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Schools like Mine Fueled the College Admissions Scandal

The recent college admission scandal has justifiably enraged college students and high school upperclassmen who have, for the most part, dedicated their lives to achieve admission to a reputable university. However, upon hearing the news of the scandal, my friends and I broke into a fit of laughter — two of the parents arrested in this scam were parents from my high school’s two most recent graduating classes. We did not laugh out of hatred or spite; we laughed out of surprise: families at our elite college preparatory school succeeded by means of bribery for as long as we could remember. We could not believe they had been caught.

Throughout my time at my elite Los Angeles college prep school, it was common knowledge that students often received enrollment at prestigious universities because their parents had made a ‘charitable donation’ in exchange for their admission. There was even a joke that spread suggesting that my high school was a ‘feeder school’ for USC. These beliefs fit into an even bigger trend that existed, and I’m sure still exists, on my high school’s campus: If you have enough money, you are going to be fine. Year after year, students who shipped off to the most prestigious universities were not necessarily the smartest or most hardworking — what everyone knew about them was that their family was extremely wealthy.

Often, parents have the money to ensure that their child never needs to adhere to the same rules as the “general public.” This type of coddling led students to act inappropriately on campus by completely disregarding rules and negotiating deadlines and exam dates with teachers; students believed that the world would work around them, that it was malleable to only their desires. On top of the nearly unlimited resources my private school provided, along with resources provided by students’ families such as tutors and ACT or SAT prep classes, students sometimes still were not accepted into their preferred universities. This is when the parents stepped in and altered the circumstances to suit their child.

Just last year in 2018, when my younger brother was a senior in high school, my school had its own scandal where students discovered that the head of school was changing grades for students whose parents were on the Board of Trustees. Students demanded that the head of school be fired, and from years past signed a petition insisting his resignation. He left within months, but the students whose grades were changed were still accepted into prestigious universities.

An education is not a material possession that proves one’s superiority to those around them — an education is universally accessible when the educational system functions correctly. It is unfortunate that these people have negatively impacted this system and disadvantaged other students who deserve placement in prestigious universities. Recognizing and appreciating privilege is important — there is nothing wrong with having access to academic resources. The issue lies where parents believe that their children deserve success more than others, and will pay any amount in order to obtain it.

Madison Lefler is a third year at UC Davis double majoring in Psychology and Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning, with a minor in Technology Management. She is also a Sustainability Peer Educator for UC Davis Student Housing and Dining and enjoys makeup tutorials on YouTube, making boards on Pinterest for everything, and drinking overpriced lattes with her girlfriends.
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