Like many, I read today the news today of Operation Varsity Blues, a federal probe into a college admissions cheating scandal that ensnared many wealthy elites, from Hollywood actresses to the co-chair of a large law firm to business leaders.
“This is a case where they flaunted their wealth, sparing no expense, to cheat the system and set their children up for success with the best education money could buy — literally,” Joseph Bonavolonta, the FBI special agent in charge, said.
My daughter is a high school junior. She took the SAT on Saturday, has plans to attend a college fair on Monday and visit schools over spring break – in short, she’s in the thick of the college admissions
rat race process. In the wake of a scandal The New York Times describes the case as “stunning in its breadth and audacity,” I wanted to tell my teen what matters most to me as her mom. (Spoiler alert: It’s not the name of the school she attends.)
Earlier today, federal prosecutors indicted dozens of people because they allegedly lied and cheated in an effort to get their children into elite colleges. These wealthy moms and dads paid money to individuals to change their child’s SAT answers or take the test for them, paid money to recruiters to designate kids as athletes when they were not, and various other acts of deception.
We both know that I have neither the money and the knowledge of how to (or who could) rig the college admissions system for you, but even if I did, I would not do it.
I want you to know that I believe in you.
Whatever grades and SAT score you earn will be just fine. That’s because you are enough – exactly as you are, right now.
You are an amazing kid and you consistently make me proud.
Your future is ridiculously bright, regardless of what college you attend. I beg of you to remember Frank Bruni’s wise words (and book title): Where you go is not who you’ll be.
You are the one who decides who you’ll be, not an admissions committee or a standardized test or a transcript.
The big decisions you’ll make, including about where to go to school, definitely have an impact. However, it’s the many small decisions that you make every single day – including the times you opt to be truthful, hardworking, and kind – that determine who you are and who you will be.
I am confident that you will land at a university that recognizes both your present gifts and your future potential. I am also confident that you will do so honestly and legally and, sweet child, that’s so very important.
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