How Common are College Admissions Scandals?

college admissions

When I first read about the recent college admissions scandal, I was truly shocked. I just couldn’t wrap my head around why a parent would bribe and cheat their child into college, and how horrible the student would feel (or assume they would feel?) when they learned they didn’t get in on their own merit. Yet when I told my friends about the scandal, they were not surprised in the slightest.

How common are college admission scandals? This is really the first time that the public is hearing about what really goes on behind the scenes in the admissions process, and part of me believes that this recent scandal is getting so much publicity because of the academic caliber of the school and the power and fame of the parents.

There are several ways that this particular scandal was successful, from photoshopping students into athletic gear to hiring test takers to outright bribing school officials. There are several ways to sneakily (and illegally) get into college, which is why cheating the admissions system is way more common than we think.

college admissions
Just photoshop yourself in. Via https://www.bloomberg.com

Elite universities are some of the most likely to receive bribes for admission, especially private ones. This makes sense since graduates from elite universities tend to make more money than other students, making the desire to go to one of these universities greater and fueling the “anything it takes” mentality. Additionally, wealthy kids are given preference since, you guessed it, parents tend to be big donors, especially if there is an alumni legacy. By having a wealthy, legacy student on campus it’s more likely that the university will receive big money in the future; think about all the names that are on academic buildings and all those named scholarships.

If the rich and powerful parents keep paying their child’s way into college, why even bother applying when you know you won’t get in? Two current students at Stanford University have filed a lawsuit against the ringleader of the whole scandal after being denied admission to Yale and USC. These two women are alleging that:

Unqualified students found their way into the admissions rolls of highly selective universities, while those students who played by the rules, and did not have college-bribing parents were denied admissions.

Both students are additionally claiming that their degrees will be less valuable due to the controversy as a whole. Several other lawsuits from parents and students have since been filed.

It is a poor show of character on the parents’ part to be willing to bribe, lie, steal, and cheat. While it’s every parent’s goal to provide the best opportunities for their child, there must be a line drawn between what is ethical (and setting a good example) and what isn’t. Universities are to blame as well for letting this slip under the radar for so long. While we want to continue blaming the parents, we need to hold the universities accountable as well.

The fact of the matter is that there were students better qualified to get into these universities, yet they never had a fair chance because they didn’t have the financial resources. And that’s not what college admissions should be based on.

There are students out there who work so hard to get into a good university, and like many others, I am outraged that bribery is happening in higher education. College is a place that theoretically should be grooming students to become adults who are responsible for their actions and are attempting to do good with their higher education. A college education truly doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t teach us the rights and wrongs of the world.


Also published on Medium.