Aftermath of the College Admissions Scandal

By NIMISHA KUMAR ’22

Historically, the wealthy have had the upper hand regarding aspects of college admissions. Legacies and donations are some of the ways the system is tipped in the favor of certain applicants. Furthermore, standardized testing weighs in favor of those with heavier pockets for tutoring. However, the intricacy of the 2019 college admissions scandal takes this inequity to the next level.

For the underprivileged, this scandal was exasperating. It has been two years since this scandal, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” broke out into the public. The lengths to which some of the wealthy class go to in order to uphold a sense of reputation is not surprising. The parents involved in this scandal were living vicariously through their children’s college admissions. All the while, first generation low income students remain disadvantaged. 

On December 8, 2002 Olivia Jade Giannuli guest-starred on the Facebook show titled “Red Table Talk” to publicly speak out on the scandal for the first time. This show is hosted by three generations of women: Adrienne Banfielf-Norris, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Willow Smith.

Before the interview began, Banfielf-Norris said “I just found it really ironic that she chose three Black women to reach out to for her redemption story…. Her being here is the epitome of white privilege.” After all, a lot of the criticism Olivia Jade receives is based on the image she portrays of herself on social media in which she demonstrates a lack of interest in her education. In other words, public anger stems from the idea of Olivia Jade taking a spot at USC from someone more deserving of that admission. 

In March, Netflix released the documentary “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal.” This documentary reveals Rick Singer’s wiretapped phone conversations released from the FBI. The investigation exposes Singer’s “side door” tactic in which he creates a guaranteed admission that costs less than a massive donation. 

Society desires “elite institutions” like it does top name brand clothing companies. However, accomplishments are not measured by the title of the college or university you attend, but what you do once you get there. 

The Eagle’s Eye reached out to Edison High college counselor Ms. Laurie Sieminski for her opinion. “Choosing a college is one of the biggest decisions a student will make in their first 17 or 18 years of life. It can feel like this decision will dictate all your happiness for the near future. Thankfully, you do not have to make this decision on your own!”

“In reality, college is so much more about what you do during those 4 years, than the name on the sweatshirt you wear.  There are over 3,000 4-year colleges and universities in the United States and each one has something unique to offer the students that attend there. Students often feel pressure from family, friends, and society to attend a college that will look good on a bumper sticker, but just like when trying on a new pair of jeans, one size does not fit all. Students should consider factors such as class size, research, co-op and internship opportunities, activities, sports and clubs, location, resources, return on investment, and many other personal factors before prestige.”

Faulty judgement regarding the prestige of top colleges fueled the immoral circumstances of this scandal. We can learn from their mistakes in learning that the title of your undergraduate college is not as important as we grow up believing. An institution’s ranking or reputation are surface level characteristics that are branded across advertisements. Accordingly, consider taking the time to do thorough research about whether a college you want to apply for is a college you would genuinely want to attend. 

“While many colleges with great name recognition have the factors that will make a student happy, if you select a school based on that alone, you may be left with a school that is not a good fit for you. This year, in particular, has seen some of the most competitive admissions cycles that we have ever seen, leading to increased selectivity (% admitted) at many schools, but the use of platforms such as Zoom and virtual visits has allowed students to get to know schools across the US without leaving their homes. This has opened the door and many students’ minds to the possibility of attending a school they may not have heard of before. Edison students have many resources such as school counselors, college counselors, and the new Scoir platform to help them navigate the college search process. Overall the Varsity Blues scandal has shed light on a common misconception that attending the ‘right’ school will lead to success. Each college and university simply provides opportunities for each student to flourish in their own way. It is up to the student to choose one of the paths that leads to their own success.”