Two months ago, Andrew Lelling, the US Attorney of Massachusetts, overtly unveiled an investigation into a college admissions scandal, titled Operation Varsity Blues. FBI investigators first looked into a soccer coach at Yale University, who then pointed to William “Rick” Singer, the infamous college admission consultant at the center of the scheme. The inspection revealed numerous wealthy parents along with students in current Ivy League universities who got help from Singer to get into prestigious colleges: Yale, Stanford, USC, you name it. 33 parents, several college coaches, a college admission exam broker, and Singer himself were found guilty; the largest case of its kind to be prosecuted by the US Justice Department.
When the FBI first went public with Operation Varsity Blues, students were not surprised. One Yale student proclaims, “I think it was kind of weird that people were pulling some shenanigans to get in, but it is not categorically different from the so-called legal ways that people gain in this system.”
In the US college admission system, many institutions shed light on legacy admissions, which is “a preference given by an institution to certain applicants on the basis of their familial relationship to alumni of that particular institution”. Being a legacy raises an applicant’s chances of admission up to 19.7%. People admitted as legacies relatively have lower GPAs and SAT scores, hence performing worse than the other admitted students in the student body.
“I don’t think anyone thinks this is okay, but they think it is okay because it is benefiting them” declares another student. The problem is this: too many people are gaining advantage from these immoral favors. But such ways of forging a legitimate reason for a chance of admission do not end here. Though the legacy preference is deemed as ‘legal’, there are other ways that many applicants gain an advantage of, to the extent to which is considered ‘illegal’.
As an upcoming senior who attends one of the so-called “high-ended” international schools in South Korea, I have seen similar cases happen. These instances include families “donating” $10 million to an Ivy League university in order to get their student accepted or having a private consultant to write your college admissions essays, getting a broker to take the SAT test for you, or even managing to pay $1 million and attempting to solve the SAT in advance.
The aftermath? They all managed to get into the top 20 universities in the US. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the hidden reality. The despair and frustration behind these acts make us realize that there is much more happening behind the scenes than there seems to be from the outside.
This makes us ponder: is there a difference between bribery and donation? The truth is, I don’t see much of a gap between the two. Either way, you are still using a vast amount of money to forge your acceptance into a university.
What makes us, international – more specifically, Asian – students even more irate is the unfair drawback that is already posed on us. Take into consideration how several colleges (well, basically all) are known to allegedly discriminate against Asian students. Many sources claim that they rate Asian personalities lower and holds their test scores to higher standards. Even though we do well – working assiduously day and night, drinking coffee with 250 mg of caffeine every morning to wake up and go through a full day of school – our hard work does not seem to get paid off well.
When reading and hearing about such unscrupulous, wicked, devious acts to merely get a sheet of paper titled “Acceptance Letter”, we seem to lose even more hope. What is the point, really, in putting our best effort to achieve the highest grades and the best extracurriculars, when eventually a rich kid is going to take away one’s admission spot?
There are a myriad of kids who are equally qualified, but they all strive for that one precious spot. Though they may have the same GPAs and extracurriculars, their chances of getting in differ in what they were born with: ethnicity, legacy, wealth, etc.
The saddest part of all is that the United States is supposed to be a country that provides an opportunity for everyone, but this is not the truth. Instead of only favoring it in theory, it is now time to put that in practice.
Jessica Kim, Grade 11
Chadwick International School