How Houston's rich kids game the system (Spoiler: with their parents' money)

Depends on what you mean by getting it right.

In Australia, it varies a bit state to state, but it’s generally a straight contest of high school performance. There are a certain number of student slots available for any given degree, and those slots are filled by the applicants who scored the highest on their end of high school exams.

No interviews, no essays, purely numeric supply and demand. Prestigious/profitable subjects (law, medicine, etc) require high marks to get into, because applicants hugely outnumber the available slots; lower status degrees (education, social work, nursing, etc) require lower marks, due to lower numbers of applicants and/or more slots.

Of course, cashed-up parents try to get around this by paying for private tutoring etc. in order to maximise their kids’ grades in those high school exams. And there is a strong correlation between parental wealth and the quality of high school facilities, even in the public system. Remote Aboriginal schools are a lot less shiny than the ones in upper-middle-class suburbs, which are in turn massively underresourced relative to the posh private schools of the wealthy.

There is also a constant push by the right-wing political parties to more explicitly break the system (e.g. reserving some positions for underperformng students whose parents are willing to pay huge up-front fees). Those tend to draw vigorous objections from the general electorate, though.


What kind of grades are required?

University admissions suffer from systemic bias - like, being able to afford a tutor is something that only the privileged can do, and thus white people are able to do it more, and thus get into better colleges, and thus get better academic connections and thus get better jobs and thus are better able to afford tutors for their kids (who will be at least partially white).

That system has a biased output, even though every step along the way is pretty rational.

Even “having a stable home life” is a bias in favor of wealth and whiteness here. If your parents are constantly changing jobs or working two to keep bread on the table or if you live in a shady neighborhood and have to deal with that fear on the regular, you don’t consider school as much of a priority, so it doesn’t matter how clever you are. This is a situation fewer white people are in than other people (though, it should be noted, there are absolutely white folks in this position).

The root of systemic racism in education is so deep and thick that even something like Affirmative Action isn’t much. It’s an important something, but it isn’t much.

A “top 10%” rule isn’t bad in a colorblind world, but in the actual world that exists, it’s not nearly enough.


For my program? 92% is typical.

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Ah shit, I had 91.125% at graduation. Damn you AP Lit!!!


But in my defense I pulled that off without ever doing homework. The work I put into not working taught me valuable life lessons, and should be worth a few more points.

Let me go to Canadian college!!


You could get into almost any other program at my university with those marks! Just not my program, sorry. :wink:


Okay, I’m sharpening my pencil. How can we make this… speed bump… just go away?


lemme guess: you knew @japhroaig’s percentage beforehand and said a number just out of his reach?


Mrs. Pants is damn good.


Locally, the preference given to overseas students (who have to foot the entire tuition bill instead of domestic students who have their tuition levels legislated and subsidized) is a bit of a worrying trend. I’m happy to have overseas students, and I’m angry that the Universities (apparently) get to bilk them for more money than the rest of us (whom they bilk for quite enough, let me tell you).


Every teacher I’ve spoken with at parent/teacher conferences over the years has made a point of telling me that they appreciate the fact that I don’t “help” my kids with their homework. They can tell what parents are doing, even if they can’t do anything about it. I would say that my editing help, when it came time for college applications, was within the reasonable range that you’re thinking of, but that’s not how many parents do it. They actually write significant amounts – if not all – of the essays. That doesn’t do their children any favors in the long run…to say nothing of the students who don’t get in because the spots have been taken by people like this.


If I’m reading this article right, to make this speed bump go away you’ll need to:

  1. Write a check to a tutor
  2. Get into the program
  3. Profit!

Is it sad that I saw the “$450/session” price for the tutor’s time and immediately started wondering what the hell I was doing wrong with my own tutoring business?


It would be a legal violation for me to publicly discuss one of my students by name in this way, and even if it wasn’t it would still be an ethical violation. One could argue that a tutor isn’t bound by such considerations but I’m hard pressed to see why not.

Who’s discussing anyone by name?

Abigail Fisher is the girl who lost the lawsuit.

The article about writing other peoples’ letters for them is saying that she has helped many “Abigail Fishers” get into college.

She doesn’t seem to be discussing a particular person she “tutored,” but a group of people she “helped,” personified by a particular person that she had no interaction with.


I went to a rich high school, and boy did I hear a lot about the problems with affirmative action. The popular kids that people “sympathized” with when they got “screwed” because they didn’t get into the one and only college they applied to annoyed the shit out of me. It will also say it was the minority of people, and mostly from families that everyone knew were acting far richer than they actually were. I mean, one of the girls literally drove her fully loaded F-150 over grass medians, across corners at traffic lights, on sidewalks, etc. regularly because she was too entitled to wait in traffic. From my experience with this sort of subject, it’s people whose parents have been making good money for a long time and simply don’t have the debt that someone like me in the same position is straddled with. The family history of engineers or marketing executives or any other six figure salaried worker who simply don’t understand how people even in their own income bracket live modestly.

There was one kid that went the other way too, a rich black family that has been wealthy for some time used their connections and influence to seal their son a full ride to college on a scholarship that was awarded for a long-standing demonstration for inclusiveness and diversity. They literally picked up a tutor to groom his submissions and he did a few publicity shots his junior year at various events to roll into his position. One of the other finalists for the scholarship went to our school too, and she was a refugee from the Siege of Sarajevo who led multiple outreach organizations and worked as a volunteer for the same events this kid went to and was quite bitter about it.

Basically you’re never going to take away rich families or their networks, money, and general advantage across the board. However I was happy to see the Supreme Court stand against this ridiculous case that was plopped in front of them. Even if the “abuser” boogeymen that rich entitled people love to point to doesn’t exist, they will do anything they can to maximize their own advantages in a very real way.


Maybe a session lasts 4 days.

Nah, they’ll just all go and hike to Machu Pichu or something. Not a bad thing to do in itself, but not what you’re after.

Having a professional “edit” a kids application essay is unethical. And doing this for your children sets them on a trajectory where they believe for the rest of their lives that this kind of transgression is “ok” or “does not matter”.

Down the road by more than several years, you get something like the global financial crisis.