There is a lot of disappointment and pain behind that saying. Unfortunately it is very true. For too many institutions, establishments, businesses and organizations in the United States, the old American concept of egalitarianism no longer applies. An egalitarian system looks at competition among individuals to be the main determining factor as to who gets what reward and when. If you are the best and nobody can beat you, then you deserve to get the prize. This applies to work and this applies to politics and other goodies that society hands out.
However, if you can cut corners by knowing the right people and you are not really the best in what you do or even the brightest in terms of a body of knowledge, you end up getting the benefit without putting in the work. The only advantage that you bring in is you know the right people. To champions of American egalitarianism, this practice of rewarding people we know actually serves to undermine America’s competitiveness. From a purely logical and rational perspective, this makes a lot of sense. A country’s competitiveness must be fueled by competition. It must draw the best out of people. It must push people to perform at their peak level of performance. If you allow people to cut corners and to take shortcuts, you are not pushing people to be their best and you end up with mediocre results.
This is the main criticism leveled against personal connections, but the truth is personal connections, whether you like it or not, play a factor in college admissions the same way they play a factor in job placement. The good news is it does not play a role in the way you think it would. Most people think that if you know somebody and you get an inside track in a particular job, the job is basically awarded to you. Not so with college admissions. The best thing in most circumstances personal connection can get you is information. However, this information can prove crucial.
For example, if you know people in the admissions committee and they let you in on a secret that there is a preference for sexual minorities, then this is a crucial piece of information that you can use to your advantage in your personal statement. The point being is that if you have access to information that other people do not have access to, you are already operating on an unleveled plain field and you get an advantage. That is why many critics of personal connections in the admissions process really hate the advantages of personal connections even though the advantage is really just information. It may seem like an innocuous piece of information, but it really can make a black and white difference whether you get into a school or not. That is why like it or not, many admissions consultants advertise their ability to get you the right information that you need to get a good shot at getting in. They are not guaranteeing that you will get in because of their personal connections.
However, they will give you the information that you need so you get a more-than-better shot at getting in.