University education is meant to be the passageway that delivers students to a good life: exciting, fulfilling and financially stable jobs, social mobility and realising their dreams. Those from financially poor backgrounds see college as a passport to a better life, while those from privileged backgrounds may see it as inevitable.
Which passageway to choose? That is which college or university one goes to is critical. Future income, the networks one forms, the careers that open up all depend on this. Some studies (see this BBC article) show that in the UK top positions in most fields are disproportionately held by people from private schools. UK society is deeply elitist. Possibly it is not the only country to be that way.
Yet for the most part it is the passage/college that chooses us as much as we try and choose a college. Especially when the college in question is Oxbridge, Russell Group university (in the UK) or an Ivy League institution (in the US) for example.
How do these august and venerable institutions decide to whom they will open their doors?
Can the state school educated, the ethnic minorities, the poor hope to be admitted as easily as richer counterparts from private schools and well connected parents?
What is the admission criteria? Is it based on merit? Is it objective and transparent?
I don’t know. But here is an article about Harvard University which at least towards the end discusses some of these points.