A Student’s Opinion on Admissions Scandal
By Gillian Brassil
Special to Media News Group
What is buying your child’s way into college? I used to think it was purely offering large donations to research centers, having specialists collaborate on admissions essays or paying obscene amounts of money for SAT tutoring. Deep down, I knew there were closed-curtain deals in which wealthy parents increased the odds of their child’s admission at a top school: life is a series of business transactions. I’m sure many were not surprised to hear about the ongoing prosecution of families tied to the largest publicized college admissions bribery scandal that the United States has seen.
As a Stanford student, I’ve watched plenty of talented students rise and fall on financial issues. That these wealthy parents didn’t understand that their children were not already at an advantage for getting into top universities is beyond me.
I’m blessed to be at Stanford, but getting here was not easy. Although my family lives in the comfortable town of Andover -- and I’m more than grateful for the opportunities that have come my way as a result -- I could not afford any tuition at Stanford. We are a modest family: my mother worked two jobs to pay her way through law school while pregnant with me and my father is a retired firefighter; we hover just above the lower end of the middle class.
In high school, my family sacrificed togetherness so I could train with one of the best synchronized swimming teams in the country. That training landed me on a few U.S. National Teams and helped me get recruited to Stanford. I trained at least 30 hours a week, up to 8 hours a day. I did my homework in the library during lunch; I went to the pool on my own when I didn’t have practice.
It was not easy balancing school and training under the weight of letting my family, friends and coaches down. Synchronized swimming was something I loved, so the countless hours didn’t feel like work, but my parents lived apart for nearly four years and my coaches trained me for innumerable hours to help me achieve my dreams. The fear of letting them down sometimes made me want to drown.
The sacrifices these people made, coupled with my work ethic, got me into Stanford. Despite this, there are times when I feel like I don’t deserve to be here. I see kids who are the first in their family to go to college, kids who work to pay their way through school: these students are the true heroes of universities. This isn’t to say that students from wealthier families don’t deserve to be here, but it is significantly harder for kids who have not had parents teach them about the college application process or pay for their education. Discrimination against students who are not as well-off has been going on for years: schools are businesses, they need to keep their doors open.
My family sacrificed so much for me to get here; these families could have afforded the best training, tutoring and education for their kids easily -- a clear boost in the admissions game. I pity the children of these parents: most of them had no idea about the deals with William Rick Singer, operator of the faux Key Worldwide Foundation, and the scandal will hurt them in the long run. They will be haunted forever not only by the admonition tied to their name.
Still, these kids are not the worst-off: they were going to a decent college no matter what; their parents could afford it. Think about all of the kids who couldn’t dream of attending any university and are now further discouraged by the thought that they need to be able to pay more than the school asks for in tuition. Think about athletes who sacrificed their childhood to make a better life for themselves, but lost their spot to “players” who never touched a paddle or ball. Think about the diligent students who thought they could bring their families out of poverty by attending a prestigious university, but weren’t admitted, in part, because of a rigged admissions process.
The uphill battle that first-generation, low-income students endure for higher education is steep enough against individuals who promise to pay the university the entire cost of an education, let alone affluent families who promise more.
Gillian Brassil, a native of Andover, will be graduating in Stanford University’s Class of 2019. She is an editor at the Stanford Daily, and a former intern at The Sun of Lowell.