DiscoverTalking To Teens: Expert Tips for Parenting TeenagersEp 86: The Dark Side of College: Testing, Admissions, and Inequality
Ep 86: The Dark Side of College: Testing, Admissions, and Inequality

Ep 86: The Dark Side of College: Testing, Admissions, and Inequality

Update: 2020-05-24


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College holds a special place in the American Dream. It’s almost every parent’s hope for their kid to receive a four-year education and make a name for themself. A college  diploma is more than a piece of paper; it’s a marker for success. A promise of steady income, a supportive social network, and opportunities to continue moving upward. But the truth is, that piece of paper is becoming more and more inaccessible every year.
Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds stress over the SAT and ACT like the scores determine their entire worth. Parents go gray trying to find ways to afford higher education. Even financial aid seems to be an elusive privilege to the families who need it most, and student loans loom darkly in the future. With so much at stake, one question is on everyone’s mind: Is college worth it?

For the answer to this question and a closer look at the college admissions process, I spoke with this week’s podcast guest, Paul Tough. In his most recent book, The Years that Matter Most: How College Makes or Break Us, Paul takes an unflinching stance on the reality of higher education in America to show readers the truth about colleges and universities. From SAT scores to post-graduation salaries, Paul’s extensive research tells all.
Written over the course of six years, Paul’s book is packed with studies, research, and interviews with people all across the spectrum of higher education. He recounts the stories of low-income students at leading universities like Princeton and Yale while also offering insights from leading SAT tutors, recruiting agents from top banks and law firms, and more. All his findings point to one conclusion—one that might be disheartening to many: When it comes to college, money matters.
Struggling colleges and top institutions alike are constantly looking for ways to fund their expensive programs, meaning they look for students from high-income families who’re likely to be solid donors down the road. A student’s socioeconomic background even continues to influence their chances of success after graduation. Employers look for people with similar hobbies and experiences—people they can “shoot the shit” with. It creates a circle of affluence in higher education, and, in Paul’s words, lacrosse bros really do run the world.

While the revelation in Paul’s books can be discouraging, we also talk about possibilities for teenagers from low-income households to enter the system and what people active in higher education are doing now to make college more accessible to a wider range of students, along with topics like:

  • What the SAT and ACT are really testing

  • The elite-college machine

  • How admissions truly determine who to enroll

  • If college is really becoming more diverse

  • The barriers to higher education

For parents and teenagers entering the college admissions process, this podcast episode is priceless. Paul Tough shines a light on the underbelly of higher education, giving all listeners some much-needed perspective on American education. If you want to know the secret, listen in!








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Ep 86: The Dark Side of College: Testing, Admissions, and Inequality

Ep 86: The Dark Side of College: Testing, Admissions, and Inequality