With admissions to the top colleges getting harder and harder, students around the world are turning to underhanded methods to make their applications stand out. Whether that's elevating yourself from a club member to president, or making up community service that you never did, more and more students are going to be enticed to lie on applications, especially when the application process is largely an honor system.
Although most people can't afford the high-level coach recruitment that was the Varsity Blues scandal, many people are still looking to gain an unfair advantage. About a few months ago I heard a story about a student whose parents created a fake international nonprofit in order to get the student into Duke. Both parents were lawyers, so they could easily handle the paperwork while the student could work on the fake website. Just a few years ago a case came to light in which a student wrote a moving story about his mom's death for his personal statement. He ended up getting into his top choice. When the college called the student's house just before college started his mom answered, alive and healthy. Needless to say, the student's admission was revoked.
I've seen it happen first hand. As the president of my school's academic team, I enlist our school in monthly online academic tournaments. After a year of superb performances, we finally qualified for nationals. On the day of nationals, my teammate was caught for cheating. I had no words. The entire team's money was wasted, hard work was wasted, and our time was wasted. Just before removing him from the club, I asked him about why he did what he did. Luckily for me, I got an answer within seconds: I thought winning would look good for my Yale application.
So, where do we go from here? The problem isn't going to change the way things are looking, with the messages that we are sending we are sending to those younger than us. Based on what I've seen, this problem doesn't just come from parents; it also comes from our peers and our teachers that create a high school environment where all that matters are your stats, extracurriculars, ranks, and what schools you're applying to. Even with all this pressure, students need to realize that they shouldn't be giving up their integrity for a bumper sticker on their car.