March 14, 2019

3 Life Lessons from the College Admissions Scandal

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On March 12, 2019, a major news story broke about the wealthy elite bribing and cheating the system so that their children could get into popular and prestigious universities. The scandal has involved university athletic coaches and parents who can afford to buy influence, including powerful executives, designers, and Hollywood actresses. It is assumed to be the largest college admissions scandal ever to be federally prosecuted and could put some powerful people behind bars for significant amounts of time.

As a former college admissions counselor, I have advised thousands of students and parents on the screening and application processes. I actively answer admissions and test prep questions online through forums like Quora every day about how students can get into their dream schools. It should come as no surprise that in the hyper-competitive era in which we live, individuals are always looking for an advantage. Doing everything within one’s ethical power is one thing, but I receive a shocking number of how-to questions--not just tips and tricks--but blatant requests about how individuals can cheat the system. From the perspective of somebody who encourages students to prepare the right way, here are three things we can all learn from the admissions scandal. 

1. Preparation pays dividends

Rather than trying to artificially inflate your application process, cheat, or manufacture a background to make yourself appear as a more attractive applicant, you’ll do yourself more good by adequately preparing for tests and properly managing your own expectations. Taking the time to adequately prepare for and score well on the ACT/SAT is of paramount importance. Reading quality explanations and truly getting a feel for the exam will help you achieve your best score. If you know what’s required to get into your dream school and you’re completely off the mark, instead of trying to create a facade to game the system, you may need to reconsider your options or look at a temporary solution until such time that you get your grades and test scores to where they need to be.

2. There are no shortcuts in life

Whether it’s on a test, college admissions, or performing in a job, when you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself, and it will eventually catch up to you. If this sounds like motherly advice, well, then your mother was right! Call it universal balance, karma, or whatever you want, but cheating--even if it gets you into your dream school--will ultimately cost you.

3. Save yourself--and your parents--the headache

Create a roadmap. Companies like College Xpress, help students identify colleges that are good fits based on their current situations and desired degrees. Think of it like match.com for students with universities. Taking the initiative to develop a scholastic roadmap will not only make you a stronger person and college admissions candidate, but you could also potentially save your parents some gray hair...or time behind bars.

Joy Macdonald is a former college admissions representative with 12 years of professional experience. She currently works as a marketing and events coordinator for UWorld.


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