Persuasive essay – Merit matters

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Daniella Salazar

Professor: Jack Dougherty

FYSM Color and Money




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.

1) Does the author present a clear and focused argument or thesis statement in the introduction?  Does it respond to the assignment?

2) Is the author’s reasoning persuasive and well developed?  Are the claims supported with appropriate evidence?  Are counter-arguments fully considered?

Every year the admissions and financial aid offices at The College try to admit the best and most suitable group of applicants.  To do so, they came up with a system that allowed them to give every applicant a fair and legal evaluation of their files. The College only took into consideration merit when reviewing the applicant’s files and did not quantify or acknowledge race. Therefore, every applicant was judged under the same criteria ensuring that everyone had an equal educational opportunity. However, the fact that students were admitted did not mean that they enrolled at The College, and thus, not necessarily the applicants with the best performance ended up attending. Even though the top three students did not enroll, The College ended up with the best possible class to its possibilities.  The financial aid funds available were allocated correctly to try to achieve a well-rounded class, covering the admitted student’s financial needs.

Because it is illegal to take into consideration race as an automatic plus on student’s applications, the admissions office had to come up with a system that judged the applicants with a holistic approach. The Supreme Court case “Gratz and Bollinger”, illustrates a scenario where a Caucasian female, Jennifer Gratz, suits the University of Michigan for using race as a determining criteria on the admissions process. The Supreme Court ruled that giving automatic points for race is not seeking the best interests of the whole entering class and it’s violating Title IV. Based on the Supreme Court’s decisions, the admissions office cannot give automatic extra points for ethnicity or race because that would be discrimination against those who are not minorities (“Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher, Petitioners v. Lee Bollinger et al.” 257). Therefore, when going through the applications and ranking and qualifying the students, the admissions office ensured that all of those admitted to the college gain admission under the same parameter and based on their merit.

It is in the college’s best interests to accept those students who excel in both academic and extracurricular areas. These students are the ones who will help the school’s statistics to go up, and thus its position in the national ranking. If that happens, the college would theoretically receive more applications and thus more profit. In order to do so, the admissions office established a criterion that allowed them to take a holistic approach in regards to reviewing the applications. There were four main categories taken into consideration: Academics, extracurricular, legacy and diversity. Each category had a score. Academics and extracurricular were given a score from one to nine, nine being the highest score. For legacy the scores went from zero to one and for diversity from one to three (” Decision Day: Color & Money Admissions Simulation data 2013″). The value of each category shows how important it was when making decisions. The first two criteria, academics and extracurricular, have more numerical value because they are the factors that matter the most in the admissions process, mainly because they show the merit, “character, leadership, and well-roundedness” (Karabel 342), of the student. The last two criteria, diversity and legacy, have less numerical value. This is because, although they are to some extent important, they do not show the students abilities and thus do not fully explain why they would be a valuable addition to the college community.

The college evaluated all their applicants based on their academic accomplishments and overall merit. This granted the applicants with a fair evaluation process because it does not favor any race, by giving it automatic points and also guaranteed that the process was legal. In contrast with the Gratz vs. Bollinger case, the college does not give 20 automatic points to minorities, or give preferences to Caucasians (“Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher, Petitioners v. Lee Bollinger et al.” 257). The college operates under a color blind policy and thus offered them the opportunity to excel and stand out by their application. According to this policy, “an individual’s chance to get ahead should not be limited by social origins or by ascribed characteristics such as race or gender…”(Karabel 4). By judging them under the same criteria, and not putting any of the students at a disadvantage because of their class, The College offered them an equal educational opportunity.

Each category covered a different aspect of the application. On one hand we took into consideration grades and quantitative ways of measuring the student. On the other hand we took into consideration the extracurricular activities, recommendations and essays that give us a personal insight of the students core and personality. One of the qualitative ways of measuring the students, was seeing how much diversity they could bring to the college. The diversity category, unlike what many people think, does not measure how different a student is in terms of race, color or social background, but rather on terms of experiences and knowledge. Its purpose is to create a well-rounded class where everyone is different in a unique way so that learning does not happen only on classrooms but on campus as a whole. Considering diversity based on race would not be legal.

The financial aid budget was limited to seventy thousand dollars and it was given to the most qualified students who the college could afford. In order to determine who got the financial aid, the admissions officers ranked the students according to the average score in the categories explained before (” Decision Day: Color & Money Admissions Simulation data 2013″). They also determined how much financial aid they needed and their estimated family contribution. The admissions office prioritized students with the best overall score and covered his or her full financial need, and then tried to adjust other students, well ranked, into the budget. Because the school is committed to cover every student’s full financial need, it cannot overextend its services and thus, it tries to accept those ideal students who it can afford. Therefore, the acceptance letters are sent at different times to ensure that if the students accept the offer we would be able to cover their financial need. Furthermore, every time a student accepts or declines an offer, the budget and admissions decisions have to be revised, to avoid making any mistakes in regards to the financial package.

Despite the fact that the financial aid office had to work with a limited budget in order to admit the students, the students who enrolled still came from different backgrounds. The three applicants who enrolled at The College come from very different backgrounds and have different financial aid packages. For instance, Caitlin Quinn who was ranked at the top of our applicants list needed no financial aid, Jazmine Hope-Martin (ranked sixth in our list ) who got 13,134 dollars in form of a grant, and Daniel Juberi (ranked tenth) , who got 52,477 dollars  (” Decision Day: Color & Money Admissions Simulation data 2013″). Although our top three choices did not enroll at the college, the students who did were still in the top of our list proving that the decision were made based on merit. This shows that during both our admissions and financial aid rounds, merit was always the most important and determining factor, thus ensuring a colorblind approach.

The admissions process involves several variables that the college officers cannot always control. For instance, if a students accepts an admissions offer or not, or if the financial budget allows the college to afford the top applicants. In theory, the simulation of The College did not result on the best possible class because the best three students of the ranking did not enrolled in the college. However, in practice, it did result on the best possible class because the admissions office accepted the best combination of students that we could afford; that matched the school’s profile and that wanted to enroll.

The College’s admissions process prioritized each student’s abilities and development through his or her high school years, taking into consideration both academics and extracurricular activities. It tried to create the best well-rounded class, and in order to accomplish that it took a holistic and yet individualized approach to the applications. Every application was looked at separately but judged under the same criteria, offering the students equal educational opportunity. The admissions officers overlooked race when making decisions and highlighted merit following a colorblind policy. The process was legal, for no automatic points were given based on race. The college ended up with the best possible class that it could afford and it granted the students with an opportunity to tell their story in a fair environment.



Stevens, Mitchell . Creating a Class: College Admissions and education of elite : Harvard University Press, 2007. 244. Print.

Karabel, Jerome. The Chosen. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 4. Print.

United States. Supreme Court of the United States . Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher, Petitioners v. Lee Bollinger et al.. 2003. Print. <>.

” Decision Day: Color & Money Admissions Simulation data 2013.” . Trinity College. Web. 1 Oct 2013. <

Stevens, Mitchell. Creating a Class. United States of America: Harvard University Press, 2009. 31-51. Print.

Killgore, Leslie . Review of Higher Education. 32. (2009): 471. Web. 1 Oct. 2013. < of Higher Education&volume=32&issue=4&date=20090601&atitle=Merit and Competition in Selective College Admissions&aulast=Killgore, Leslie&spage=469&sid=EBSCO:ERIC&pages=469-488>.

Karabel, Jerome. The Chosen. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 342. Print.