When Parents Tried to Beat the College Acceptance System

Stella Dale

What if I told you that you or your parents could pay to get in a “side door” to your dream school? Well, sorry. It has always been illegal, but bribery to college admissions is now well seen and obvious. 

In 2019, breaking news spread across the internet about wealthy families “bribing” colleges to get their children accepted. So many things are wrong with this, but first things first. What do I maybe not know? 

A documentary was recently released on Netflix called, Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal. No article or recommendation had to come my way, I wanted to watch it as soon as it came upon the Netflix home page. This documentary inspired me to write this due to my lack of understanding about the scandal. This is one of those scandals that breaks the internet and social media for a few months and then dissipates. 

So let’s get some things straight. Here’s what I knew before watching. 

  1. Wealthy and famous celebs like Lori Loughlin were paying to get their kids into certain colleges.
  2. Kids of the scandal like Olivia Jade and Sophia Macy took a long break from social media, which had fans wondering when it first happened. Hate comments and death threats to the kids and parents were a big part of this scandal and the people involved. 
  3. These wealthy families were bribing coaches, admissions officers and other involved parties. Currently there are over 50 people involved.

Did the students know that they were being accepted illegally into school?

If you could imagine your parents paying to get you into college, then what’s the point of working to get good grades up to your senior year of high school?

So what exactly is the college admissions scandal? It is also known as “Operation Varsity Blues.” Wealthy parents essentially tried to cheat their kids’ way to college acceptance. 

Student “athletes’ ” parents bribed schools admissions officers, officials, and athletic coaches. So let’s say you aren’t really athletic, and don’t participate in any school sports, such that an Ivy like Stanford would recruit you. According to CNN, with a little photoshop, and a lot of money, you could go pretty much anywhere you want with the help of William Rick Singer.

Singer was the mastermind behind this scandal. Singer had two main ways to cheat students into college. The first was you could cheat on the SAT or ACT. The second way was to use his connections and parents’ bribes to fake kids’ accomplishments. With many ways to get kids into schools, Singer made a lot of money. 

Standardized test boards have strict rules. Do you have learning accommodations? Singer told these families that if you have any sort of learning issue, make sure you have the document. Those students could then take their test in a variety of ways, one being where you could take it with the “special” test proctor.

Believe it or not, hired test taker Mark Riddell would take these tests for those kids. This took regular high school cheating to a whole new level. How did he get away with it you ask?? Riddell bribed the test proctors in the room. It feels weird to know there were kids seeing an older guy taking a standardized test but didn’t speak up about it. Totally involved, Mark Riddell played this major role in the scandal. According to CNN, Riddell and his posse could get you not only into school, but onto the track that can get you on the way to your dream job. 

The other way to fake your way into school? Why don’t you bribe your dream schools’ athletic coaches? Though they have no control over the admissions to the school academically, they can influence the admissions people and give their opinion based on a lofty donation to them or their sports team.

Essentially, say at the end of junior year/beginning of senior year you really wanted to go to USC. Is there a sport you definitely know you cannot get recruited for? With just a little Adobe photo editing and a big ego, you might be able to fake your way into not only the athletics program but the school itself. All based on bribes. 

You may know the show Full House/Fuller House. Remember Aunt Becky? Turns out, she’s a criminal. Surprise! Lori Louglhin, a major headliner of the admissions scandal of 2019, is an actress turned guilty. She took pictures of her two daughters on a rowing machine, sent them to USC, and they got in because apparently they are really good at crew. Even though I am not athletically accomplished, I might go buy a soccer ball, put it in my arm and take a picture and say I am cool like Alex Morgan. JK!! I would never do that, but it was so easy it’s embarrassing. I was so surprised they got away with it. For a while at least. 

Singer’s cover up to help wealthy families get their kids into college concealed all donations through the Key Worldwide Foundation (a non-profit organization.) This was bogus. 

Isn’t it satisfying when you can say you got into USC without your parents’ privilege and bribery schemes? There are other ways to get into college without hiring an illegal college official. Say it with me again Olivia Jade. 

Concealing payments made to college officials was Singer’s specialty.

Parents across the nation filed a federal lawsuit against the schools that were involved in the scandal because it had wasted their time and money. Rightfully so. These parents’ kids got denied spots at their dream schools. In addition, students who went to college in 2019 in general said their degrees were less valid. 

U California schools fired everyone involved. Also, they have been investigating current and former students to see if maybe Felicity Huffman wasn’t the only person to bribe the system. She’s obviously not. The students involved in the scheme were denied acceptance. 

With over eight schools involved with this scandal, I am wondering if people have gotten away with this before. My guess is they definitely have. 

Are there more than 50 people involved in this scandal? Probably. So many families were involved, many more than I thought. 

So in all honesty this scandal was just proof that a lot of people are liars, and that nothing is real in the world. Just kidding, again. 

From Parental Gossip Girl to people being unknowingly involved, this scandal is a real disgrace. I work hard for my grades and I don’t like seeing people trying to get what they haven’t earned.