It’s hard to avoid the news about the indictments of dozens of parents, test services employees, college athletics and university officials and an unscrupulous individual who participated in a large-scale college admissions cheating scheme. We know some details about the so-called “side door” created by Mr. Singer, but there is much more to come.
The college admissions process is complex, lacking in transparency and made even murkier by the issues of legacies, donations and athletic recruiting. And there is enough evidence out there for us to know that some people will take drastic steps to get their students into those “name brand” universities that seem so elusive. Unfortunately, there are also those who call themselves “consultants” who break the rules, game the system and make promises and guarantees that are unethical and illegal.
The number of college consultants who work hard to uphold ethical standards far outweighs the number of those who adhere to no standards or ethics. The man at the forefront of the scheme is not a member of any recognized professional counseling organization. I am a certified college consultant and a member of WACAC and HECA*. I adhere to the HECA Standards and Ethics and happily recommit myself to them each year.
While I condemn the actions of those indicted, my heart goes out to the students who have been directly impacted by the scheme. What does it say to those young adults that their parents were so concerned about their ability to be admitted into a “good” college, with ultra-competitive admissions, that their parents lied, cheated and paid bribes? What does it say about the need to ensure that applicants focus on the colleges that make the most sense for them? How demoralizing would it feel to learn that your place at your university was obtained through deception and not on based on your own merits?
The college admissions cheating scandal is a very public example of why focusing on a college list and application process that is the right fit for each individual is a critically important strategy. Cheating the process is never the right answer and, as noted in this excellent Quartz article, where you go is not nearly as important as what you make of the opportunity. Kids should go where they want to be AND where they’re wanted.
* Founded in 1997, Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA) is a 1,000+ member 501(c)(6) not-for-profit professional association representing independent educational consultants from every region of the country and across the globe who focus exclusively on helping students navigate the college admissions process. Guided by HECA’s Standards and Ethics Statement for professional conduct, their members serve the college planning needs of more than 23,000 high school seniors each year. Many of HECA members also assist low-income students through pro-bono advice and volunteer service to nonprofit organizations and local schools.