Wake Forest

How Cheaters Ruin Incoming Classes

This college admissions scandal is just the tip of the iceberg. In the next few weeks and months, coaches, college advisors, admissions officers, proctors, parents and students will be charged and prosecuted for illegally and unethically opening the doors to admitting unqualified and undeserving students to the most elite colleges in the country. Maybe there’s a silver lining here: While this unconscionable news swept the nation, maybe we should change the college admissions rubric to focus on academic merit.

When colleges admit athletes with substandard GPAs, it lowers the caliber of the incoming freshmen class. It also opens the door to fraudulent actions like claiming to be the MVP of a sport – even when the student doesn’t even play the sport.

When colleges give preferential treatment to legacies (students whose parents are alumni with deep pockets), it brings entitlement and lowers the quality of the student body.

When colleges consider SAT or ACT scores, it entices parents and students to cheat. Some get accommodations that allow for 50% to 100% more time on the exams claiming that their children have learning disabilities when they don’t. Others pay someone to take the SATs/ACTs posing as their children. And now, prosecutors claim that some proctors have actually changed the answer sheets for students to guarantee a higher score on the exams.

Colleges are under pressure to reconsider their admissions rubrics. So what do they really want? They want students who are interesting, curious, and innovative. I find that students who do projects learn important skills and lessons that will help them thrive in college and career. It’s no longer necessary to play 3 sports, several instruments, and start 10 clubs – besides this would be a ridiculous time commitment that often interferes with grades and time to explore ideas.

I hope that this despicable charade of entitlement shines new light on what college is, and should be, all about: a place to cultivate ideas and explore career options with fellow students who were accepted based on their true merit, not on how much money their parents paid to cheat the system.

College Admissions Scandal

Desperate parents busted for paying up to $6.5 million to "guarantee admission" for their children to elite colleges. 33 parents have been charged in Massachusetts alone.

I thought Americans played by the book when it came to college admissions strategies. Afterall, I am a private college advisor, and I work with hundreds of families every year. Sure, parents and students are anxious and fairly clueless about how to stand out amongst their peers, but they're game to roll up their sleeves to get a head start. Many parents are willing to write checks to ensure that their kids get help with test prep, essays, and projects -- all ethical and legal, but I've never before seen blatant CHEATING by parents, students, coaches, and college advisors here in the United States. 

Today, federal authorities in Boston announced indictments of dozens of people who allegedly used fake "athletic talent" to get into elite colleges. Apparently, these conspiracies involved racketeering, wire fraud, and more. Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin (actresses) are being charged along with coaches, other parents, and proctors who administered SAT/ACT exams. Loughlin allegedly paid $500,000 to have her 2 daughters designated as recruits for the University of Southern California crew team -- even though they never participated in crew. A UPenn coach is being indicted for allegedly accepting $74,000 in cash for recruiting a basketball player who didn't play basketball for UPenn.

So far, Stanford, Georgetown, Yale, University of Southern California, and Wake Forest are named in this investigation. This scandal involves non-athletes who claim to be #1 in a sport and have created photos of themselves (using photo-editing software) winning games. Parents have paid others to take the SAT/ACT in their places and criminal proctors to change students' answers after they've taken the tests.

Do these parents really believe that they're doing their children a favor by getting them into these elite colleges? When they enter as freshmen, they're going to fail classes because they have neither the skills nor the drive to pass the classes amongst students who got in on their own merit. Not all of these students know that their parents have cheated the system to get them in, but for those who do know, that lack of a vote of confidence is sure to wreak mental havoc when they realize that their parents didn't believe in them. For every one of the students who got in because they cheated, there are really qualified students who didn't get in. I hope these students are expelled and all involved in this scandal go to jail. This disgusting behavior has no place in higher education.

So how do you get into top colleges? I advise my students to do a project. It demonstrates the students' interests, passions, and drive more than playing sports/instruments, participating in clubs, or taking dozens of AP classes does. If your child isn't the valedictorian, a project will speak volumes about how your child will succeed in college. 


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