Recent news broke out of one of the biggest college admissions scandals in history, where over fifty people were charged with a variety of crimes in order to help their children get into several prestigious colleges across the country. The story has followed the allegations made against Felicity Huffman of "Desperate Housewives," who was accused of paying $15,000 towards an organization that helped her daughter cheat and receive better SAT scores. And even more importantly publicized was the story of Lori Loughlin, star of "Full House," and her husband, indicted for supposedly paying over $500,000 to get their daughters as athletic recruits for the University of Southern California's crew team though neither of the girls played the sport.
The news of these offenses greatly struck a chord with me. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I have been watching Full House ever since I was a little girl and have always looked up to a woman like Lori Loughlin, more commonly referred to as "Aunt Becky." Or maybe it's because I have recently been following the life of one of her daughters' Olivia Jade, who has taken the YouTube community by storm and showcasing her love for fashion, makeup, and lifestyle. Although Olivia's intentions and feelings about school have been put into question in the past, I also really admired her and loved watching her videos.
However, I think what really hit home about this story is that I was just in this position not too long ago. The anticipation of standardized testing and applying to colleges is marked as one of the most stressful periods for any teenager, and going to a large, reputable high school like mine only exacerbated this pressure. Taking endless amounts of APs, faking symptoms of disorders such as ADHD to get extra time on tests, and spending thousands of dollars on tutors and essay coaches were the norm. The pressure to do well and get into the best colleges was enormous, and people went to drastic measures to make that happen. My graduating class alone not only had representation to every single Ivy league, but over thirty students receive a perfect score on their ACT...just take a moment to think about that.
Unlike many of my peers, I was not fortunate enough to have tutors or essay coaches—I studied and completed endless practice tests for the ACT and wrote and edited every essay myself, without even the help from my parents. Even though this frustrated me, it was the hard work that I put in myself that made getting into four well-known and highly-ranked universities an even greater accomplishment. I got into college on my own merit, and no one can take that away with me.
I do believe, though, that there is nothing wrong with getting a little extra help and finding the necessary resources to make sure that you are doing the best you can, especially those who truly need it. But it is those people, the Laughlin's included, who have gone beyond the extra mile and resorted to extreme measures that I find unnecessary and rather ridiculous. I spent a lot of time the other day reading the indictments of the various cases themselves, and I am just appalled at the results. I'm not sure exactly what the intentions were, but it does make me question the idea that these parents didn't believe in their children enough. Because honestly, if they were meant to get into those schools and go there, they would have on their own accord.
You don't want to set someone up for a situation where a school is too challenging and they aren't prepared enough just because it is so-called "better." What people often forget sometimes is that college is not about the name or the brand, it's about finding the place where you belong and will succeed the best. The truth of the matter is, whether Olivia Jade went to USC or community college, she would be fine no matter where she went because she would be doing what is best for her.
I'm sure that each of these parents thought that what they were doing was in the best interest of their children, but the drastic measures they went to were not only wrong (and illegal) but are sending the wrong message.
In all honesty, this is surely not the first time that someone has cheated or bribed their way into college, and certainly won't be the last. With college commitment day just shy of a month away, I really hope that stories like these are not showing students that it is okay to lie and cheat to get what you want, but rather that the gratification of hard work and self-reliance is most important. Every single college in this country is great in their own ways, and a teacher, a friend, a parent, or a ranking number does not change that. Just because a school is "better" does not mean that it is better for YOU.
Do I wish that my ACT score went up a few points? Yes. Would I have liked to get into my so-called "reach" schools because of their prestige and reputation? Absolutely. But I know that I am at the right school for me, and one extra point on a test or acceptance isn't going to change that. I hope that a scandal as controversial as this one will hopefully help shed light onto the problems with the college admissions process and the wrong messages it may be sending. Instead, we should be teaching students to become their own advocates and strive for academic excellence that is right for them.