame admissions department evaluates applicants in the context of their environment, taking socioeconomic background into account to put underserved students and more affluent students on an equal playing field.“Ultimately, we do not discount a top-performing student at a pretty humble American high school who’s done their very best and that [is] pretty much at the top of the class … we know that if you’re in the top 5% in your socioeconomic group on test scores — let’s say that’s a 1340 — and top 5% for the ‘average kid at Notre Dame’ socioeconomic group in the applicant pool … might be 1480,” Bishop said. “We might look at that and say, ‘1340 actually compares reasonably to 1480 for a student from a much more advantaged background who’s had more access to tutoring,’” Bishop said.During the 2017-2018 admissions cycle, the College Board implemented the Environmental Context Dashboard, ”a data-driven tool used to measure educational disadvantages based on students’ environments,” according to the website. Notre Dame was one of the 15 schools that agreed to test the tool in its pilot year, Bishop said. Although many universities’ increasing commitment to holistic admissions and tools like the ECD have worked to diminish the disadvantages first-generation and low-income students often face, the admissions scandal has called for colleges to more forcefully examine the inequities that exist within the system, Bishop said.Although both Kacham and Valenzo made it to college, many high-achieving, low-income, DACA and first-generation students across the nation struggle to progress, which makes the college admissions scandal particularly disheartening, Valenzo said.“There are a lot of kids in the US — across the world — that would kill for an education, to be able to be someone better and learn more and be able to apply themselves and be better for it, but they can’t. They don’t have the necessary resources for it,” he said. “Then, you have this opposite side of the spectrum where you have people that do have such resources and they’re not even doing it right.”Kacham said the admissions scandal speaks to bigger, institutional problems within education, where wealthy parents can pay to secure admission even if their child is unqualified, while poorer, high-achieving students struggle to get by.“I want [high-income families] to realize that they’ve been benefiting from a system that was designed to benefit people like them, [and] to some extent, mostly still benefits them,” Kacham said.To bridge the differences between high-income and low-income students, Kacham simply asks students to start by being kind.“Really try to think about what a person is going through and what you might have to sacrifice in order to make their life better,” Kacham said. “Compassion is sacrifice, it’s changing your lifestyle to know the person next to you can be happier.”Valenzo urged students to avoid being judgmental and instead engage in deeper conversations regarding differences in lifestyle, class and race.“Be open to people — be open to knowing them and their stories,” he said.Tags: admissions scandal series, college cheating scandal, DACA, first generation, low-income students
Pomona is still a beautiful little country town a lot like the one I grew up in.People are friendly and helpful and it has a great sense of community. A small Queenslander cottage in Pomona right near Mt Cooroora!I have no desire whatsoever to move from where I am right now.The only things I’d like is one more bedroom and a bit more land so I could grow more food. Celebrity chef Matt Golinski with a snapper at Main Beach, Noosa. Picture: Mark Cranitch.Matt Golinski is an Australian celebrity chef best known for his regular appearances on the television show Ready Steady Cook.Golinski’s love of food started at an early age. Growing up on a tropical fruit farm on the Sunshine Coast surrounded by fresh produce has influenced his style of cooking throughout his entire career. By the age of 12, he had decided he wanted to be a chef, and 31 years later his passion for the industry he loves only continues to grow by the day.Today, he still lives on the Sunshine Coast and shares his property dreams with The Sunday-Mail. I live in a small Queenslander cottage in Pomona that I’ve spent a lot of time doing up.I love the feel of these types of houses, despite all of their faults they have so much character and almost have a personality of their own.I love being in Pomona because it’s still a little country town with great people and I love Mt Cooroora. I love the kangaroos, kookaburras, king parrots, the cat bird that bangs its head against my pizza oven, the sound of whip birds and frogs.Even the bandicoot that digs holes all through my garden.I like that I can look out any window and see beautiful lush greenery. More from newsParks and wildlife the new lust-haves post coronavirus15 hours agoNoosa’s best beachfront penthouse is about to hit the market15 hours ago What would you change about your home? The old classic: buy the worst house in the best street. What do you love about your home? What is the best thing about your suburb? If money was no option, what would be your fantasy home and where? I’d give it one more bedroom and another quarter of an acre of land so I could have a bigger garden. Where do you live and why? What was the best piece of property advice you were given?