Like many people I talk to inside and outside higher education, I have been obsessed with the college admissions scandal that has gripped the nation’s attention for the past week. For the past decade I have been dedicated to raising money in order to provide deserving students an opportunity to change their lives with a college education. The wide-spread scheme organized by William “Rick” Singer violates the trust of every hard-working college applicant and perpetuates a cynical view that all higher education admissions systems are rigged in favor of wealthy applicants even in an era of an increasing number of schools adopting need-blind admissions policies. This past November, Michael Bloomberg gave $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University to allow them to implement a need-blind admissions policy, saying
America is at its best when we reward people based on the quality of their work, not the size of their pocketbook.
This is what I believe with every fiber of my being and why I love what I do for a living. As a higher education professional, I have been incredibly disappointed by the actions of Mr. Singer and his conspirators.
But as a parent, I am even more appalled. What this scandal truly highlights is the value our society places on status and achievement – regardless of the cost. This is a large network of parents who set aside all ethical behavior in the pursuit of a prestigious brand. But what I am really struggling to wrap my head around is: who were they doing this for? Lori Loughlin’s daughter, Olivia Jade, has made several public statements saying that she didn’t care about going to college. Prior to the admissions scandal, she was a prominent social media influencer who had promotional partnerships with Sephora, TRESemme and Amazon – she hardly seemed to need to go to college. So why did her parents pay half a million dollars to have her listed as a recruit on the crew team to facilitate her admission to USC? My guess is it is because it is what they wanted.
Too often I hear stories of parents pushing their children to do something they wish they had been able to do as children. In order to re-write their own histories? Maybe. To brag about on social media? Probably. But I think it’s important that we ask ourselves what impact parental pressure plays in a child’s life. We used to have helicopter parents, then hovercraft parents and now we have bulldozer parents who push their children from behind, making decisions for them and never allowing them to fail, resulting in emotionally fragile children.
Maybe it’s time for us as parents to put our phones down, back away from the Joneses picture-perfect Instagram feed and think about the motives behind what we want for our children before we run them over along with our moral compass in the pursuit of “the best.”