March 23, 2019
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
The U. S. Department of Justice recently revealed a sweeping probe into a bribery scheme that they charge allowed wealthy parents to “buy” entrance to elite universities for their children.
As a college admissions consultant, I cannot begin to tell you how many of my friends and clients have asked me for my opinion about the controversy. I say that rarely did a parent ask me if I could guarantee admission to a top university. I would tell anyone who did ask that I “have a bridge to sell them” if they found a consultant who could or would guarantee admission. Unfortunately, some folks did find a way to scam the system.
Serious flaws in college admissions revealed in bribery case
I will be the first to admit that there are serious flaws in the admissions process. Certainly, the recent admission scandal proves that some students, with a lot of their parents’ money, can make it into USC, Stanford and Yale without the qualifications needed for admission to these single-digit admit schools.
Who is to blame?
National media editorials are quick to blame a tidal wave of parental tyranny that pushes kids to become "success robots" as Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal labels them. “Better to take Tennessee Tech over top schools where nobody breaks the law to get admitted," she writes.
At the same time, psychoanalyst Dr. Erica Komisar argued that the negative fallout from the scandal should be focused on the parents and not their children in an effort to curb student anxiety. It makes sense — the parents paid the bribe, which forced the anxiety.
Some parents do persist in searching for a consultant who claims to guarantee admission. The recent scandal is a product of their angst.
Colleges receive applications from a global network of students seeking admission to our top universities. Schools are faced with a plethora of fake test scores, fake high schools, fake transcripts, fake awards and extracurricular activities.
SAT scores from China and South Korea are invalidated on a regular basis. In 2016, several of my international clients in China lost out on early admission opportunities because their test scores were invalidated after being hacked prior to the tests being given. Test takers flew to Australia to take advantage of time differences and cell phoned screen grabs of the test to test takers in Hong Kong.
The court challenge to Harvard’s treatment of Asian American applicants comes down to whether it is a challenge to selective admission or race-based affirmative action. No combination of qualities guarantees admission. This case is now in the hands of a federal judge.
The Ivy League does not award athletic scholarships, but student-athletes do get preferential treatment in admissions and financial aid based upon ability to pay.
Sure, wealthy parents shell out millions of dollars to get their kids into American colleges. More often than not, these are legitimate donations to college alumni organizations that help to subsidize 60 percent of the undergraduates who receive scholarship and financial aid at most top schools. There are no guarantees their child will be admitted, but it may be a "thumb on the scale" in their favor all things being equal. This practice is being adjudicated, along with athletic scholarships, as being discriminatory.
There are benefits to a degree from a top college to be sure. Earnings over time and job satisfaction to name but two. But as I often point out to students and parents, all is not lost when you attend a state school or a college without a national profile. It is the quality of the education you receive and the opportunities that the school provides you to succeed that will count in the long run. Remember that well known colleges do not have a monopoly on providing you with a top-notch educational experience
The investigations continue and only time will tell what admissions process changes may be made. In the meantime, it pays to study for your SATs and write compelling essays for your applications. Ask for help from a reputable college consultant if you need it — they are there to help you set realistic goals and navigate the admissions process.
Preparing for college is a long journey. There are few shortcuts. Top grades and test scores make you competitive, but they do not guarantee you will be admitted. That is why most students hedge their bets by applying to several colleges. My best advice is to apply widely if you want to have the best chance of having a choice of schools.
Gerald Bradshaw is a top US college admissions consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting.
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