College admissions practices have been making headlines over the past few months, and it looks likely a handful of B-list celebrities may get a taste of life behind bars.
The admissions scandal broke earlier this year, with the coordinated Operation Varsity Blues snaring several dozen parents of young people whose entry into elite colleges and universities was greased by celebrities bribing college officials, mostly in athletic departments.
Yet another demonstration of the advantages of wealth in situations in which the amount of money a person has determines their value to society.
The lengthy, multi-level investigation is yielding results, with a few people facing prison sentences, punctuating months of public castigation and shaming for buying favor for their offspring, many of whom seem to care less about higher education.
Here’s the short version: Thirty-three parents allegedly paid a college prep company a total of $25 million to falsify their children's standardized test scores, and/or bribe coaches to list them as recruited athletes.
The result of these revelations is that legitimate applicants for admission who were rejected by several of the schools have filed a class-action complaint. They claim an unfair admissions process overlooked qualified students in favor of unqualified students. More than a dozen parents have pleaded guilty, or agreed to do so, to fraud-related charges.
Like most things today, there is more to this story than greedy parents and pampered teens. There is the fact that college admissions is a complicated process that blends an array of requisites, not all of them objective. For example, besides grades and test scores, admissions officials are also looking at personal characteristics and abilities that will produce a well-rounded student — and student body — with diverse talents that fit with the school's overall mission.
Admissions officials refer to this as a holistic approach to getting into college, which can work to the advantage of those who understand it and present their strengths accordingly.
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In other words, having outstanding grades is not the end-all it used to be with regard to getting into a good school. It also means that admissions officials are looking closely at other aspects of a young person’s life — including their activity on social media.
At the same time, school officials are looking at the families with the resources to help the college or university move toward desired goals, a fact made obvious by Operation Varsity Blues and the fame-shaming and potential prison sentences that have grown out of that investigation.
So, it’s not just about your kid. It’s also about you, the responsible adults in the equation. Maybe it’s another manifestation of just about everyone on the planet being under observation.
It won’t be fall for another week or so, but it is not too soon to be talking to your high schoolers — and middle schoolers, for that matter — about their future, and whether they aspire to a college degree.
If so, now is not too early to start the prep work. You start with grades, which are important. But equally important is how your young student comports himself or herself outside the classroom. Specifically, college recruiters and admissions deciders look into a prospect’s extracurricular activities, involvement in the neighborhood and community, and what they post on their social media accounts. Discouraging words and deeds are red flags.
In a way, the recent admissions scandal will help, because college and university officials are now on notice, and checks and balances are being reviewed and changed to fit circumstances. Scandals are not good for academia.
Ready, set, go!