Hidden Takeaways From the College Admission Scandal

In light of "Operation Varsity Blues," the largest college admission scandal in history, here are things to consider when tying it to your own college search.

On Tuesday, March 12, 2019, the biggest college admission scandal ever, nicknamed “Operation Varsity Blues” by the FBI, was revealed. Thirty-three powerful parents have been alleged of paying up to $6.5 million in bribes to guarantee their children acceptance to some of the most elite universities in the United States, reports are saying. Among the parents are actresses Lori Loughlin, known for her role as Aunt Becky on Full House, and Felicity Huffman, best known as Lynette Scavo on Desperate Housewives, drawing even more attention to the scandal. 

SAT and ACT results were altered; fake athletic profiles were made, some involving digitally altered photos; and college coaches were allegedly bribed to falsely recruit students for sports they had never played—all to guarantee children of wealthy parents admission to at least eight universities.

It makes your blood boil. It makes our blood boil too! As students, you work hard—in class, in sports, in clubs, at jobs—to get into the college of your dreams. Qualified, dedicated students lost their chance at attending these universities, at playing a sport they love at the collegiate level, because someone else’s parents paid the right price to the right people.

It’s infuriating—but don’t let it get you down on the college selection process. Don’t let it discourage you from continuing to give your all in your classes and activities as you reach toward your higher education goals. In light of this scandal, consider these three things.

The name brand

The first thing about this scandal that certainly stands out are the universities associated and the weight these “name-brand schools” carry. All eight named universities are ranked in the top 100 of the country by U.S. News & World Report, and seven are in the top 50. These are colleges that students and parents will presumably do anything to gain admission to—and this scandal has only proven that belief to be true. 

As a student, especially one searching for colleges, remember that these brand names are just that—names. And just because they’re ranked as a top school doesn’t mean they have to be your top school. Some students thrive on these campuses, while others don’t.

Something that likely hasn’t been stressed to you: 15 years down the road (heck, even five years), it won’t matter if you attended a university in the top 100 or an unranked college. What will matter is whether you received an education that supported your particular needs and helped you meet the goals you wanted to achieve. And the truth of the matter is that those name-brand colleges and universities don't do that for every student.

Consider yourself as you navigate the college search, not just the college. You are the most important part of your education. Names and attributions don’t lead to success—drive, determination, and grit do.

Related: The Importance of Thinking Outside the Name–Brand Box 

Remember integrity

This story is heartbreaking for students who put 110% into everything they do in an attempt to reach their college goals. If another student can buy their way in, what’s even the payoff for all that work?

First, consider this: many students involved were completely unaware of what their parents were doing. According to the New York Times, parents made excuses as to why their children would take standardized exams at specific locations where bribed proctors were located. Test scores were falsified after students took the exam. According to that same New York Times article, William Singer, who operated the scheme, told parents that their children would never know what lengths were taken. Many of them did work hard, even if they actually fell short academically before the bribes bought them in. (And, yes, Lori Loughlin’s daughter didn’t seem to care about school, but she does not represent all these students.)

Second, remember that admission officers were presumably in the dark about all of this as well. So far, no admission counselors have been indicted in relation to the scandal. This means admission decisions were still seemingly made to the same standard as everyone else.

Not to mention that in the grand scheme of college acceptances, these students are only a small percentage. Falsified records are not the only (or the recommended) way to get into college. Your own merit and achievements will shine through, especially considering the impact this investigation is bound to have on the admission system.

Related: This Is What Happens When You Cheat in School

Don’t lose hope

If we’re being honest, these kinds of dealings have been going on since the inception of higher education. But with the public taking such a strong interest in this case, others like it are likely to be discovered and dismantled.

With this investigation receiving such a strong outcry, there will be stronger scrutiny from college administrators and admission counselors surrounding admission. Colleges don’t want to be involved in these kinds of scandals, so they’ll take measures to avoid being wrapped up in them. 

Not to mention the influence of public forums; this scandal opens the door to blatant discussions on the extreme measures people go to for college admission. These discussions will give us the chance to talk about how to relieve that pressure and improve the dialogue surrounding college.

Related: What Really Matters in Your College Search

If you’re still upset about “Operation Varsity Blues,” good. We are too. But don’t let it affect your feelings or your own college goals. You’ve got this!

Get advice on getting accepted into your dream school the right way from our blogs and articles on College Admission!

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