Rick Singer, a college admissions counselor, brags to his potential clients that he is able to get their kid into any college they want. He lists out many prestigious school names: Stanford, Harvard, USC, and Yale. He guarantees a spot in these schools through his “side door” method, if only their families can pay.
Based on a true story, the documentary “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal” follows the life of Singer and his various high profile clients. Through reenactments and interviews with those involved, viewers are able to piece together the full story of what happened.
Singer started off as an admissions counselor in Sacramento, California. He helped guide many students to go to their dream schools the old fashioned way. However, he soon figured out another way into these colleges, in which families could pay a few thousand dollars to guarantee their child’s admission into highly selective schools.
With his “side door” method, he bribed coaches at these schools to accept students under their roster, even though they lacked any athletic ability. As coaches lacked funding and sought donations, he manipulated them into accepting funds in exchange for spots on the roster. Many admissions officers trust coaches in athletic recruitment and don’t double check claims of athletic ability, admitting all recruits. Singer exploited this system to get his clients into the school of their dreams.
Singer also had another method of getting his clients into college. He told families to get their kids tested for a learning disability to get accomodations on the SAT or ACT. Additionally, he also had a fake test proctor, who changed answers to help Singer’s clients get a better score. The scheme ended when a coach that Singer worked with was investigated and Singer and his clients were exposed. Over 50 of his clients, including Lori Laughlin and Felicity Huffman, have since been sentenced to jail time or fines.
This documentary has helped me understand the extent of the college admissions scandal. It makes me upset that even though many of Singer’s clients could afford all the resources they needed to succeed, they still cheated the system.
I used to want to go to a school just because of its name, and not because of the programs or activities it had to offer. Watching the documentary has changed my perspective on my college search, and I think it is a great documentary for any students looking to go to college.
“You can get a great education [at] almost any place if you want it,” said Daniel Golden, a journalist who investigated the scheme.