“Dozens of people have been arrested nationwide in what authorities are calling the largest college admissions scam ever, including 33 parents and a California businessman who allegedly collected $25 million in bribes to get students into some of the nation’s top colleges, federal prosecutors in Boston said.”
— The Boston Globe, 3/12/19
The more I read about this college-admissions scandal, the angrier I get. It’s greedy, immoral, and it taints the names of dozens of wonderful institutions who were the victims of a handful of bad-egg employees. What gets my goat most, though, is that this whole thing embodies the entitled attitude that kids today have. Back in my day, your mommy and daddy didn’t solve all your problems for you, and you definitely didn’t get a prize just for showing up. Just look at me: I didn’t have my parents ponying up half a million dollars for me to get into Yale, but I got admitted anyway thanks to initiative, know-how, resourcefulness, grit, and being the favorite grandson of America’s twenty-seventh president, William Howard Taft.
Part of the problem, I think, is that parents start giving their kids these false expectations about college as soon as they’re in pre-K. Trust me, it was very different when I was young: besides the occasional night of cocktails and intellectual repartee at Mory’s and seeing the Whiffenpoofs perform at a yacht-christening or two, college was the last thing on my mind. In fact, it wasn’t until my junior year at Exeter that I started thinking in earnest about my future plans, not because I didn’t care but because I knew I didn’t need to worry; I was confident that my intellect and Uncle Hulbert’s place in the Yale Corporation would win out in the end.
And when it came time to apply for schools, I wasn’t out there asking my parents for a handout! I studied my keister off for the SATs, and it took grit, dedication, and perseverance for me to get a perfect 800 on the Regattas/General Boating section. I threw out dozens of drafts of my personal essay before I hit the right balance between a muscular-yet-intimate narrative and mentioning which of my godfathers was currently serving as Secretary of War. I rehearsed my how-do-you-dos and handshakes for days before I invited my interviewer to Uncle Charles’ estate in Greenwich. And while my parents offered to put the admissions board in touch with Grandpa Willy on my behalf, I gave them a firm no; I would take responsibility for reminding our nation’s tenth Chief Justice to give the Yale admissions department a call, thank you very much.
Of course, not everyone was as scrupulous as I was, but the miscreants always got found out before anything could come of it. Take my one-time schoolyard chum, Horatio Roberts, for instance. Horatio’s forefathers were all Dartmouth men, but Horatio wanted to go to the University of Pennsylvania, so his parents offered to pay a great sum for his admission. That got Horatio blackballed from Penn, and the ruffian got his comeuppance by languishing in obscurity for seven years at Tufts. And good riddance! Back then, people understood that if you weren’t willing to study hard (or at least get your parents to go through the correct channels and bankroll a student center or institute for foreign affairs), you were better off just applying to the alma mater of your closest Mayflower descendant.
In the end, this whole scandal is about hubris, entitlement, and young people today just not being willing to play by the rules. Getting what you want isn’t a matter of whining to your parents until they cave; it’s about studying as hard as you can, showing people in power that you’ve got what it takes, and having a notable vice president, or at least one of the good secretaries of state, in your immediate family history. These special snowflakes and their overindulgent parents can either wallow in self-pity, or they can pick themselves up, grab a squash racket, and get to work.