Stack on Stacks

The real costs of applying to college


moneyIn today’s competitive high school environment, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the stress of college applications.  Colleges care about a lot more than grades these days. According to the University of Washington, the commonplace “holistic review” of applications wants students to show “an overall strong level of academic achievement as demonstrated by GPA, rigor of curriculum, standardized test scores, and academic distinctions.”  This isn’t always fair for students with less access to expensive opportunities.

In order to nail the academic portion of the application process, students are encouraged  to take the most challenging courses available to them.  At Garfield, this typically involves multiple AP classes, and therefore the costs of multiple AP tests, which can be greatly reduced for students on free or reduced lunch.  These tests cost around 100 dollars each, and when students are taking them for multiple years, the costs add up.

In addition, AP sciences at Garfield often require students to purchase a lab notebook, and most math classes require a graphing calculator.  However, students shouldn’t let this stop them from pursuing high level classes.  AP Physics doesn’t require anyone to buy anything, and graphing calculators can almost always be borrowed from teachers if one doesn’t have the resources to purchase their own.

Classes aren’t the only factors in your academic picture- colleges are more likely to accept students with high standardized test scores.  These tests have become more and more expensive.  Nearly all colleges in the United States require the SAT or ACT, which cost around  45 dollars to take once.  At Garfield, students can take the SAT free their first time.  Some high schoolers take the SAT and the ACT in order to see which gives them a higher chance of acceptance.  To take both would cost almost 100 dollars, or even more if you choose to take the tests with the writing (essay) option.

Students applying to more competitive schools may choose to retake the SAT or ACT and try for a better score, in order to make themselves a better candidate.  For families with lower incomes, it is sometimes unrealistic to take tests multiple times.  Both College Board, who runs the SAT, and the ACT offer fee waivers that can be found online for those who can’t afford the test.  

Even if one manages to have perfect grades and high standardized test scores, they might not have everything a college is looking for.  Athletes have a higher chance of acceptance, and scholarships at many colleges are readily available for players at skill level.  But high school sports can be incredibly expensive.

Since the Pay-to-Play fees at Garfield have been taken away, a student only has to purchase a 50 dollar ASB sticker to join a sports team.  This makes school sports relatively accessible.  

If a student is looking to be recruited, they usually have to play their sport for a club outside of school.  Using soccer as an example, as,  according to the National Collegiate Scouting Association, it is the most common sport for college recruiting it could cost upwards of 2,000 dollars a year to play for teams like Seattle United, which are popular among many Garfield students.  Financial aid is available from club teams, but this doesn’t always cover tournament fees and the cost of uniforms, making it a hefty addition to the costs of college admissions.

Extracurriculars and leadership activities are also important to many colleges, which can usually be found at Garfield for little to no cost through different clubs.  But for students who work after school or on weekends, it can be nearly impossible to balance school and these extra activities.

All of these costs aren’t usually discussed when the price of college comes up, but perhaps they should be.  In an increasingly stressful application process, wealthy students are poised to have more advantages, whether this manifests in private tutors, college counselors, or the ability to play high level club sports.  Garfield has students with incredibly diverse goals and backgrounds, but no matter what a student is trying to accomplish after they graduate, there are resources available within the school and from outside sources.