By Sara Fraser
Recent accusations revealed that dozens of wealthy parents paid huge sums of money to get their children into elite colleges. Sara Fraser examines how the entire college admissions process historically favors the wealthy in hidden ways.
Knee-deep in the middle of their own college admissions processes, the senior class of 2019 along with the rest of the country was hit with the news of a multi-million dollar college admissions scam concerning multiple wealthy parents, children and top-ranking schools.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced the accusations against dozens of wealthy parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, for committing different forms of bribery and fraud to get their kids into highly selective colleges. Some of the parents paid college coaches to lie and say that their children were special recruits for sports that the kids didn’t even play. Other parents paid SAT and ACT test administrators to let smarter people take tests on behalf of their children.
Although the amount of money exchanged and the famous names accused in the scandal were jaw-dropping to many Americans, the obvious advantages privilege can buy in college admissions are not unknown to most.
Senior Pooja Talati said, “Are we surprised? No.” Catie Lockhart even added, “I just assumed that this was going on.”
Even though the crimes Loughlin and other parents committed are being characterized as criminal, versions of this cheating happens behind so many computer screens of applications sent to colleges. This entire scandal is just a visible version of the historical favoritism shown to the elite.
Fortunately, it is getting harder and harder for the wealthy to simply fund a building on campus with their name on it, make a phone call or donate millions in the hopes of automatically getting their children a spot in incoming freshman classes.
However, the parents charged in this scandal were cheating to gain an advantage in a system that already offers them advantages. Even though rules have been implemented in the hopes of reducing the power of privilege, programs like affirmative action or other movements to increase diversity have not solved this problem.
Vickie Englehart-Thompson, Dean of College Counseling at St. Mary’s, said, “I feel sorry for the students involved in this scandal. They are children after all, and their parents, while trying to give them an edge with some highly selective schools, have hurt their futures and caused unnecessary stress in an already stressful process.”
To get ahead in small ways, parents are able to enroll their children in elite private and public schools and pay for counselors, tutors and test preparation, as well as other opportunities which are not generally available for other students.
It's all about the resume, right? And our packed, college-worthy resumes might not be possible at another school without the resources our parents have provided us.
Gabby Perez (12) explained, “It’s made me realize how lucky we are to have the resources at SMS because there are people who work just as hard or harder and don’t get the same results.”
The difficulty of spending time and money on activities like getting volunteer hours, touring far away schools, investing in sports, or making time for extracurricular activities all create an admissions environment that hurts low-income students’ chances of being admitted.
Coming from a school like St. Mary’s and a family that provides me with amazing opportunities to reach my personal potential, I am unable to truly experience the real consequences that not having pre-existing privilege plays in college admissions.
I personally don’t know what another option looks like in terms of changing the way the college admissions process works. All I know is that there is one positive thing that is coming out of “Operation Varsity Blues.” This nationwide attention being shown to some who are cheating college admissions gives us the opportunity to re-assess pre-existing inequities in the system.
All students should be given the opportunity to reach their full potential and have a chance at getting into competitive colleges no matter who their parents are or what socioeconomic background they come from.