More Money, More Problems?: My Take On the College Admissions Scandal

19.9 million––That’s the number of students admitted to undergraduate colleges in the United States last year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. I still get anxious at the thought of writing those long, repetitive essays, while slogging for the SATs as I struggled to find the balance between my academics and extra-curricular activities. The majority of us worked tirelessly, sacrificing sleep, or going on vacation, and we were constantly under the stress of college admissions––whether it was for a small community college, or elite universities like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. Meanwhile, other “highly privileged” students–– some of whom have celebrity parents––made the poor, unethical decision to simply pay their way into these prestigious institutions. As a student from a middle-class background, I have always presumed that most of the celebrity children are handed everything in life. While I may be guilty of generalizing, when the news of what the Justice Department is calling the “largest-ever college admissions prosecution” flooded the media last spring, I can’t say I was surprised in the slightest. 

Photo Credit: KQED News

For everyone who has experienced it, they will agree that the college admissions process is extremely erratic and unpredictable––much like Boston weather. We’ve all known that one person with a perfect SAT score, ideal grades, compelling essays, and a stellar resume who didn’t get accepted into a top-tier college, leaving everyone baffled by the verdict. In theory, if a parent believes that his or her child is academically geared for a top-tier institution, and has the means to guarantee their child a position there, are they wrong in wanting to help their child achieve it? Every parent wants to give their child the best of everything, that is only natural. The question here is, what lengths would they go in order to ensure that it actually happens? Well, for some parents that means paying $500 to ensure that their child got the best SAT training available to maximize their score, but for other celebrities and high-income individuals, apparently, it means bribing a guidance counselor $500,000 to ensure that their child is guaranteed admission into one of the best institutions in the country, irrespective of whether their child is academically capable.

Photo Credit: New York Times

Well, what about that hardworking, honest, athlete in some corner of this country who dreamt about rowing for USC, and even devoted the last eight years of her life to this dream? To think that the crew coach, who is presumably aware of the rigorous training a professional rower undergoes to get recruited, illegally admitted Olivia Gianulli to the team for any amount of money––whether it’s $5 or $500,000––is appalling. Not only does it belittle athletes at USC, but it has also offended athletes from colleges nation-wide. In fact, in a video by YouTuber and alumna crew member at Boston University, Gretchen Geraghty said, “I worked my butt off for so many years to get recruited to row in college and the fact that they just lied about it to make it easier to get in, kind of is disgusting…what hurts the most is that knowing that her name was on that list, and someone else, a potential athlete who actually rows, was kicked off, it breaks my heart.” It is clear that for every student admitted illegally, a genuinely deserving student lost a great opportunity and we, the students, cannot help but wonder––did she take my place?  

Photo Credit: VOA News

There is no doubt that the undergraduate application process for colleges in the United States is extremely taxing––emotionally, mentally, and most importantly, financially. It is often a struggle to persevere through it, especially when after three attempts, your SAT score fails to meet your expectations, or in spite of the hours of work you put into your personal essay, it still doesn’t hit the mark. Honestly, I’d be lying if I said that the stressful application process of the SATs, subject tests, extra-curricular activities, and essays had not made me think of giving up or succumbing to easier means of getting in. It is in those times that parents act as moral guides and support throughout the process, as they presumably did for the other 19,899,950 students.  Ironically, the fact that it was the parents who initiated and encouraged the bribery has made people nation-wide lose faith in not only the education system, but society as a whole. 

Photo Credit: The Michigan Daily

The Constitution states that everyone must be given “equal educational opportunity no matter what their race, ethnic background, religion, or sex, or whether they are rich or poor, citizen or non-citizen.” Well, unfortunately, that is no longer true––the more money you offer, the more “equal” opportunity you will be presented with. I can only imagine how disheartened current applicants must be by this as if the torture of receiving and reading an unexplained rejection isn’t enough.

With these celebrities and socialites buying their children spots at some of the country’s top institutions, and some college officials even accepting the bribes that they referred to as “donations” to make it sound ethical, I wonder in dismay––is there anything money can’t buy? 

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