The Dirty Open Secret of College Admissions

Helene Berkowitz
3 min readMar 14, 2019


Secret phone calls, clandestine meetings, wads of money changing hands…you’d think you were watching a James Bond movie.

But no, we’re talking about the recent so-called “scandal” of college admissions bribery. While 50 people were involved in the $25 million scheme, the 2 celebrities involved have become the face of the scandal.

Felicity Huffman (of Desperate Housewives fame) and Lori Loughlin (known for her Full House role) paid $15,000 and $500,000, respectively, to have their children flagged as athletic recruits or fake their SAT scores.

Other, lesser-known people paid large sums of money to bribe therapists to claim that their children needed more time for testing. A number of third-party individuals took courses in the students’ names and created fake photos showing participation in sports to convince universities they were eligible for college sports programs.

But here’s the thing: while certainly unacceptable, unethical, and downright illegal, none of this is exactly news.

It’s a dirty little secret that isn’t such a secret.

Throughout history, the wealthy and the privileged have often bought their way into elite positions, corporations, political office, and — you got it! — universities.

Is it right? Hell no.

Is it a shock? Nope.

Anyone who says otherwise has their head buried in the sand. And by the word ‘anyone’, I include college officials. It’s ridiculous how many of them are suddenly in a state of shock. Come on, don’t act as if you knew nothing was going on.

How many 18-year old’s all have near-perfect grades, volunteer, run businesses, excel in sports, travel to Africa to help the poor, and are just so perfect in every aspect of their lives? They claim these types of activities so they can appear above-average and get accepted into Ivy League universities.

While many students legitimately are involved in amazing opportunities, it isn’t every other kid. Please, let’s be real. And the sad thing is that this college cheating scandal makes it even more difficult for authentically above-average students to get into great colleges.

There is a lot of money at stake here, but please, let’s not be so naive. Just Google the phrase “paid courses for college admissions” and you’ll discover a plethora of paid services designed to get kids accepted into prestigious universities. And what of the parents who can’t afford this? Their kids must work their butts off to get grants and scholarships and hope for the best.

In my own high school, there were rumors that certain parents donated money to the administration to get their kids chosen for valedictorian. Money changes hands and people get moved up the ladder of success. It’s unfair and wrong. Businesses talk about the important of transparency, but when it comes to college admissions practices, fairness and transparency fall to the wayside.

Maybe that will change now. Students claiming to excel at athletics or the arts may actually have to prove it. College admissions may revert back to skills-based acceptance.

Hopefully, this cheating scandal will force college admissions requirements to become an open, transparent, and fair process for all.



Helene Berkowitz

Helene Berkowitz is a Marketing professional and former startup founder with a passion for technology with a human component.