College Admissions Scandal: The View from Beijing

2 weeks ago

I awoke this morning to my inbox, FB, and other accounts blowing up with the news from the largest bribery and fraud scandal in college admissions ever, in which a syndicate of ultra-wealthy parents stand accused of bribing administrators at elite colleges, and committing fraud in order to secure their children admittance. The outrage and disgust are palpable around the world. The scandal primarily focuses on two actresses, CEOs, and many others including coaches and admissions at elite universities in the US. To say that I echo the sentiments of my peers is obvious, but my real question is will anything really change?

In the high anxiety climate of admissions and the perverse concept that only elite schools educate well, families seemingly will do anything to access those schools. What is damning for me is the fact that parents will pay anything to ensure their child, who may knowingly or unknowingly, be participants in this unethical behavior. Little thought is given to the effect this has on the students and their perception that their parents will buy, cheat, and steal to get them into the likes of Yale and Stanford, to name but two of the schools mentioned. The only thing they learn, and it is not a new concept among the privileged, is that money will buy you anything.

Given the current political climate in the US at the moment, there is a pervading sense that wealth and status are outside basic common ethical and moral mores. But again this is not news. What is a bit scary is that major events like this happen and have happened around the world, through time. If there is money to be given, money to be paid, greed of all sorts will prevail.

While this disgraceful event highlights everything from cheating on SAT and ACT to the involvement of coaches and others, there are other questionable, but acknowledged, forms of similar behavior, and it is not just with university admissions but also at prestigious private day and boarding schools. Donations to buy buildings, researching family wealth during the admission process, legacy admits, and more, are and have been a part of the admissions landscape for ages. In fact, at a recent conference, I shared my overall antipathy toward actions like this in the admission process as being bad for education, particularly for the students involved because of the message that it sends to those students, and it only continues the sentiment that ethics are exempt where money can pave the road to success. But the message is clear – “we (the parents) don’t think you are good enough, so let me buy, rather than pay, for your education.”

Many organizations including the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) both issued statements today regarding ethical practices and standards of their members in response to today’s news. Unfortunately, because one of the people named in the charges is an educational consultant (not an IECA member), the shame surrounding the news has impacted the reputation of independent educational consultants.

As mentioned earlier, where do we go from here – as parents, as students, and as educational consultants who aspire to earn their place at schools based on their intellect and personal attributes? There are so many choices for an excellent education at both the high school and college level, yet there is an adverse perception that some are better than others. Families who truly seek to understand the vast array of differences and how those schools can positively affect not only a student’s education but also their confidence and overall wellbeing now and into the future will find there are consultants who endeavor to provide outstanding options ethically and appropriately.

Sadly, there are those who seek to find shortcuts, exemptions, and other means, as highlighted in the many allegations in the article attached, to circumvent conventional pathways. As a member of both NACAC and IECA, as well as being a board member of IECA, it is my job to educate, encourage, and assist in planning for a student’s future, whatever that may entail. But, needless to say, the route I pave for all my students, at school or as clients, requires hard work, managing expectations and a great deal of trust. In saying this, it is with the knowledge of my peers and colleagues in both organizations that we will continue to trust the system despite today’s shocking and disturbing news.

READ: beijingkids’ March 2019 Sustainability Issue Hits Stands This Week!

This article originally appeared on our sister site beijingkids.


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