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Extracurricular activities are frequently used in college admissions decisions.

But a review by a group of scholars at the University of Maryland at College Park found that they may tend to have the same problems as standardized test scores: bias in favor of white and Asian applicants and wealthier applicants.

The study was by researchers studying a data set of six million college applications filed through the Common Application’s platform from 2018 to 2020 by 860,000 applicants. The study was supported financially by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The study found that white, Asian American, private school and more affluent students not only reported more activities, but they also reported more top leadership roles and more activities with associated honors, distinctions and awards. Although Black, Latino and Indigenous students reported fewer activities and leadership positions over all, they reported a similar proportion of activities with top leadership roles.

Inequality was especially pronounced in athletics, with private school students being 36 percent more likely to list involvement in sports. Disparities for first-generation students persisted even when comparing students in the same high schools with similarly high SAT/ACT scores, as well as other disparities related to race and class.

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