Persuasive Essay #1: Merit Matters

Posted on

Will Sleeper


Color and Money

Persuasive Essay #1: Merit Matters

This essay was assigned to be written from the perspective of a Merit matters advocate, and does not necessarily represent the views of the author. 

     After completing the admissions simulation, it is clear that the process of selecting candidates is something administrators have been struggling with for a while due to the many factors that build up a resume. Weighing the importance of these factors is very difficult, as most of it has to do with personal preference of the given administrator looking at the candidates. For example, one’s race may be valued for the diversity the student would bring to the community. In addition, the family’s income may be seen as worthy of consideration with no need for financial assistance and potential future donators in mind. Looking at one’s ability in the academic world and the extracurricular activities they take part in says a lot about an individual and how they would fit in at the school. Those who are better qualified in terms of merit can contribute more to the school’s environment than those who are weaker in this realm. As well as this, the individuals who work hard and have succeeded deserve to be admitted rather than those who are not as qualified academically but benefit from another factor of admissions. Having academic success and extracurricular qualifications are qualities that the candidate can actually control as opposed to things they are born into, such as skin-color, ethnicity and wealth. Although many factors are evaluated in determining a candidate’s acceptance, one’s academic qualifications and extracurricular accomplishments should trump all other elements in order to supply universities with smart, driven, and deserving scholars, thus creating the most enriching atmosphere possible.

     While diversity at a college remains important, the primary piece that makes up the institution exists in the merit of its students. Originating from the Ivy League schools, the merit system was created “to make a society, where everyone has equal opportunity to gain the rewards merited by their efforts and talents” (Pappas, Tremblay 31). Creating a society like this brings out the best in the college and will make for a more prestigious institution. In the simulation of the admissions process for The College, although two out of the first three would bring diversity to The College, these three applicants were very strong in terms of their merit. Administrators still act out in the interest of meritocracy when a student is admitted strictly in terms of merit, but they would happen to bring diversity as well (Decision Day, Simulation Data). In earning one’s position in a university’s enrollment through academic success, a student brings the qualities that allowed them to succeed in secondary education, such as persistence, diligence, and the desire to improve, to this new scholastic institution, creating an environment where learning and personal development can flourish as one. While meritocracy benefits the university’s prestige, it also properly rewards those who rightfully earn their position in the student body.

        Throughout high school, kids motivate themselves with the idea of getting admitted to their college of choice, using this notion to pursue their academic endeavors and to persist through the many obstacles thrown their way. While a higher-level degree is the ultimate target, the college acceptance letter is the short-term goal for most ambitious high school scholars. Behind nearly every decision made, whether it is about running for class president or taking that extra AP class, is the thought of how it will affect their resume. To admit weaker candidates for reasons unrelated to academics refutes the work that many students have worked on for more than four years. Whether it be for reasons related to their skin-color or their family’s affluence, taking in candidates with less impressive academic credentials sends a message to those who prove more worthy for the spot that their dedication throughout high school did not matter. On the situation where race trumps academic merit, Professor Shin of Brigham Law University states “… an individual’s race is never by itself a relevant reason for including or excluding him from certain kinds of groups” (Shin 1210). Bringing in this irrelevancy to the admission process discredits the academic success of those who have worked for it and deserve to be recognized. While many recognize the importance of racial diversity in a student body, “… the positive benefits of [such] diversity simply do not register as reasons that could be sufficient to justify selecting directly for diversity” (Shin 1208). Simply put, there is no justification for choosing candidates who would diversify the institution over those who are better qualified, since these other factors are largely based on luck and are not up to the candidate’s decisions.

     Academic accomplishments and extracurricular qualifications are qualities that the candidate can actually control, therefore it is not fair to value things that are a result of chance, such as skin-color, ethnicity, or wealth, against success for which students chose to work. One cannot decide to be born in a highly prosperous family or choose the color of their skin. How is it just to reward students for characteristics that are out of their control? Such selection techniques discourage the candidate’s pursuit of knowledge and scholarly excellence, since they know that other factors– over which they have no ability to alter– contribute to the administrator’s decision just as much, if not more, than their academic qualifications. Accepting students who are less qualified because of these factors that are based on fate not only devalues hard work in high school, but also hurts the institution’s distinction: “Other basic tenets of enrollment must be considered such as maintaining standards, encouraging excellence, and meeting the primary institutional mission statements” (Zink). Universities should not lower their standards in order to accept candidates who have appealing credentials but fall short with their academics, for then they debunk their own worth as a respectable institution. In addition, the students themselves do not even support the rationale behind placing race and ethnicity above merit:

We conducted a survey of college students at the University of South Florida (N = 160) which demonstrates the tension between diversity as an abstract goal and implementing that goal in concrete instances: though fully 70% of participants felt that diversity was an important consideration when deterring the overall composition of an incoming class, just 10% felt that race should factor into any specific decision between two individuals. (Norton 103)

This study shows that while a large majority of students respect the advantages of a diverse community, 90% of the group believes that color-blindness is the most appropriate action in evaluating the legitimacy of candidates. Students –the ones being assessed– do not want to be judged on the things they cannot control because they want to be acknowledged for their successes and years of work.

     Even though college administrators face thousands of applicants a year and need to devise a method of selecting the best group from these contenders, a color-blind selection system based on meritocracy benefits the institution while treating the candidates as fairly as possible. In the class admissions simulation of The College, merit was taken heavily into account but other categories such as race and the diversity a student would bring to The College were looked at too much. Although the process was not illegal, the officers did not abide by the idea of strictly merit when looking at the applicants resumes. By valuing the students’ work and commitment to succeed over anything else, universities bring in the most deserving and qualified applicants while upholding the high standard of excellence for which they strive to maintain. In addition, this system of evaluation motivates students at a young age who seek to qualify for positions in highly acclaimed colleges or universities later on in their lives. As stated by Lana Zink, “it instills in them a desire to strive harder, to take the right courses in high school, and to excel to possible greatness” (Zink). Therefore, acceptance based on merit creates a richer learning environment for not only the higher-level institutions, but also those at the secondary level.


Works Cited:

Decision Day, Color and Money Admissions Simulation Data, Trinity College, Fall 2013,

Norton, Michael I., et al. “COLORBLINDNESS AND DIVERSITY: CONFLICTING GOALS IN DECISIONS INFLUENCED BY RACE.” Social Cognition 26.1 (2008): 102-11. ProQuest. Web. 29 Sep. 2013.

Pappis, Geri, and Christopher W. Tremblay. “Meritocracy the Great American Myth? A Look at Gatekeeping in American Higher Education.” College and University (2010): 29-34.

Shin, Patrick S. “Diversity v. Colorblindness.” Brigham Young University Law Review 2009.5 (2009): 1175-220. ProQuest. Web. 29 Sep. 2013.

Zink, Lana. “Is The Meritocracy Necessary Even At The Doors Of Academe?.” Journal   Of College Admission 157 (1997): 22-29. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 29 Sep. 2013.