The College Admissions Scandal

March 14, 2019

Do the Right Thing

As someone who for 30 years has worked with young students on their journey to college, I’m dismayed and disturbed – but not surprised – by the most recent college admissions and testing scandal. Frankly, it rubs against the fabric of what Summit stands for and who we are. The cast of characters described by the media does not reflect the incredible people we work with on a daily basis. As I wrote in 30 Years of Gratitude, we have the opportunity to connect with counselors, admissions officers, parents, and tutors, all with a common purpose – to give our students the skills they need to be successful in life. Collectively, they are a group of people with whom it is a privilege to work.

Unfortunately, however, whenever there is a competitive process with consequences, there will likely be cheating and impropriety. And college admissions is undoubtedly a competitive process.

A friend called me recently to ask my advice. His 8th grade daughter, Jenna, was selecting her classes for next year. She wanted to take a daunting set of advanced classes, some that were over her head. The fact that the courses were challenging didn’t concern him, though. What gave him pause was that Jenna felt that she needed to take these classes to “get into a good college.” Unfortunately, 8th graders fretting about college admissions is not unusual, particularly in middle-upper and upper-class suburbia.

My friend and his wife, like thousands of parents I’ve spoken to over the years, will experience various types of pressure and anxiety as they prepare to launch Jenna into adulthood and independence. It is not hard to see why a few parents go astray, but the parents I encounter every day not only want the best for their children, but they also have the backbone to do it the right way. They understand clearly what is best for their children.

Students are under too much pressure, and it is sad to me that Jenna is already stressed about getting into college. That topic is an important one but for a different day. She will, like the vast majority of our students, work diligently through the process with sincerity and earnestness. She will make some mistakes along the way, but she will not cheat. Most importantly, because she worked hard and struggled, she will feel like she earned her college acceptance, and she will learn the value of effort and persistence. The important qualities of grit and self-esteem will be developed.

Our students work hard when they prepare with us, but “beating the test” and “teaching tricks” are outdated and unproductive concepts. Our goal is to work with students to help them achieve scores that reflect their true abilities. Our tutors emphasize the underlying required skills: Do you understand parallel sentence structure? Can you interpret tone, inference, and purpose when reading? Can you identify an algebraic function that models a real-world situation? These are skills that help students do better on the test, in school, and beyond.

This particular scandal happened to garner a lot of media attention because of the high-profile individuals involved. Sadly, it isn’t the first nor will it likely be the last in the college admissions and testing worlds.

We are humbled that so many educators and families put their faith and trust in Summit to care for their students as they work through the college admissions testing process. There is no responsibility we take more seriously. We will continue to embrace integrity as one of the core values that guides us on a daily basis. We will continue to trust that we and our students will be successful by doing the right thing time and time again.


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This is an articulate and convincing statement of principle about a leak in the dike of credibility throughout higher education and related services and industries. We are fortunate to have spokespersons like this who help to heal the breach convincingly and correctly. Thanks.

Well said Charlie. Let hope that those who have gamed the system go down hard. Especially because the guilty have denied opportunity to those students who have worked so hard.