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‘What Does It Take?’: Admissions Scandal Is a Harsh Lesson in Racial Disparities

They studied into the wee hours and agonized line by line over their personal essays. They took standardized tests three, four, five times to increase their scores. And last fall, after years of preparation and anxiety, the students at Ewing Marion Kauffman School, a predominantly black school in Kansas City, submitted their college applications, hoping all their hard work would pay off.

The students at Kauffman saw their charter school as something of an equalizer. The shiny, sprawling campus opened in 2011 on the city’s mostly black and economically disadvantaged East Side. Nine out of 10 students receive free or reduced lunch.

But this week, the students there, and at high schools across the country, were reminded by the nation’s largest admissions scandal that there is nothing equal about the process.

[Read more on the Justice Department’s largest ever college admissions prosecution.]

Students at Kauffman had their sights set on some of the same schools that wealthy parents used bribes to get their children into. It’s what the students call a harsh lesson in the limits of meritocracy.