We recently learned another celebrity’s child was offered a football scholarship to UCLA (Cordell Broadus, Snoop Dogg’s Son, Awarded UCLA Football Scholarship As High School Sophomore) and I continue to wonder what message this sends. I generally agree with the idea of merit based scholarships; it’s true people should be rewarded for their hard work, but when it comes to college, the idea of merit scholarships is a little more confusing.
I know very little about sports, so perhaps I’m not the best person to critique UCLA’s decision, but I suspect in sports, like other extra curricular activities and academic enrichment, it takes money to reach one’s full potential. By money, I mean enrolling in special camps, classes, workshops etc and while there are scholarships to access these opportunities, let’s be real, those are hard to come by.
So, back to people getting athletic scholarships who can clearly afford to pay for college. I can’t say I agree with UCLA. I’m not saying these talented student athletes shouldn’t gain admission. They should. They should also have a spot on the athletic team. But, I’m not sure they should be awarded a scholarship, a form of financial aid. In an era where highly capable students cannot fulfill their college dreams because of money, in my mind, it sends exactly the wrong message that UCLA is choosing to give money to children of millionaires (and then make sure the whole world knows they did). I understand the money comes from a separate pool of money than the regular financial aid pool, but a scholarship is scholarship and I can’t imagine there isn’t another equally talented athlete who needs the money to attend UCLA.
I think if UCLA was a leader in awarding comprehensive financial aid packages, I might have a different opinion, but the UC isn’t affordable for many students. In fact, for some, attending a private institution is more affordable because of financial aid packages.
UCLA recently notified applicants of their admission status: admit, wait-list or reject. For a school that consistently receives more applications than any other in the country (this year, they were said to receive between 72,000-74,000), it’s anyone’s guess who the ideal UCLA candidate is. The UC system at large requires all candidates to have a minimum 3.0 GPA to be considered and a UCLA admissions officer once told me the vast majority of viable UCLA candidates had close to a 4.0 or higher GPA. Thus, when you eliminate those candidates whose grades and test scores are too low for UCLA consideration, what you’re left with are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of applicants who, in theory, are all worthy of admission.
So, what’s an admissions team to do? Contrary to some rumors, real people do read applications, even at large schools like UCLA, which underlines the value of the college essay (personal statement). Paired with a healthy variety and depth of extra curricular accomplishments, one student can easily stand out from the next. Then add “fit”, in other words is a student an intellectual, academic and social match for the college and it’s personality, and you have one more potential way to stand out. Finally, since a real person is interpreting an application, the final ingredient is completely subjective and simple, does the reader like your application and essay? Can she connect with it? Does she get a good sense of who you are? Did you have typos?
Within the group of students we worked with this year we saw a variety of outcomes for UCLA and at face value, it’s difficult to say why some were admitted and others not. All sported strong grades, curriculum and test scores, as well as impressive extra curricular accomplishments, and their essays were well-written. But, when we take a closer look, what’s consistent between those who were admitted are two things: 1) Their essays were authentically them and readers could probably “hear” the students literally telling their stories as they read. Their writing was dynamic and the reflection was honest, the students expressed vulnerability followed by uncovering of layers leading to a greater awareness. Their stories were neither sob stories nor stories of tragedy, but rather stories of identity development, but from different angles. 2) They had at least one extra curricular interest UCLA can nurture because of the strength of programs with components specific to UCLA.