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Articles / Applying to College / The Great College Admissions Scandal of 2019

The Great College Admissions Scandal of 2019

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | March 14, 2019
The Great College Admissions Scandal of 2019

Unless you have been on Mars or in a coma this past week, you no doubt have been bombarded by every news source imaginable with the disturbing details regarding what I call “The Great College Admissions Scandal of 2019." The reason that I have appended my title with “of 2019" is simple. There will be more college scandals to come in the coming years (maybe even again this year), admissions-related and otherwise. The higher education veil is being lifted.

I hope that you're not surprised by all of this. It's old hat and has been going on for many years. We just haven't been paying attention -- or, if we have, we've been distracted by other campus-centered issues, such as heated debates over free speech, affirmative action and student loans, to name just a few.

The well-worn phrase “tip of the iceberg" hits the center of the bullseye here. I like what one poster on the College Confidential discussion forum said about this scandal and college admissions, in general: “There are many icebergs." That's what I refer to above when I say that there are more scandals to come.

To be specific, I predict that certain institutions of higher learning, as a whole -- not just their admissions offices -- will be revealed to be corrupt, despite their sanctimonious proclamations, distancing “the university" from a particular corrupt component. I include in my prediction the College Board, former standardized testing monopoly and once-infamous gatekeeper of college admissions. Beyond that, keep an eye out for student loan providers. I see storm clouds gathering there also.

The current admissions scandal, however, has kept me both mesmerized and repulsed over the last day and a half. I have spent many hours investigating a large number of factual and opinionated sources, trying to get the most comprehensive overview possible regarding what has happened and who is involved. I've also tried to intuit from all these sources which way and to whom fingers are pointing, in preparation for the forthcoming trickle-down revelations.

So, rather than prattle on about my additional opinions, I want to share with you some of my treasure chest of news sources and others' opinions concerning this great scandal. Accordingly, then, here is a longish list of links I explored in trying to get a grasp on what has been happening. I encourage you to sample at least some of them.

You may not be as affected as I am by what has been revealed and are happy with a quick summary overview from your favorite news or commentary provider. If you are like me, though, you'll want to drill down to the atomic level, seeking every last shred of information available. Yes, that's obsessive, but when talking about the tips of many icebergs, we need to be ready for the other shoes that will be falling.

I'll start off with a thread on the College Confidential discussion forum, which started Tuesday morning, March 12, at 10:27 a.m. As of this writing, the thread now has 1,235 posts across 83 pages, making it one of the largest and fastest-growing threads in CC history. That's really saying something.

Here's my (partial) list of news links. They're in rough chronological order. Click and learn:

- Actresses, CEOs arrested in nationwide college admissions cheating scam

- US to Charge Dozens in College Admissions Cheating Scheme

- College coaches, others indicted in admissions bribery case

- Nearly 50 Charged in College Admissions Bribery Scandal

- WATCH: Federal prosecutors announce charges in alleged nationwide college admissions scheme

- URI women's tennis coach indicted in college admissions bribery scheme

- Yale soccer coach, Greenwich man implicated in college admissions scandal

- US attorney says schools not involved in college admissions scam

- College Admissions Scandal: Actresses, Business Leaders and Other Wealthy Parents Charged

- Partner in Little Haiti project, IMG Academy director charged in college admissions probe

- Stanford coach indicted in massive college admissions fraud case

- College Admission Scam Involved Photoshopping Rich Kids' Heads Onto Athletes' Bodies

- The real college admissions scandal is what's legal

- Who is William Rick Singer, the college admissions cheating scandal's alleged ringleader?

- The shocking details: Excerpts from the college admissions scam indictment

- Why the College-Admissions Scandal Is So Absurd

- An Investigative Journalist on How Parents Buy College Admissions

- I Worked In College Admissions And Had To Admit A Bunch Of Mediocre Rich Kids

- How Southern Cal athletics got caught in college admissions scandal

- I Learned in College That Admission Has Always Been for Sale

- Does It Matter Where You Go To College? Some Context For The Admissions Scandal

- Fallout From College Admissions Scandal: Arrests, Damage Control and a Scramble for Answers

- College Admissions Scam: Lori Loughlin Taken Into Custody

- Who Are the 33 Parents Charged in the College Admissions Cheating Scandal?

- What's It Like to Deal With College-Crazed Parents for a Living

- USC's central role in college admissions scandal brings anger and dismay

- College Students See Nothing New In Admissions Scandal

-Every charge and accusation facing the parents in the college admissions scandal

- USC Says It Will Deny Admission To All Students Connected To The Cheating Scheme

- The Tip, the Yale Coach and the Wire: How the College Admissions Scam Unraveled

- The College-Admissions Scandal and the Warped Fantasy of the American Scam

Now, from “The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same" file, here's an interesting piece sent to me by Kaplan Test Prep's Russell Schaffer. It's from a survey Kaplan did four years ago. This info was released April 1, 2015:

As millions of college applicants begin to receive word about where they may enter as freshmen this fall, a new Kaplan Test Prep survey of admissions officers at 400 top colleges and universities explores the question: is the admissions process rigged for the well-connected applicant? According to Kaplan's survey, 25% of admissions officers say they have “felt pressured to accept an applicant who didn't meet your school's admissions requirements because of who that applicant was connected to." The Kaplan survey also found that 16% of college admissions officers say applicants to their school who are the children or sibling of alumni have an advantage over those who aren't.

“The acceptance of applicants whose qualifications may take a back seat to their connections is an open secret in the college admissions process, and our results show that it's not uncommon," said Seppy Basili, vice president of college admissions and K-12 programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “But colleges often say that more than looking for a well-rounded student, they are looking for a well-rounded class, which means they look at everything a pool of applicants bring to the table — including connections, whether political, business or other. In the case of legacies, some colleges may see second- or third-generation applicants as more likely to be engaged with a school's culture. However, it's important to keep in mind that although these 'thumb on the scale' admissions practices do happen, the overwhelming majority of accepted college applicants are successful due to their own merits."

Basili says that admissions decision-making may increasingly be put under the spotlight with the recent attention drawn to a little known, but recently rediscovered federal law called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Under FERPA, schools must release the admissions records to accepted students who request them within 45 days. An admissions official at top-ranked University of Pennsylvania reports receiving an “avalanche" of such requests in recent weeks, already four times the yearly average.

Are you angry? Disappointed? Furious? Ready to seek revenge for your recently rejected son or daughter? If so, you're not alone.

However, a word of caution: In the words of former president Ronald Reagan: You ain't seen nothin' yet!

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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