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Cheerleaders at the University of Southern California, a university involved in Operation Varsity Blues.

The “Side-Door” to College Admissions

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Each year, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, US colleges and universities receive hundreds of thousands of applications from around the world. As we know, the decision of whether or not students get accepted to a school depends on the content of their application. Colleges look at SAT/ACT scores, extracurricular activities, GPA, background and interests, and more to determine if an applicant is the type of student that it wants at the school.


Yet, this admissions process has been exposed at some schools as a result of an FBI investigation called “Operation Varsity Blues.” The scandal that has emerged reveals that admissions at a handful of American universities have been corrupted.

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Cheerleaders at the University of Southern California, a university heavily involved in Operation Varsity Blues.


On March 12, fifty people were charged by the US Justice Department for being involved in a massive college-admission scandal. An investigation revealed that parents bribed college coaches and other insiders to get their children into some of the nation’s most selective schools. Andrew E. Lelling, the United States Attorney for the District of MA, explained it was the “largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.” Lelling listed the defendants’ wrongdoings as “first, cheating on college entrance exams (SAT/ACT), and second, securing admissions to elite colleges by bribing coaches at those schools to accept certain students at false pretenses.”

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In the reaction to the case, many pointed out that not only were the charged parents―which included some minor celebrities―cheating, they also were taking acceptances away from deserving students. Parents, however, aren’t the only ones coming under fire for this scandal. The New York Times reports that “top college athletic coaches were accused of accepting millions of dollars to help admit undeserving students to a wide variety of colleges, from the University of Texas at Austin to Wake Forest and Georgetown, by suggesting they were top athletes.” This allowed students who had never even played a certain sport to present themselves as a star athletes.


At the heart of this scheme was William Singer, a college consultant who “built a team of employees to help him cheat the college entrance system on behalf of those families willing to pay.” According to the magazine Vanity Fair, Singer seems to have made about $25 million, “funneling the money through a nonprofit named the Key Worldwide Foundation, and bribing athletic coaches and testing administration with a slush fund.” Singer has pleaded guilty to racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. The former “life coach” now faces up to 65 years in jail.


Even though this scandal has led many of us to question the authenticity of the college application process, it has also revealed a corrupt “side-door” admission process that must be addressed. To maintain their credibility, universities need to ensure that only deserving students are admitted.


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