Federal Bureau of Investigation

College Entrance Cheating Scandal Highlights Admissions Challenges

Devra Sirot says her son took every AP class you could take and got a perfect score on the ACT, but being in the top one percent of students wasn’t enough.

“He was absolutely devastated by it,” said Sirot, of Weston. “He actually did not get into any of the Ivys.”

Experts say getting good grades is just the tip of the iceberg for students applying to college these days.

“They require students to do a lot. It’s not just you know, volunteering, and just filling out an essay. Students are interviewed, students have to be more involved and have high SAT scores,” said Dr. Paul Lowe, CEO of Pinnacle Educational Center.

Lowe advises students applying to top-rated private colleges and universities. He says the average student now applies to 25 schools.

He believes the job prospects of students who graduate from elite institutions are better.

“Yale, Harvard, Princeton, they’re a brand,” Lowe explained.

However, he says applications to state schools and small private colleges are exploding and admissions have gotten hyper-competitive across the board.

Southern Connecticut State University student Christian Marshall knows that all too well.

“I worked really really hard. I had to have really good SAT grades, I had to have connections, I had to save a lot of money over the summer just to be able to go to school to get the grades to get the scholarships,” said Marshall of Stonington.

This week’s announcement of a coast-to-coast FBI investigation involving dozens of parents who allegedly used their power, privilege, and wealth to fake test scores and steal spots on elite college sports teams is frustrating for students and their families to hear.

“I can imagine. I mean, there’s so much competition these days and kids can be ruthless,” said Sirot.

“We know of parents that actually try to do that, but we discourage that because there is ethics involved,” said Lowe. “We’ve had parents come to us and say can you get my kid into Harvard?”

Lowe says schools are going to start scrutinizing applications more. He says admissions directors he’s been in contact with are now talking about ways to be more vigilant.

Those include setting new ethical standards, getting legal consultants involved in admissions decisions, and calling coaches of teams that players purport to have been a part of in high school.

Federal investigators say the parents of two Yale applicants paid their daughters’ way into the university by bribing its longtime former soccer coach, Rudy Meredith in 2017 and 2018.

Investigators say neither girl actually played soccer, but took spots on the team as a way to get into the school.

According to court documents, Meredith has agreed to cooperate with investigators and plead guilty to wire fraud charges.

The FBI says Yale University was unaware of Meredith’s actions.

“As the investigation unfolds, the university may take further actions. I will work closely with our athletics director and dean of undergraduate admissions to make any necessary changes to protect the university from the kind of criminal behavior the Department of Justice described, “ said Yale President Peter Salovey.

Lowe believes admissions offices will now face a new set of challenges to prevent this from happening again.

“I think that they’re going to scrutinize coaches a little bit more. I think they’re going to review how this particular applicant seems to kind of like go right through admissions smoothly without being scrutinized,” he said.

Although her son shelved his plans to attend Harvard, Sirot says in the end he wasn’t hurt by not having an Ivy League degree.

“I believe it’s not so much where you go to school it’s what you make of it,” said Sirot.

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