Reflections on Operation Varsity Blues

I am writing this blog after taking time to ponder the events surrounding "Operation Varsity Blues." The college admissions scandal left me feeling disheartened and angry. Many parents phoned, or sent text messages or emails to me to express their similar feelings. As a friend of mine said, "These schemes undercut the legitimacy of achievement in higher education. It is appalling to all who have dedicated their lives to the cherished idea of education as the great equalizer." 

I have been a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), my governing organization, for sixteen years. I take pride in adhering to the organization's Ethical Standards and Principles of Good Practice. My goal is to guide each of your children through a journey of self-exploration that will lead them toward colleges/universities that best match their academic, extracurricular, social and emotional needs. I guide them as they complete their own applications/essays in a way that authentically represents their academic work and personal growth. I firmly believe that student's end up in the college/university that is right for them. College decisions continue to be released throughout the month of March and into early April. Highly selective summer program acceptance letters, as well as the names of competitive contest winners, are also being released. Parents, please keep in mind that your reaction to your son or daughter's acceptance/rejection will determine how well they can adapt to disappointment. Life is not always fair, but love never ends.

Although the sense of entitlement involved in this scheme is deeply disturbing and obvious, it gives each of us reason to question why admission to brand name colleges has become such an obsession-an obsession that is affecting the mental and physical health of students and apparently parents. Let's work together to achieve less stress with more honest success. We are our children's role models and they look to us for direction and approval. Please call me if I can be of further assistance. 

Printed below is IECA's response to this week's events. 

The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and its members are committed to helping families find the most appropriate college for their students and assist families in navigating the application process. Following a comprehensive code of ethics, IECA members are professionals who understand and adhere to high ethical standards in all their interactions with clients and institutions and are compensated by and work exclusively on behalf of their client families.

In response to the breaking news of an FBI probe and Justice Department charges for 50 people— college officials from elite institutions, wealthy parents, coaches, and others—in a long-running admissions bribery scheme, IECA CEO Mark Sklarow said, “The charges presented today exemplify the intense anxiety that even some wealthy parents feel about their children being admitted to their preferred colleges.”

Parents and students should keep the following advice in mind as they begin their college search.

• The college search and application process should be a fun and exciting time for students and their families. If anyone in any setting is exerting pressure or causing undue anxiety and pressure, be cautious. If you are told someone has “inside” information, can pull strings, provide shortcuts to admission, or give you a special advantage (for a fee or otherwise), you are being misled.

• There are many great postsecondary options for every student, and no student should be made to feel that they must become something they are not to get accepted. The “best” school is the school that fits a student academically, socially, and financially. Being and presenting one’s authentic self and demonstrating one’s own talents and abilities is a way of ensuring the right college fit. This is central to what an ethical independent educational consultant does.

• The vast majority of admissions counselors, school counselors, and IECs are ethical and compassionate professionals who dedicate their careers to advising students and families.

If you decide to seek help with the college search and application process outside of the school setting, ensure that you hire someone who is a member of a professional organization, such as IECA or NACAC, that requires them to abide by the highest ethical standards. A fully vetted independent educational consultant (IEC) will be solely concerned about an individual student’s well-being and helping to gain admission to a school where they will thrive and succeed on their own merits.