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Michelle Janavs Convicted in College Admissions Scandal

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.

On February 25, 2020, Michelle Janavs was sentenced to five months in prison as a result of her involvement in the college admissions scandal. Janavs, whose family invented Hot Pockets, paid William “Rick” Singer large sums of money to aid her children in the college admissions process. Singer, the founder of a company called Key, pleaded guilty on March 12, 2019. Singer helped parents get their children into prestigious universities by bribing sports coaches, as well as paying SAT and ACT proctors to change students’ answers. 

In total, Janavs paid Singer $100,000 to correct her daughters’ ACT scores. The first incident occurred in 2017, in which Janavs paid Singer $50,000. During another incident in 2019, Janavs paid Singer the other $50,000 to correct another one of her daughter’s ACTs. Furthermore, Janavs agreed to pay another $200,000 in 2018 for her daughter to be admitted into USC. Under these circumstances, her daughter was to be admitted as a beach volleyball recruit; however, Janavs was arrested before fully making the payment. 

Cameron Thomas, an 18-year-old engineering freshman, said, “It [the college admissions scandal] is kind of not surprising because of how much money schools take and use from people. They [donors] get their buildings named after them and everything, so honestly, it’s not surprising. In general, I don’t think it affected the merit of college students – maybe for those specific people. I think that overall people [college students] work pretty hard to get to where they are at.” 

According to CNN, in October, Janavs “pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.” Prior to her sentencing, Janavs was required to pay a fine of $250,000. U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton also ordered that Janavs serve two years of supervised release and 200 hours of community service. 

Daniel Hopkins, an 18-year-old statistics freshman, said, “Personally, I feel like while it [the college admissions scandal] may not have been unfair to me, there is definitely a chance that there were qualified candidates who worked just as hard as me all across the country that tried their best to get in and felt like they were cheated out of that because of the unfair things that people did to unlawfully get into schools. It definitely hurts just knowing that for certain schools certain people missed out on that opportunity. It should be discouraged in the future because it is not fair to the kids that are working so hard to get in or miss out on that chance because someone was able to buy their way into a university.” 

Overall, 750 families were involved in the college admissions scandal between 2011 and 2019. The scandal itself was exposed in 2019, and it involves many well-known figures, such as Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. Loughlin, who starred in the show “Full House,” and her husband Mossimo Giannulli  allegedly paid $500,000 in bribes to grant their daughters admission to the University of Southern California. Their daughters posed as crew team recruits for the university. Both Loughlin and Giannulli pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

Following this reveal, their youngest daughter, Olivia Jade Giannulli, dropped out of the university and lost many of the sponsors supporting her YouTube channel. 


Thomas said, “They [the parents] broke the law, so they definitely should face whatever sentences they’re given. She [Olivia Jade Giannulli] said she wasn’t involved in it, but I’m not sure how true that is. I doubt any other college would admit her, so I think that is punishment enough.” 

While some people have been sentenced in the scandal, the fate of others like Loughlin and Giannulli have yet to be determined. The actions performed by these parents undermine the hard work of college students everywhere. Their decisions implicitly devalued those who earned their spots at universities across the country with their own merit and their own effort. 


Juliana is a second-year journalism major at the University of Florida. She loves reading, traveling and seeking new adventures. You can often find her in line for coffee or listening to music on Spotify. For a better look into her life, follow her @juliana.ferrie on Instagram.