The US College admissions scandal and what this means for you?

Written By Theodore Chow

Advice directly from the FE counsellors and how this scandal affects future US college applications.

Screenshot 2019-05-23 at 7.04.27 PM.png

With college admission season quickly approaching, students are constantly getting asked this question: Where do you want to go for university? This is a question that every high school student needs to answer, sooner rather than later. For some of us, the answer to this question comes easily, but to others not so much. Some of us wish to study abroad to Europe, Australia, the United States, while others may wish to stay in Hong Kong. For those wishing to attend college in the US, read on...

The year 2019 started with the Harvard admissions case. This reputable school is accused of systematically discriminating against Asian-American students by holding them to a higher standard than other applicants. Harvard defends that they only consider race as a factor in order to expand opportunities for underrepresented minority students.

Shortly thereafter, the US college admissions scandal shook the world as it was discovered that Stanford, Yale, Georgetown and other prestigious universities were involved in what is known as “the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.”

Fifty people, including parents, athletic coaches, and standardized test administrators were accused of paying millions of dollars worth of bribes to get their children admitted to colleges. This included falsified standardized test scores and fabricated athletic abilities.

No students have been charged as most were unaware of their parent’s actions, but universities like the University of Southern Carolina have warned that they may penalize students involved in the scheme. Those involved, including parents, on the other hand, are not so lucky and may face jail time in addition to public humiliation. Coaches are also facing consequences. Stanford, in particular, has fired its sailing coach, as did UCLA with its soccer coach.

The “worst part,” as articulated by RCHK Further Education counsellor, Martha DeVries, is that “America is viewed as a place where everyone has a fair chance. We've always known that legacy, donations, and connections have played a role in the admissions process, but this scandal really makes it seems like the system is rigged in favour of the rich.”

What does this mean for RCHK students wishing to apply to the US for university? If you’re thinking of applying to the US, it is important to note that as a result of this scandal, universities have now set up systems to verify the authenticity of your achievements. Hence, one must be truthful, honest and genuine when submitting an application.

Although many students will seek assistance in preparing for standardized testing, writing essays, and filling out application forms, they are welcome to seek guidance from teachers, parents and other qualified advisors. However, universities take the veracity and integrity of applications very seriously.

In spite of these allegations, high achieving RCHK students, like Richard Cheung, are still “determined to apply”, citing how prestigious universities open the doors to various research and internship opportunities in the future.

In terms of universities having higher standards for Asian applicants, while this is yet to be verified, Further Education counsellor Suman Sachdev believes that this scandal has “levelled the playing field.” She remarks that “colleges will, in all likelihood, scrutinize applications more thoroughly and more questions will be asked of counsellors to verify information.”

Despite this, admissions to top US colleges will still be competitive, but falsifying information and cheating is not the way to go. Sachdev notes that “if you have a dream college and don't get there immediately, don't lose faith or heart. Study hard, get outstanding grades and go to 'the dream' for your post-graduate degree.”

At the end of the day, the advice to take away is that students and parents must “realise that the name of the university is not as important as the quality and integrity of the university.” There are many quality US colleges other than Ivy Leagues to choose from. Parents and students are advised to focus on students’ long term career plans because college is not a final destination but merely a stepping stone.