By now, most people have heard of the USC admissions scandal and how dozens of parents, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, paid for their children to cheat on standardized tests for a higher score and get into college. Loughlin’s daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella, were admitted to the University of the Southern California under the premise of recruits for the crew team (after cheating on their standardized tests). According to CNN, Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, sent photographs of their daughters on rowing machines as confirmation. Neither Isabella nor Olivia Jade has participated in crew. In total, Loughlin and Giannuli allegedly spent $500,000 to have both their daughters admitted to USC, more than the about $310,300 total that most pay to attend that particular school.
Unfortunately, the person responsible for orchestrating the crime has not gotten as much publicity as the already prominent figures. William Rick Singer, the CEO of the college-prep company The Key, has confessed to helping wealthy students cheat on the SAT and ACT exams and receive higher scores for money. Singer has also admitted to bribing college coaches to say that certain students should be accepted on an athletic recruitment, when in reality, they may not even play the sport at all. Both Singer and the coaches turned a blind eye to the fact that the student was not an athlete and their profile was not real. According to prosecutors, Singer said of his company: “Ok, so, who we are… what we do is we help the wealthiest families in the US get their kids into school.” (CNN).
But what does this mean for students who have applied to college honestly, and those who will? The entire scandal has definitely brought to light what some students suspected from the beginning. “Some of these kids getting into schools just aren’t smart enough,” says an anonymous senior. “But a bunch of them just get in because their parents have the money to donate.” Those who have worked hard feel as though they are getting pushed aside for others who have cheated their way in. “This taints the entire college admissions process,” says the mother of a senior. Now, not getting into a certain college isn’t just due to grades that aren’t high enough, or too little extracurriculars. What if you’re just not rich enough?
Other students at Ridgewood High School, especially athletes, are also very aware of the implications and suspicion the scandal raises. Junior Katie Hu commented, “It is very upsetting because there are other college athletes who deserve spots on their teams, and other applicants who are far more qualified academically.” This is not the first time USC athletics have been under fire; in 2004 and 2005 the football team was forced to nullify its wins due to players surrendering their amateur status.
This creates a much larger discussion; to what extent do wealthy students have an advantage in the college admissions process? Whether it is extra time or money spent on SAT and ACT prep, tutoring from a young age, or even donating astronomical amounts of money to a school with hopes of bettering your child’s chances, students coming from wealthy homes have many more resources that can help them on their path to a top university. “Colleges should be institutions of learning and stepping stones to ethical careers,” stated RHS guidance counselor Laura Moore. “The fact that certain individuals used their wealth (or the benefit of wealth) in making unethical decisions is disturbing and certainly not the message we want to send our young people who are embarking on this new journey in their lives.”
So what’s next for the families involved? There are obviously a myriad of legal implications. As of when this article was written, both Isabella and Olivia Jade are still enrolled at USC. Neither have commented nor posted on social media since the allegations of their parents have gone public. In fact, Olivia Jade has disabled comments on her Instagram profile to avoid backlash from other users.
This admissions scandal has undoubtedly put strains on the families involved. However, it seems that the majority, most notably high school students who have or will undergo the admissions process, believe that people who cheat to give their children an edge over far more deserving candidates should be brought to light and treated accordingly for their actions.
Grace McLaughlin & Caroline Loscalzo
Graphic: Grace McLaughlin