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!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:
cheating college admission college applications current events name-brand schools

About CollegeXpress

CollegeXpress

Welcome to CollegeXpress, your one-stop college shop! We’re a free college planning website used by millions of college-bound students, parents, and counselors—anyone who needs help navigating the college search and application process, financial aid opportunities, and more. You’ll find comprehensive College Search and Scholarship Search tools, tons of articles and expert advice, unique college lists and rankings, and lots of other resources to help make your life easier. Teen Vogue even named us one of the 7 Best College Search Websites! But current college students and recent grads also love CollegeXpress for our Grad School Search tool and endless information on student life, internships, and beyond. We really have something for everyone, no matter where you are on your college journey. 😁

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo

$10,000

Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Rhiannon Teeter

Rhiannon Teeter

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2012

I have spent a lot of time aggressively searching for scholarships. It was a long and frustrating process until I found the CollegeXpress network. This site made my search so much easier. With the simple check of a few boxes, the site sorted out scholarships I was eligible for and led me directly to the correct websites. Winning this scholarship has definitely given me and my family some financial relief, and CollegeXpress has allowed me to improve my chances of winning further financial aid. Thank you so much!

Jeff Parsons

Jeff Parsons

Counselor

Thank you so much for this valuable information about these opportunities. I truly appreciate the CollegeXpress communications and use them to keep my high school seniors informed about their opportunities!

Heather McCarty

Heather McCarty

High School Class of 2020

CollegeXpress has helped me with the college application process. The tips and tricks for important essays were so helpful. I also gained useful knowledge about college life. Even though I’m fully online, CollegeXpress has helped me develop a sense of how college is in person. The experiences from college students that were featured on their Instagram page have shown the good, the bad, and the “secret” life on campus from a reliable perspective. Not to mention, they relieved my feelings of anxiety about the workload. I can now understand how it can be stressful, but it takes self-control and willpower to get assignments completed on time and with quality.

Monica

Monica

High School Class of 2023

Being a sophomore in high school, I never really worried about college. I thought it wasn't important to worry about until senior year. Through this program opportunity I came across, I realized how important it is to start looking at colleges early and start planning ahead. CollegeXpress has opened my eyes to what colleges require, what colleges are near me, and what they offer. The daily emails I get from CollegeXpress really help me look at the different options I have and what colleges I fit into. Without this website, I would not be taking the time out of my day to worry about what my future will be nor what opportunities I have. I could not be more grateful for such an amazing and useful website. It's thanks to CollegeXpress that not only me but my family now know how much potential I have in to getting into these colleges/universities that we thought were out of my reach.

Sadie Hartmann

Sadie Hartmann

High School Class of 2021

I'm a senior in high school, and CollegeXpress has helped me in so many ways this year in trying to navigate the process of deciding and committing to a university. The COVID-19 Student Resource Center has helped me many times with the most up-to-date and accurate information, along with financial aid and student life [advice]. During these uncertain times, CollegeXpress has been a great recourse to relieve the stress as a senior. Along with the COVID-19 Student Resource Center, I'm constantly using the extremely helpful tools off the site to aid me during this stressful process. Tools like the lists and rankings of universities have been the most beneficial. I've also used the site to receive expert advice on topics like financial aid. Finally, CollegeXpress has helped me easily apply for several scholarships. I'm thankful to be given the chance to win a scholarship to lessen the burden of my college debt.

College Matches