In Defense of Need-Blind Admissions
“What’s your name?”
“Where are you from?”
“How much does your father make in one year?”
It doesn’t seem right, identifying people by their financial statuses, does it? So why should it be a factor in determining a person’s suitability at Wesleyan?
It was pretty distressing for me to hear about the prospective change to Wesleyan’s need-blind admissions policy. I remember the day I was accepted to Wesleyan; I was jumping around my living room with my parents, beyond ecstatic, finally seeing the reward of all of my hard work throughout high school. If I had applied here a few years later, would I have even been considered?
Honestly, yes, I probably would have. Since I was a finalist for Questbridge, my application was rolled over immediately into the regular decision pool, so I most likely wouldn’t have fallen into the percentage of applicants who are to be considered with need in mind. (For more information on Questbridge, see Sophie Zinser’s article.) But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t hundreds of other high-achieving low-income students who won’t be quite as fortunate in coming years. It will start with the last 10 percent, but who’s to say it will end there?
When I came to WesFest, I had to ask some students the typical question: “Why Wes?” Almost every time, I received the same answer: “The people!”
Though there are plenty of factors that make our school what it is, the spirit of Wesleyan is largely channeled through its creative, intelligent, and diverse student body. Taking a step toward need-aware admissions means eliminating something that has been a key part of the “Diversity University” for years. I have spoken to students who have told me they might have not even applied to Wesleyan if a need-aware policy had been in place when they were looking at colleges. Students on financial aid wouldn’t want to think that they were accepted just to fill a quota to boost the school’s reputation, just like students who could pay in full wouldn’t want to believe that they were accepted just for their ability to do so. Everyone who goes to Wesleyan worked hard to get here, and that’s what should be considered: merit alone.
There is definitely something to be said for President Roth’s concern about preserving “the Wesleyan experience.” It is almost as important that Wesleyan upholds its ability to meet full demonstrated need of the students accepted as it is to remain need-blind. We can’t ignore the fact that money is an issue, and it wouldn’t be fair to accept students who need financial aid if Wesleyan couldn’t provide full funding for them. Of course, it is also important that the University maintains the academic facilities and amazing faculty that make the quality of a Wesleyan education so impressive.
However, one key reason Wesleyan students are willing to pay the high tuition is for the opportunity to immerse themselves in a world of students with different backgrounds, viewpoints, and cultures. I know from experience that many of the most important lessons there are to learn in life come from people who can see the world in a different light. Luxuries are great, but would going without them significantly alter our Wesleyan experience in the same way changing the make-up of our student population would? Would the lack of luxuries keep people from applying to and going to our school?
I know I would love to have air conditioning installed in the basement of Nicolson 5.5, but if all the money for renovation could be put toward financial aid, I’d be more than happy to withstand the sweat. Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple. Preserving need-blind may result in giving up some of the things that make Wesleyan so appealing: great housing options, numerous eateries, free theater performances, etc. Is this a trade-off that students are willing to make? I honestly don’t know, but I do know that it must be part of the discussion.
Cutting back on need-blind is taking a step in the wrong direction. Whether this policy will affect 1 percent or 20 percent of our student body, there will inevitably be less diversity on our campus. Need-blind admissions is a big responsibility. It affects all of us, but it is also affected by all of us. It is our obligation, not just the administration’s, to give this topic serious consideration.