Editorial: College admissions scandal, consider the costs

The recent college admissions scandal — whereby wealthy parents paid bribes to get their children into top-tier colleges — is shocking on so many levels. Shocking, but not unexpected.

In one respect, it is the epitome of white privilege where parents are willing to commit a crime — fraud — to elevate their status and that of their child by giving that child an unfair advantage in the college application process. Add to that the harm done to other students who were denied entry as a result of the lies.

They have also done a great deal of harm to their children by either instilling in them a false sense of entitlement or instilling a sense of inadequacy that they were not able to achieve admission on their own. Perhaps the greatest misstep of all is that great parental no-no — they have humiliated their children who are now the butt of jokes and cable news fodder.

In the end, it’s just not worth it. College is important, yes, but not every student needs or wants or should go to an Ivy League or other top-rated school. Many words have been written and spoken about how much stress our children are under to achieve either their or their parents’ image of perfection. At the top of that image often is a prestigious college.

In a word — status.

Back in the early 90s the Katonah-Lewisboro, N,Y., School District was looking for a new superintendent. The Board of Education held an information session, seeking from residents what they expected from a new schools chief. One man stood up and said, “We need to get more kids into the Ivy Leagues.” He was likely concerned about his property value.

Before Wilton’s school district declined to release where Wilton High School graduates were going to college, The Bulletin used to publish a list each year at graduation. The Bulletin’s sister paper, The Weston Forum, did the same. One year a student called and asked why the list indicated she was going to a fancy school when she was really going to UConn. Her mother had given the incorrect information because she was embarrassed her daughter was going to a state school.

In a story this week in The Bulletin’s sister paper, the Greenwich Time, a college consultant is quoted as saying a mother said her daughter had to attend an “Ivy or Ivy-like” institution so she could meet her future spouse and live the life she had been accustomed to.

None of this takes into account the effect this has on the students who did not get into college because of the scam and those who are now doing all they can to gain entry to the institution where they want to spend the next four years of their lives. They and their parents spend money on tutors, test prep, consultants, AP exams, extra-curricular activities and sports. Some will consider themselves successful, others not.

The name on a college diploma may give someone a leg up on that first job, but 10 years down the road it is what someone has achieved while earning a paycheck that is going to make the difference.

There is a lot of attention paid to work/life balance. For students, school is their work. They deserve a life. They also deserve an honest shot at the school of their choice.

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