How far are you willing to go to get into your dream college? What would you do for your kids to get them into their dream college? Pretty far, is the answer for parents charged in a nation-wide federal probe that was exposed yesterday. What does it mean for you?
If you’ve got a child in high school, you’re probably well aware that kids of all abilities are nervous about whether or not they will get into a “good” college. Elite colleges help perpetuate these fears, to keep up their status and raise their costs. Yesterday, we found out that some parents are so nervous that they’re willing to buy their kids way into college, even if it means breaking some laws.
But are they really going that much further than other parents? Here are my quick thoughts on the news.
UPDATE 3/14/15 – I can’t stop reading about the college admissions scandal and what it means for your child’s education, which is influenced by the application process to elite colleges whether you know it or not. Here is the best news story I’ve heard, by far, about this scandal and the state of college admissions.
Now, back to my early thoughts – “back to regularly scheduled programming.”
Are there ways to pay for preferential college admissions that are legal?
Aside from the fact that they are breaking the law, it’s interesting to think about how the efforts of the indicted parents compare to that of other parents. Are they any worse than parents who make large donations to an elite college or university to help their kid’s chances of gaining admission? (And before you get to feeling too smug, is paying for preferential treatment worse than allowing your kids to tackle so much homework that they suffer from sleep deprivation?)
Among the schools involved, Yale and Stanford, like other elite or ivy league schools, have incredibly low admission rates.
Getting admission to these schools, and the publicity they generate to keep up their application numbers to help maintain their high positions in college rankings, has helped to encourage the growth of consulting businesses to help kids complete their college applications. Parents pay thousands of dollars just to have someone else help their kids study for exams, choose colleges to apply to, and complete applications. (And that’s just the tactics that are completely within the rules.)
In this environment, the Edge College & Career Network LLC, a for-profit college counseling and preparation business, didn’t look out of place. But instead of just coaching students, they were doing much more, for a fee. But is it just a matter of degree?
And what about the opposite direction? How different is it from making donations to a university in hopes of your child getting preferential admission consideration? If you can give enough money, you probably don’t even have to worry about whether or not your SAT scores and ACT scores even appear to be high enough. Maybe the problem isn’t that the indicted parents spent too much money to get their kids into a preferred school, but that they weren’t rich enough to do it legally.
Are there legal “free” ways to get preferential treatment for college admissions?
And the parents who are donating money to help their child get admitted? Maybe they’re just trying to make up for the fact that they don’t have an elite education themselves, so their kids don’t have the legacy advantage. Lawsuits challenging Harvard’s admission practices has revealed what was long suspected, that legacy students are given preferential treatment in admission applications to Harvard.
Let’s also talk about why preferential treatment of athletes, which has nothing to do with the academics that is supposedly the primary focus of these elite schools. Loopholes in college admissions exist so that colleges and universities can have winning teams.
What’s worse? To get preferential admission because your parents paid money or because you’re good at a sport that has no bearing on your academic studies? (Yes, I know that students in sports work hard. Do they work harder, and are they more deserving, than the athlete who spends just as many hours practicing, but doesn’t win?)
Are the colleges involved in admissions fraud innocent?
The colleges involved are protesting their innocence, but it’s possible that some of the money was donated to charitable foundations that sent money back to the schools. Reading some of the articles, I wasn’t sure if it just appeared to be university donations and instead went to the coaches. But in any case, university and college admission policies giving special consideration to athletes, legacies, and donors, allowed this to happen.
Can college admissions ever be fair?
College admissions, like life, is never going to be completely fair. Luck, timing, and money are always going to play a part. So maybe the answer isn’t in trying to make things more fair, but make them more transparent. If colleges and universities would just be honest about how many spots to go legacies, donors, and athletics – and how the admission requirements are adjusted for each group – at least the average student can get a true sense of what they’re up against.
And maybe we’ll all start to think of these schools in terms of whether or not they really give value to the education of our children – or just perpetuate advantages that are already there.
How much of the advantage of an elite education is simple because we revere it?
Are we just chasing an expensive illusion? Maybe that’s why we should call them “dream schools,” because they’re just an illusion.
And when the false magic that creates the expensive illusion is revealed, will it fade?
More about college admission requirements to elite schools
You can read more about college admissions to Ivy League and other elite schools on this site. Here are just a few of the articles.
Read more about the elite college admissions bribing and cheating scandal
Following my initial thoughts, these are some of the best articles I’ve read to learn more about the college admissions scam. It’s heartening to see that some writers who have a much bigger audience are interested in the wider meaning and implications, not just the gossip part of the scandal.