Moving on From Operation Varsity Blues

By now you’ve probably heard about the admissions scandal that put Aunt Becky and Lynette Scavo behind bars.  Here are Lindsay’s responses to a few of the questions she’s been frequently asked since the news broke:

How will this impact students with learning disabilities?

As parents of students with 504s/IEPs know, it’s already an arduous process to obtain the testing accommodations your student needs to excel.  Unfortunately, since the scandal involved wealthy families manipulating the system it may become even more stressful. We will have to wait and see what the long term impacts are, however; I would not be surprised to see high schools, colleges, CollegeBoard, and/or the ACT requiring families to jump through additional hoops before granting accommodations.

That being said, I don’t believe it will have as much of an impact on students who already have an up to date education plan, and supporting evaluations/documentation in place.  This should allow families to prove historical use of the accommodations the student is requesting, making their case stronger.

How will this impact student athletes?

I believe that student athletes will see the biggest changes come from this scandal.  It’s already been reported that certain schools will be adding additional checks & balances to their recruitment process, standardizing protocols, and/or completing annual audits of their athletes.  

How will this impact the educational consulting industry?

My hope is that the scandal causes the educational consulting industry to be better regulated.  Many educational consultants, including myself, are members of professional organizations such as IECA and NACAC.  These organizations essentially work to ensure that educational consultants are maintaining high standards. This includes visiting a certain amount of colleges per year, attending industry conferences & workshops, refusing bribes or kickbacks, and maintaining professional integrity - what I actually consider the basics of doing our job well.

It’s important to realize that Rick Singer, the “college coach” at the heart of the scandal, is not a member of any of these organizations. Right now, it’s voluntary for educational consultants to join these organizations. I would certainly not be against federal regulations requiring IECs to acquire a certificate or degree specifically in educational consulting and abide by specific ethical standards.  

If you’re considering working with an educational consultant, I recommend that you do your research to understand what educational consultants should (and should not) offer.  IECA has very helpful materials on this topic, such as “12 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Independent Educational Consultant” and “10 Important Ways IECA Members are Unlike Other Independent Educational Consultants.”

What can we learn from this scandal?

When I work with my students, we speak a lot about college fit.  For example, what size student body are they looking for? Urban or rural campus?  Greek life or no Greek life? While it takes students time to understand what their answers are to these questions, it’s worth the wait. Helping students find colleges that are a good match for them means I’m helping them find schools where they will flourish academically and socially.  

When I learned about this scandal, I was of course outraged by the families’ actions.  I was also saddened by how the name brand and reputation of the schools in question were so important that these people would lie and cheat to gain admittance.  While Stanford and Yale can be a great fit for some students, there are others that would truly do better at schools that may not offer the prestige but do offer the support, programs, and culture they need.