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  • Bethany Smeltzer

Top 3 Takeaways from the College Scandal

Updated: Apr 29, 2019


With everything going on these past few weeks with #OperationVarsityBlues #CollegeScandal, I have been trying to think about my reaction. Trust me when I say that there have been a few.


Of course, I feel saddened by my childhood figure, #AuntBecky, but it's deeper than that. It's not just about her. This is bigger than #LoriLoughlin and #FelicityHuffman.


The story, situation, is bigger than the scandal that #RickSinger caused. Most of society has been aware of #paytoplay, while I never thought it went this deep, there have always been stories of wealthy families that have donated money to schools in hopes that it would help their student's likelihood of being accepted into x college.


Here are my takeaways from this:

Forget the name of the school. I have worked side-by-side with people who have graduated from the University of San Francisco, junior colleges, trade schools, no school, the same school as myself, USC, etc. and sometimes I didn't even notice. The thing that mattered most was the effort they made to continue to learn on the job, in their industry, and about life. The only time the name of a school matters to my friends, and most of my family, is during athletic competitions.


One size does not fit all. This is the same for careers, colleges, and pants. College is an amazing experience, for some people, but so is taking other paths after high school. I have friends who graduated high school and then went into the military and from there trade schools or into the fire department. One of them is now a hotshot fireman and the other tests equipment for cabin pressure. My brother's neighbor is a skilled carpenter who is highly successful and sought after but didn't go to college. That same brother went to college and studied philosophy, yet he is a very successful computer programmer. He just wanted to learn and study something challenging.


However, this does not mean that without some education you will find success. I know people that I graduated high school with (2006) that are still at the same high school job, making the same amount that they did back then. You have to be willing to educate and push yourself in someway.


You are responsible. This is for parents, students, and the admissions department. Let's start with the parents, since they are at the front of this scandal.


Parents: Stop living through your children. You had your moment and still do. If you wish you had gone to x college, then apply there for yourself. Or you can take an online course so that you can say you attended x college. Throughout my education process, I have taken classes at:

* Saddleback Junior College

* Golden West Junior College

* Texas Tech University (correspondence course, before online courses)

* Vanguard University

* Biola University (where I graduated in 2010)


So if I ever wanted to puff my chest in regards to sports, especially with football and basketball, I could by saying I took a class at Tech. But I didn't graduate from there, I graduated from Biola.


Other than living your dreams through your child, the pressure that is on this generation is ridiculous. Remember when we went outside and played until the street lights turned off? Why doesn't your kid have that kind of life (if they do, that's amazing and rare)? Why are you talking about college strategy and planning in junior high or even in elementary school? Yes, you can prepare and have a strategy but don't use the word college. Stop making fun things like building tinker toys, robotics, spelling bees, mathematics, sports, etc. so serious or just about getting into college. You will take that joy away from them.


Students: So this whole scandal had two groups of students - those in on it (the #OliviaJade group) and those that were clueless. The two actually go hand-in-hand. Sounds weird right?

The difference is that in one group the students were accomplices and in the other they weren't but both students allowed their parents to have 100% control over their applications.


So how do you, as a student, take responsibility? Take control of your applications.


If you think false information was submitted by your parents, own it and call the school's admissions office. But what about the students in this case that were clueless and had no idea about what was happening?


Some of this, you, the student, just can't really know. So I'm going to try to help you avoid potential situations. These steps are true if you have a trained and ethical educational consultant (like Get Ahead of the Curve) or looking at schools on your own. 1. List of colleges -> don't just accept a list of schools, even from a professional like myself. My students are given what I believe to be their best fit schools then they research them. They then tell me their thoughts on each school and we eliminate schools (or add based on their ideal schools) from the list.

2. Research -> during your research, you will see if a school has SAT/ ACT requirements and what are the average scores. Typically when looking up a school, it's on the second or third link down on a search engine. Try it, type in: school name + SAT requirements

3. If you don't study/ practice for the SAT/ACT, your score will (on average) barely shift up or down. A study showed that most students that retook that SAT gained 40 points and 4% gained 100 points. Of course, there are times when it goes higher due to special circumstances.

4. Do not let anyone have 100% control over you applications and submissions. For example: My students are required to submit all of their own applications and meet all of their deadlines on their own. I don't even see the applications that they fill out (unless there are specific questions), only the essays and supplemental essays.


Hurt has happened between the parents, students, and the admissions department. So what now when it comes to admissions?


Admissions: Where were you before this became a "scandal"? So many of us have been familiar with "pay to play" and donation scandals but to allow it to get to this level (and this one example)?


Why was no one following up with on the "athletic" applications and talking to "coaches"? Why were there no discrepancies in regards to GPAs and test scores?


Schools are now making changes in regards to donations and athletics but this has been a topic of conversation for years. So why has it taken so long to make changes?


How this affects you?


Moving forward, if your student needs accommodations for the SAT/ ACT, unfortunately, it may be more difficult for you do to now. Due to the scandal, your student may have to fight for their right to have their accommodations.


Schools are considering having students put on their applications whether they hired someone or not to help them. It's unknown if this could affect the student or not in the admissions process.


Summary


At the end of the day, this scandal changed the entire educational system. It has opened eyes to how things were done behind closed doors and hopefully opened opportunities to students who deserved it!


It has also caused distrust. Distrust in the admissions process and potentially in those of us who work as IECs. So as an IEC, if you want to hire someone like myself, know who you are working with.


When you meet with me for the first time, it's a two way street: we both have to be comfortable with each other. I lay out my expectations for parents and students, you both have roles to play. I do not do 100% of the work and never guarantee any outcome. Depending on what I am hired for, I will give your student resources but the student has to make a commitment to follow through. I won't apply for scholarships on their behalf, but I will give information and links to them! I won't write their essays but I will edit them (well, my amazing team will). And I won't submit their applications. If your student wants to go to college, it's up to them to follow through and hit send on all of their applications. I will remind them of their deadlines though!


So remember: the name of the school doesn't matter, one size doesn't fit all, and you are responsible!