What has changed with College Admissions since Varsity Blues ?
To refresh your memory, in 2019, a scandal arose over a criminal conspiracy to influence undergraduate admissions decisions at several top American universities.Rick Singer, the shamed college counselor, synonymous with what is known as Operation Varsity Blues, is going to jail for 3 and a half years—proving that “crime doesn’t pay”. This video recaptures the news the day the scandal broke. But what has happened since the scandal was birthed?
These seven stages initiated from the epicenter of Varsity Blues:
- An Awakening — Most parents and students were aware of how competitive college admissions had become at top tier schools. But Varsity Blues uncovered the sheer panic that precipitated those with means—the rich and famous—to step so low as to cheat and bribe their way into college. If the entitled were freaking out, that confirmed just how difficult college admissions would be for everyone.
- The Reaction: Close the Loopholes — Colleges didn’t want the press they were likely to get, so any backdoor privileges, special handshakes or any semblance of impropriety were shut down. Any candidate applying for a sports position had to follow new procedures, as did the respective college staff.
- Skepticism sets in: Don’t trust the College Counselor — Was every college counselor like Rick Singer? If he couldn’t help students without cheating, what was the average family going to do? It’s possible that some who would have otherwise gone to a college counselor chose to go it alone.
- The COVID Factor — The pandemic initiated a nationwide test optional blanket covering nearly every school in the country. Students applied to schools that otherwise would be out of reach if they were to submit their test scores.
- Application Growth — More applications at top tier schools triggered even more selectivity. Colleges got laser focused with their admit rates and yield.
- Admit Rates Drop — The reality of single digit admit rates kicks in and morphs in a viral fashion. Once parents heard stories or witnessed their own children getting denied and deferred, they panicked and applied to even more schools, accelerating selectivity and lowering their own children’s admit rates.
- Reception Towards Receiving College Advice Returns – As parents get confused and frustrated with the difficult college process, some begin to seek help from counselors for professional college advice.
While few could have predicted the impact that this scandal, followed swiftly by the COVID-19 pandemic, could have on college admissions, here are six steps to take that address the current admissions situation:
- Focus/Reduce – Concentrate on a reasonable school list by using available tools to assess probability of acceptance. Don’t panic – there is a long list of quality colleges
- Try to avoid visiting large numbers of schools before understanding whether they are possible for your son or daughter.
- Start early to reduce the expectation gap with high school students. Help them to match activities that they would like to do rather than just what they think a college will want to see.
- Consider school year and summer programs that fit your child’s interests.
- Understand the importance of ”yield” in college admissions. Consider Early Decision schools and limit the number of most selective regular decision schools
- Gain some professional advice to avoid getting immersed in the large volume of information that can be dated or may not be applicable to your situation
If you have come to the realization that today’s college process is unlike the one you experienced decades ago, reach out to us and we can sort things out for you. We will take the best your child has to offer, find reasonable college fits, and help increase their chances of acceptance at their target schools.
We can help support you through this anxious and critical time with our academic tutoring, test prep, and college decision making expertise. Give us a call today. 914-273-2353
Neal Schwartz, Owner
College Planning of Westchester
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