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Notes On A Scandal

College Admissions West LA MY Education Guru

By now, I am sure you are aware of what is becoming known as “The College Admissions Scandal.” At MY Education Guru, we endeavor to teach our students to find their passions and grow to be inquisitive, ethical human beings. Since this scandal reflects a mind-set in which many young people to do the exact opposite of this, I was asked to write this week’s newsletter on the subject. I have to admit, this has proven to be much more difficult than I anticipated. I mean, seriously, where do I start?

As news of The College Admissions Scandal broke and more and more details became known, we educators who work in the field of college counseling found ourselves feeling both heartbroken and outraged at the same time. We who work so hard and invest so much of ourselves to help students find and present the best versions of themselves. “The best versions of themselves” is the key here. No college counselor worthy of the name would do what is done in this case – bribery, falsification of documents, cheating on exams – none of it. Here are some examples of what college counselors actually do.

  • We work our students’ tails off to help them get their ACT and SAT scores as high as they can get. We teach test-taking techniques and drill and drill and drill, and sometimes even engage in remedial teaching so our students can sit down in those testing centers and give their best.
  • We help our students pick which colleges may be right for them. We’ll look at their goals, their interests, their records, their extracurriculars, and help them choose the schools they have the best shot at.
  • We help our students with their application essays. This goes way beyond proofreading and suggestions. Often, we have to help our students see how awesome they are. A student who is worried because the only extracurricular activity they have is Cross-Country is shown that doing that on top of school and a demanding part-time job is laudable because nobody else they know has to hold down a job. The student who experiments and creates special recipes for a family member who has severe food allergies has to be convinced that what she is doing is extraordinary because, to her, it was simply doing something that needed to be done.
  • We do our best to keep students motivated and on schedule. Under the best of circumstances, applying to college is a daunting endeavor. We help our students keep everything organized and we make sure they don’t wind up getting stuck in their own fears. Fear of success can stop you in your tracks as sure as fear of failure will.
  • We help our students find and apply for scholarships and grants that they may not have found otherwise. Did you know that there is a scholarship fund for the children of members of the American Postal Workers Union? How about the scholarships awarded by the American Fire Sprinkler Association? My students do.

Much will be made in the coming weeks about how the privilege of the wealthy subverts the supposed meritocracy of college admissions and the people who suffer for it even though (and let’s be honest here) this scandal would not have been a blip on society’s radar if a couple of T.V. stars had not been involved. I won’t dispute that the services true, honest college counselors provide can be expensive and give an advantage to those who can afford them. It is not the purpose of this blog to address all those issues, however.

There will also be extensive discussions about how honest students and parents were hurt. How a student  may not have gotten into a school because that spot was bought by someone undeserving. How the degrees from these elite colleges and universities are now devalued and looked on with suspicion, now that these schools have been revealed to be less than honest in their admissions practices. The anger and heartbreak of believing, correctly or not, that all their hard work was for nothing.

I do want to address another group of people who will suffer for it: The kids who got into those elite schools who didn’t deserve it. Every single young person who “benefitted” from the dishonest (to the point of being criminal) actions of their parents and “counselors,” were in fact being betrayed by them. “Betrayed” seems like such a harsh word, I know, but any way you look at it, these parents did their children a grand disservice.

  • These students, who may have thrived and excelled in mid-tier schools, will find themselves academically outclassed the moment they walk in the door.
  • These students, relying on wealth and privilege to get by, may not develop the discipline or ambition to succeed in their adult lives.
  • These students may not ever appreciate hard work and achievement by others who did not have their advantages.
  • These students will always know that they did not truly earn what they got. For the ones who have a moral compass, that will always haunt them.

When I’m working with a student on their college applications or helping them with test prep, I often find myself having to convince them that they are capable of more than they think. I help them to dig into themselves and their lives and hold up a mirror that says “You Are Awesome.” It is hard work, but so very gratifying when they succeed.

Many of the kids who benefited in this scandal are lazy, privileged, and entitled to the point that they can’t understand how wrong this whole thing is. They may never truly understand the values their parents failed to instill in them. But worst of all, when their parents bought, bribed, and donated to get their child a spot in an elite institution, those parents said to their child “I do not believe in you.” That breaks my heart.

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