The College Admission Scandal


Jordan Gere

Netflix recently released its own original documentary covering the infamous college admissions scandal. In March 2019, the United States Federal Prosecutors uncovered their investigation and charges into a conspiracy known as Operation Varsity Blues. The center of this case focused on a man named Rick Singer, who was a private college advisor. Extremely wealthy families hired him to help get their children into elite universities. These families wanted a guaranteed admission for their children without having the grades or credentials to get in. Rick Singer used what he called a “side door” to get these wealthy children into whatever college they wanted.

The side door is getting these kids in as athletes. The parent would donate a large amount of money to the foundation Singer set up which helped get kids into colleges. Singer would then donate this money to an athletic director or coach at the school of the family’s choosing. This money would then be accepted by the athletic program or coach who would then present an athletic resume to other admission advisors. Once cleared, the child was accepted into the school based on an athletic circumstance regardless if the child played the sport or not.

Singer did hundreds of these side doors, building relationships with almost all the elite colleges throughout the country. His method worked because it allowed a guaranteed admission for a fraction of the normal “back door” price. The back door method is when a family donates a large sum of money to the school for their child’s application to be “looked over again”, however this method requires many millions of dollars. The side door allowed for guaranteed admission for only a few hundred thousand dollars.

The families caught in this scandal include American Actress Lori Loughlin. Loughlin has appeared in many movies and hit TV shows, her daughters Bella and Olivia Giannulli got into USC for rowing despite never actually doing the sport. Olivia was a successful Youtuber whose career was essentially ruined over the scandal. This family is often seen as the face of the scandal just because they are the most famous, but other families include actress Felicity Huffman and author Jane Buckingham. 

Netflix’s recent documentary is a must-watch; it explains the whole scandal in detail and outlines how Singer was actually able to run his business. It also explains how Singer was caught and how all the families were brought down with him.