Today’s show is my perspective on the college admission scandal that has been grabbing headlines across the US. At the center of the scandal is a Rick Singer, a former Canadian football League player who has more recently been in the speaking circuit and working as a college admissions consultant.

Fifty people, including 33 parents, were charged last month for their alleged roles in a scam by which California college-admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer said he helped get their children into selective schools either by creating fake athletic profiles and bribing coaches to list the students as recruited athletes, or boosting their ACT or SAT scores by having someone fix their wrong answers. 

Here’s the problem with the whole story. Who was really harmed by all of this? Some people say that the students who legitimately should have been accepted to these elite schools are the ones who were harmed. 

I have a different view. The parents who engaged in this deceit have hurt their own children. I believe that children learn by modelling the behaviour they witness. Rather than teach their kids to work for their accomplishments, the parents are leaving the field open for their kids to create several unhelpful interpretations.

  1. You can take a shortcut in life when things don’t work out the way you want them to.
  2. The parents don’t have faith in their child to succeed on their own. The kids could spend their entire lives thinking they’re a screw up and will never measure up.
  3. The optics of graduating from an elite school is more important to the parent’s ego than the substance of living a happy and fulfilled life. At that point the kids stop being human. They become an object for the purpose of satisfying the parent’s ego. 

There is so much about this story that is screwed up on so many levels. 

A university education is a valuable step in many people’s lives. But it’s not everything. In fact, numerous studies have shown that graduating near the top of the class from a smaller lesser known school results in better life outcomes than graduating in the bottom half of the class from an elite school. 

It comes down to reinforcing beliefs. If you are doing well in high-school, you might represent the top few percent in your class. When you get accepted at Harvard, you might be at the bottom of your class and still represent the top 0.1% of the global student population in terms of academic achievement. But if you spend 4 or 6 or 9 years at the bottom of your class, the message is you’re a screwup. When kids are in their formative years, developing self reinforcing patterns of high self esteem is incredibly important to constructive life outcomes. 

Let’s frame this story in a larger context. In 2017, Kessler international published a study based on a survey of 300 students.

The survey found:

  • 86 percent claimed they cheated in school.
  • 54 percent indicated that cheating was OK. Some said it it is necessary to stay competitive.
  • 97 percent of admitted cheaters say they have never been caught.
  • 76 percent copied word for word someone else’s assignments..
  • 12 percent indicated they would never cheat because of ethics.
  • 42 percent said they purchased custom term papers, essays and thesis online.

There is something wrong with our culture that places more emphasis on the appearance of credentials than the substance of actual education. The education is the real knowledge, wisdom, perspective, and resilience that comes from integrating experience gained on the journey of life.