As acceptance rates for the country’s most elite universities progressively decline, the competition only gets stiffer and much harder for high school students all across the world. It is gradually becoming almost impossible for students to stand out amongst thousands of their peers. Schools such as MIT came in at a whopping 7% acceptance rate, compared to Harvard which was at a 5% acceptance rate. Students are stressing and working to their limits and most of the time, it still won’t be enough. However, have you ever wondered if there was a 100% chance you could get into these top schools? Like most things in life, not everything will always be fair. Such an example would include the scandal involving the wealthiest of families being able to “purchase” acceptances to the same schools where underprivileged students pour their blood, sweat, and tears into getting in. The scam known as Operation Varsity Blues was the largest college admissions scandal known to date, shocking everyone into seeing the dirty secrets behind the acceptance process. It really shows how far having money could actually take you.
Rick Singer is known as the mastermind behind the entire operation. He branded himself as a college coach and advisor, most of his customers being of an extremely wealthy background. His process would mainly involve the initiative from the parents he worked with. Most of the schemes involved acceptances through sport recruitments due to the fact that faking a prodigy in sports on paper was easier than an academic approach.What he would do is instruct the student/applicant to pose and set up a photoshopped profile in a certain respective sport. Singer had many connections to coaches from elite universities including Yale, USC, Stanford, etc. Singer would present his clients to the coaches and would include a hefty sum of money as compensation for their major role in the acceptances. Yale soccer coach Rudy Meredith accepted over $860,000 in bribes to accept Singer’s clients as part of his girls soccer team. Whereas in the case of the Stanford sailing team, coach John Vandemoer would advertise for the applicants, not directly accepting bribes. Thus, when Vandemoer accepted some of Singer’s clients, Singer would instead send the bribe money as an extremely large donation.
In terms of the college board exams, the SAT and ACT, Singer set up elaborate plans to fake scores. The applicant/client would take the test in a private room, most oftenly by faking a disability for more time and privacy. Singer had connections with a proctor, Mark Riddell, who would be the only one in the room with the student taking the exam. After the student handed it in, Riddell would go over their answers and change them to perfectly achieve whatever score he was told to get by Singer. Riddell was an expert in such exams and could achieve any score on demand. This allowed for the applicants to have what seemed to be amazing scores.
Ultimately, the FBI caught wind of Singer’s operation and confronted him. Singer was nothing but cooperative with the FBI in selling out his clients to make sure those who were involved got jail time, in turn for Singer’s lesser sentence. The coaches were apprehended along with many celebrity families. Those of which included Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, Gregory and Marcia Abbott, and many more from all across the globe. They all received sentences ranging from a few days to months, depending on the circumstances.
Getty Images. (n.d.). Rick Singer : Operation Varisty Blues [Photograph]. Rick Singer Now. https://hips.hearstapps.com/hmg-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/images/rick-singer-1615890173.jpg?crop=1xw:0.6337135614702155xh;center,top&resize=1200:*
Netflix Documentary - Operation Varsity Blues Director, Chris Smith (March, 2021)