Some light at the end of the Varsity Blues tunnel
Updated: May 19
If the new Netflix documentary "Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal" has you feeling down and out about the U.S. college admissions process, you're not alone.
For me, although there were many takeaways, one thing stood out beyond the shockingness of the sheer all-around greed and selfishness on behalf of everyone involved.
College admissions in the U.S. is beyond insane.
There has to be a better way.
Varsity Blues Scandal
The documentary highlighted that in U.S. college admissions, there’s the "front door way" of getting admitted (getting in on your own doing), the "back door way" (donating upwards of $30 million or more, though admittance is still not guaranteed) and for 20-something years, there was Rick Singer’s "side door way" (bribing admissions and athletic officials in exchange for guaranteed admittance, many times with students earning fake sports scholarships in sports they never even played).
And historically, the harder it became to get admitted to top schools, the more Singer benefited and tapped into this pain point with wealthy parents.
Often, the students didn't even realize what was going on, thinking they had genuinely gotten admitted on their own.
But as Daniel Golden, the author of "The Price of Admission," says in the documentary, perhaps the most concerning part of it all is the role that the colleges played in it.
"I try not to blame the families or the parents," Golden says.
"I tend to focus the criticism on the colleges and universities that created this system. If they didn't have these loopholes and these preferences for families of privilege, then I don't think there would be these kind of temptations."
So will this be cause to change the way things work?
Golden says absolutely not: "This scandal is not necessarily a reason for colleges to change their ways because it makes the colleges seem more exclusive and desirable than ever.
"If all these rich people are willing to go to these incredible lengths and risk jail time just to get their kids into these colleges, then they must be extremely valuable."
The good news is that there is good news--a way forward or a way out, depending--and that is that you can choose to skip this ridiculous process altogether.
How? By looking beyond your borders.
In the college admissions process overseas, there are no side doors; there aren’t even any back doors.
There’s only one door--and that’s the front one, which is based on academics and merit alone.
No amount of money can be paid to get you into Oxford, Cambridge and the like.
But equally, no amount of money can be paid to get your classmate into Oxford, Cambridge and the like, therefore effectively taking the place of someone actually deserving.
And ultimately, sports scholarships abroad are usually minimal at best, meaning no one can stage a photo on a rowing machine and end up with a full ride on a rowing scholarship.
College admissions abroad puts students on a much more equitable playing field.
Now, it's still not a perfect system (none of them are), and there are certainly issues around the reliance on standardized testing to determine merit (especially in Covid times), which ultimately favors those who can afford the test prep to begin with.
But for a growing number of students and parents who don't have the odd $30 million lying around to try and influence an admissions decision, this is refreshing.
And hopefully one day it will be like this here, too.