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About this blog: I post articles to offer timely and substantive college admission guidance on important topics and issues. Originally from New York, I have a B.S. from Hunter College in NYC and advanced professional degrees from the University of...  (More)

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The College Admissions Scam

Uploaded: Mar 13, 2019
The recent college admissions scandal that was revealed in a New York Times article that first ran March 12th, 2019, quickly spread to all the major news media. The article reported how Mr. William Singer, a businessman who owns the Edge College & Career Network, also known as The Key, opened a side door to one of the limited, fiercely competitive undergraduate openings across elite colleges and universities in the US. By 3PM the same day my inbox was filled with emails with links to various articles about the swindle as well as messages from my clients ending in questions (Do you think the kids knew?), exclamations (This is just the tip of the iceberg!) and statements (The colleges knew—they had to know).

Here’s what we do know: Mr. Singer is a businessman who owns the Edge College & Career Network — a for-profit college counseling and preparation company that offers help in getting students into competitive colleges and universities. It also seems that Mr. Singer established a nonprofit organization which claimed to be a charity. Prosecutors said that this alleged charity was used as a vehicle to disguise the true nature of payments from parents— payments made to buy their children a ticket into college.

In court Mr. Singer talked about college applicants who get in the honest way, on their own merits. “And then there’s a back door,” he said, “where people …make large donations, but they’re not guaranteed [to get in. And then, I created a side door that guaranteed families get in. So that was what made it very attractive to so many families… I created a guarantee.” Mr. Singer is charged with one count each of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice. He is said to have been cooperating with the Justice Department since September 2018.

As a dedicated and ethical college advisor, I see many victims as this drama unfolds.

I see the universities and colleges that hold themselves to high standards now being subjected to greater scrutiny and suspicion in their admission processes and decisions.

I see independent educational consultants (IECs), who are both knowledgeable and trustworthy, feel concern over the negative image that Mr. Singer has cast on IECs. As a group, IECs are honest; they work hard to earn the trust of their clients, and they belong to professional organizations that set the highest ethical standards of conduct for their members.

I see (and greatly admire) the kids we college counselors guide each day, who are honest and forthright in their test taking, academic accomplishments, essay writing and extracurricular achievements. Through each admission cycle many of them must bear the pain of rejection from highly competitive universities and learn in the process to hold their heads high and adjust to the inevitable blows of life; these experiences make them better and stronger individuals. These same students go on to “best fit” colleges, ones that truly value them, offering not only admission but often scholarships too.

Perhaps, most unsettling of all the victims I see, are the children who ‘got in’ because their parents were so desperate for them to attend a highly competitive, ‘name brand’ university that they resorted to hiring a criminal to accomplish that end. These children must in one way or another measure their own worth by their parents’ wealth. But how can they authentically consider their futures, given the ethical missteps of their parents?

My sentiments run parallel with those of my IEC colleague, Jeff Levy, who put it so well: “I think it is a good thing that dirty players—and there are always going to be dirty players—get a public shaming.” I agree. As always, sunlight is the best disinfectant. We must all strive in whatever ways we can to continue to ensure that integrity and ethical conduct are at the core of the college admission process.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by K, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Mar 13, 2019 at 9:31 am

One big question in my mind:

Will the dirty players feel any "shame"?

I think not.

Our society has devolved into one where everyone is out to get something for nothing, at the expense of others.

This is just a case where the super rich in essence pay "nothing" (the amounts they have paid are insignificant to what they earn or have) and get everything they want at the expense of others.

Posted by Horace Townsend, a resident of Birdland,
on Mar 13, 2019 at 10:18 am

The rest of us struggles while the rich continue to exploit and game the system at our expense. And if you are unlucky enough to be born male and Asian, your bar is set far far higher than all other race/gender combination when it comes to college admission. So example like this is like victimizing those kids twice. It is good they are uncovering these scams and prosecuting those privileged pricks but why nothing has been done to stop the general discrimination based on gender/race in college admission just amazes me.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Mar 13, 2019 at 10:41 am

For years, numerous Plutonians have complained re:"unqualified" people of color studying at numerous universities.

I'd like to know the race/ethnicity of the "cheaters" involved in the current scandal!

Posted by Doug, a resident of Birdland,
on Mar 15, 2019 at 1:00 pm

It appears that one standard tactic of this Mr. Singer is to get student applicants into competitive universities through their athletic departments by bribing coaches and athletic administrators. I hope that all competitive colleges and universities take the hint and take a close look at their athletic departments and how much influence they have been exerting over student admissions. In particular, I think it would be a good idea if the Presidents of these universities ordered that the student records of all students who were admitted due to athletic department recommendations are reviewed to look for irregularities such as students being admitted under athletic scholarships and/or as national-class athletes but then never participating in the school sports that they're supposed to be experts in.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, a resident of San Ramon,
on Mar 16, 2019 at 1:35 am

I've been watching the college basketball tournament on TV, which is a perfect example of recruiting athletes for their skills on the court but not necessarily in the classroom. So now in this new scandal coaches are bribed to recruit students who are not even good athletes -- just spoiled rich kids.

I have diplomas from two of the colleges listed, UCLA (MA) and USC (PhD), but I've never been any good at sports. Mark Harmon was the football hero when I was at UCLA. That's how long ago it was.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Danville,
on Mar 16, 2019 at 11:46 am

The atheletic departments are always the best place to find corruption.

The corruption extends into high school sports because of parents donations the only way to fund most high school sports. Winning and money is placed above all else. Steroid use in high school football is rampant yet not a single school is pushing for drug testing of student atheletes. The round face of the 250lb all muscle player is not caused by baby fat. Do a quick scan of year book pictures and you can see the chisled faces of the past being replaced with the round faces of the present.

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Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Mar 23, 2019 at 11:43 am

As a "dedicated and "ethical college advisor", how have you come to believe that it's necessary to note that in your post? What exactly does that mean?
I'm getting curiouser and curious-er...hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

i rest my case

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