The Unfair Truth About The College Admission Process

Many of you have heard about the recent college admission scandal which broke earlier this month labeled the “Varsity Blues” FBI Investigation. My heart was saddened to hear about wealthy individuals who felt the need to lie, cheat and steal their children’s way into specific colleges. All of this is to the detriment of many intelligent, talented and well qualified applicants. The corruption and deception being carried out by some of America’s most elite, self-serving individuals has rocked our faith in the college admission process. I want to address some of the bigger issues that are at the heart of this crisis.

Parents want their kids to have the best opportunities possible. To that end it is easy to get caught up in the hype and prestige of a specific college. That is why it is important that we address the elephant that has been in the room for several years now. I have watched this elephant get bigger and bigger year after year. What is that Elephant you ask? It is the competitive nature of college admissions and why we get fixated on college rankings.

It breaks my heart to know there are students who feel like their entire future has come crashing down around them if they are denied acceptance into a specific school.  They believe their chances of success have been derailed and there isn’t any hope they will ever achieve their dreams. How did this get to this point?  What can we as college admission experts do to change this?

I think it’s vital to emphasize that all the rumors you’ve heard and the articles you’ve read regarding college admissions is true. Acceptance into a top ranked university is extremely difficult. Many of these schools accept less than 8% of their applicants, while others have acceptance rates as low as 3%. Also, several openings at top state universities are designated as automatic acceptances for qualified in-state students. This makes the competition for those remaining positions even more competitive.

Studies are showing a progressively large number of students both in- and out-of-state being denied by their top choices. The crazy reality is that we have more high school students graduating with perfect GPAs and near perfect SAT/ACT scores than ever before. Also, many have also started businesses, non-profits, or participate in research projects many of us would love to do ourselves. Even with all of these incredible achievements on their applications, students are still being rejected.  

  • The number of high school graduates applying to college has increased dramatically, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 2018, 19.9 million students attended college, versus a mere 15.3 million in the year 2000. By the year 2027, it is projected that 20.5 million students will enroll in college.  
  • Students are applying to more colleges than ever before. They know that even if they apply “Early Admission” to their dream school, there is a chance they won’t be accepted. So, it only makes sense for them to apply to multiple colleges in hopes of being accepted to any college they would be happy attending. 
  • The belief that having a “big name” school on their resume can somehow ensure a student a job post-graduation, drives the admissions process. Sadly, this is not completely true. A college degree from any school translates to the job market and will only support their job application after they have proven their skill, experience, and drive in their field. The most unfortunate side to this false idea is the desire for bragging rights. Parents and students alike are guilty of this one. The euphoria of telling someone about yours or your child’s acceptance to an Ivy League school can be dangerously addicting.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am certainly in favor of getting a great education and having the opportunity to explore the world and your passions. Several of these top-ranked universities provide their students with a world-class education and experiences beyond anything that was available just a few years ago. Students who are able to meet the academic standards of a particular university should definitely apply. The issue arises when a parent or student is applying to a school for the wrong reasons. Every application season, we see highly qualified students gaining acceptance on their own merit as well as denials to these universities.


 There are multiple reasons why working with a college admissions expert is beneficial. When we discover that there are people cheating the system and taking spots away from deserving kids, it makes us angry and breaks our trust in the system. Unfortunately, there will always be people who think they are above the law.

As college admissions experts we have to ensure that we don’t let a few bad apples ruin opportunities for those who choose to do things the right way. There are a number of outstanding college admissions experts who are helping their students walk through the front doors of their dream schools, versus sneaking in through a side door. There are many innocent faculty members, counselors, coaches and administrators at these universities were are just as shocked as you were with the recent revelations. It is a flawed system, and those of us who are in the field are working to improve the process while guiding parents and teens through the process.I have been coaching students for several years and this generation deals with more pressure to succeed than any that have preceded them. The things they are able to achieve, the technology that is at their fingertips, and the tragedies they see happening all around them have a profound effect. They feel the full weight of the pressure to succeed. I strive to help teens find their passions. What makes them tick? What natural abilities and talents do they have, and how can they be used to further their college experience, education, career, and their life as a whole?

If you are the parent of a college-bound high schooler, my best advice is to take a step back, breathe, and trust that your teen will find an amazing school where they will thrive. Start early and plan ahead, a well-thought plan is more likely to be successful.