Varsity Blues and Disillusionment

By Diana Kerbeck

April 7th, 2021

  I recently finished the documentary ‘Operation Varsity Blues’ on Netflix. While I had read about the scandal when it happened, I had forgotten how truly disgusting it was. Wealthy parents all across this country were paying large sums of money to bribe a proctor to raise the score of their child’s SAT/ACT or creating a fake profile as a student-athlete to boost admissions chances to top universities. 

   The most famous example was actress Lori Loughlin. She paid over $500,000 to get her two daughters, including Youtuber Olivia Jade, into USC as part of the crew team despite neither of them being athletes or even wanting to attend college. The sentences the convicted parents served were shockingly short. The documentary makes obvious the two systems of justice in this country: the one for the wealthy and white, and the one for everyone else. Felicity Huffman had to serve only 14 days for bribing her child into university. This was compared to a case of a black homeless mother, Tanya McDowell, who had to serve five years for using someone else’s address so her child could attend a better public school. It’s so angering to see how many wealthy parents decided to cheat the system that already has so many legal advantages for them, such as access to expensive test prep, private college counselors, and donations to top universities. 

  As a senior who is currently receiving decisions from universities, the documentary really reminded me how deeply unfair the American higher education system is. So many of us go through such lengths to try to get into a top college. We fill our schedules with the hardest AP classes, spend our free time on as many extracurriculars as possible, and study for countless hours to better our standardized test scores. It makes me mad that I wasted so much of my pre-Covid high school experience doing all these things so that some greedy and corrupt institution would deem me worthy of giving them over $200,000. It doesn’t have to be like this; while I was looking to be an international student, I was shocked to find out how different other developed nations handle university.

   In the United Kingdom, the most prestigious schools are public universities, meaning they can offer low tuition because the government subsidizes it. Unlike most US schools, UK universities don’t prioritize accepting international students over domestic students. 

  Additionally, the UK version of the common app only allows you to apply to just five schools. All of this allows students to have a quicker and more straightforward admission process, a much better chance at getting into top universities, and low or nonexistent student debt upon graduation. In the end, despite all of these benefits, I chose to apply to school in the US. I wasn’t ready for the huge jump that was involved with attending a school in a foreign country, and I am privileged enough to afford US universities. However, I would urge any juniors, sophomores, or freshmen that are disillusioned with the college application process, to look into international schools. 

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