Frankly Speaking: On College Admissions and Privilege

April 25, 2019, 1:27 a.m.

Last week, Frankly Speaking, a new crowd-sourced Opinions column, had the Stanford community weigh in on the question: To what extent is getting into Stanford a result of privilege? Published below are two answers we received. If you want to contribute to our next edition, you can do so here.

Before reading the responses, some context you might consider: Stanford is under Department of Justice investigation for its part in a college admissions scandal in which students were admitted to universities through bribes, falsified credentials and cheated-on admissions tests. In local news, several Bay Area parents have been charged for using illegal means to get their children admitted into colleges. In light of this scandal, some commentators have argued that the scandal is simply an illegal manifestation of how the college admissions process favors students from privileged backgrounds. We wanted to know what Stanford students made of this perspective. Here’s what they said:

HB Groenendal, Undergraduate

If we have to question if something is a privilege or not, it’s probably a privilege. And judging by the demographics of the Stanford campus, it’s definitely a privilege. Being admitted, for a large amount of students here, means that they had the resources, time and energy to devote to their academics or athletics (and by resources, I mean money). To the rest, it means that we rose to the high standard that Stanford is looking for despite our hardships.

Yes, I’m using they-us language. Yes, I’m FLI.

Getting to attend Stanford is a privilege. Full stop. It’s supposed to mean that there’s something about you that has potential, has the tenacity to use the resources that Stanford has to offer in order to make something great. And for people who have been given resources to work with their whole lives, that thought process comes easier to them. I know I struggle with using resources on campus because, in order to get here, I had to fight on my own.

And this isn’t even counting the privilege that comes with being successful here. Having enough money to buy textbooks, the time to go abroad, family members to advise you through college life … trust me, the list of unadulterated privilege on this campus goes on.

But yes, getting admitted is a privilege. Going here is a privilege. I wish a lot more people recognized that.

Ari Pefley, Undergraduate

Admission to Stanford University, as with most other colleges, is almost entirely a consequence of privilege. In our case, immense privilege. If you have had private music lessons, tutors, played sports with expensive equipment, or traveled overseas, then it is undeniable that you at the very least have economic privilege based purely on the fact your guardians could afford to supplement your education. These extracurriculars lended themselves to your ability to attend Stanford University. A low-income student, however, may hardly have the same amount of free time or resources at their disposal. They may have other worries, such as where they are getting their next meal or how they are getting home from school. They may not have free time to study for AP classes or go to meetings after school when they are taking care of younger siblings or have a job. Stanford doesn’t do very much to reward these skills when they are not additional to significant academic achievement, that which these low income students may not have the peace of mind for. Privilege is the first step to admission in that it allows for other successes to emerge. For those without it, they will need to work harder and have a significant amount of luck to be admitted alongside their more privileged classmates.


Frankly Speaking is aimed at extending discourse and debate on important subjects beyond Daily staffers. We want to hear from students across disciplines and social identities about their unique takes on the controversial topics and vital realities we confront as an institution.

If you want to have your take on campus news published in The Daily, contribute to the next edition of Frankly Speaking at

The Daily is committed to publishing a diversity of op-eds and letters to the editor. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Email letters to the editor to eic ‘at’ and op-ed submissions to opinions ‘at’

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