It has been some weeks since the Department of Justice announced their case against a growing list of individuals and families who cheated in the college admissions process. To recap, these individuals paid to have others take their students’ standardized tests to get higher scores, or to have their student identified as an athletic recruit when in most cases they didn’t even play the sport in high school. The latter resulted in the student applicant being ‘tagged’ so admissions officers would apply a lower standard when evaluating their application.

Coaches at well-known colleges and universities like Stanford, UCLA, USC, and Georgetown accepted bribes to ‘tag’ and in many instances roster the student on the team over the course of their time at the school. The mastermind, Rick Singer, the coaches and the parent(s) of the students face criminal charges as a result of their actions. Many have already plead guilty and await their punishment.

Admission by exception is a phenomenon that has always existed at the top tier colleges and universities. The sons/daughters of alumni, large donors, and the children of celebrities or dignitaries get favored treatment during admissions, with the simple goal of improving the institutions’ image and ongoing/future funding of their endowments. The rationalization for admission by exception is that low income, minority and first generation students get to attend who otherwise couldn’t without available financial assistance. Endowments also fund many other academic activities at these institutions. Similarly, recruited athletes for sports programs also serve as a revenue stream for the college or university.

Given their dependence on these source of income, a large number of smaller, rural and lesser known colleges, and larger institutions with bloated administrative costs that have increased year over year, will be reticent to make major changes in what has been an accepted practice. However, there are proposals being advanced (and bills presented in some states) to address the activities related to testing, athletic recruiting and the current admissions process applied to most students.

Actions include:

  • Athletic recruitment will include 3rd parties, outside of just the specific sports coaching staff, to verify a student’s athletic participation.
  • The admissions process will shift greater weight to character traits that demonstrate grit, community involvement, and indicators of a strong EQ (emotional quotient).
  • Independent admissions counselors will be subject to stronger regulation, certification and licensing requirements, as well as stronger peer review.
  • Standardized test companies will implement more stringent identity verification.

The importance of a counselor’s, teachers’, employer’s or coach’s letters of recommendation that speak to time spent, dedication, attitude and a student’s commitment to a sport or outside activity will take on greater weight in the admissions process. A student’s personal essay that points to how their hours of dedication has resulted in a particular outcome will be examined with greater care to determine who this student is apart from grades and test scores.

Being able to produce an account and digital evidence of your student’s growth through high school, their  participation in sports, and other extracurricular activities will serve as a instrument for both your student and key stakeholders to understand why accepting this person is the right choice for their institution.