‘Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal’ exposes a deeper meaning in the chaos

Netflix's new documentary shows there is more pride in achieving honestly than taking a side door.

By Dominique Hodge

Picture this: You have dedicated your high school career to getting a perfect GPA and took 3 years of AP classes in hopes that you will make it to an Ivy League university. You have dreamed of going to an Ivy League school, and did everything you could to have a fighting chance in a university that accepts only 10% of applicants. Yet, you receive a rejection letter telling you that you were not Ivy League material.

“Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal” reminds us of the way the rich and famous took the “side-door approach” to cheat deserving applicants and the U.S. University system.

The Netflix documentary is intelligent and effective in the way it compiles news clips, re-enactments and testimonies from individuals involved and educational professionals to demonstrate the lengths of the tumultuous scam. The timing of its release could not be more perfect than now as current high school seniors are making their college decisions.

The documentary opens with live reactions of students opening their admission letters — a pivotal moment in their lives. The emotion in both getting accepted and denied demonstrates what it means for teenagers to get into college nowadays. The anxiety and pressure that is placed on their shoulders is the perfect opening to unveiling this network of corruption created by Rick Singer.

Rick Singer is the charismatic mastermind who uses his knowledge about admissions processes and connections with athletic coaches to create this scheme. He is portrayed as a dedicated and effective business man who is willing to go the distance to make his business plan work. On top of this, he used to tutor kids on their SATs and learned how to negotiate with and reassure worried parents.

These aspects communicated through the documentary are necessary to know when it comes to the creation of the “side door approach.”

The process begins with parents giving Singer money based off of the guarantee that he can get their kids into the prestigious university of their choice, all under the guise of their kids being athletically gifted. Singer starts to contact his inside connections at highly sought-after universities and tells them to keep an eye out for those students. Singer, the parents and athletic directors and coaches ultimately collaborate to make a kid seem like a competitive applicant.

Singer uses doctored photos, lies about spots in athletic teams and gets SAT/ACT proctors to give the student the desired score. Money from the families eventually distribute to everyone involved and all kids are welcomed into the university of choice. Everybody gets something out of the deal, even if it means lying to universities, cheating the system and stealing opportunities from students who took the honest way.

The documentary has a great narration of the entire story with re-enactments of phone calls, testimonies and expert breakdowns to explain the exposure of the scheme. With the “side door approach” brought to attention and beloved celebrities facing prosecution, it all made for a disaster.

The documentary brings to light the deeper meaning of this chaos with the stigma that going to an exceptional college sets you above everyone else. Do not let admittance into a university or rejections determine your value — that is how they profit. Not going to college is an option, too, and going is no promise of success.

This scheme provides a testimony to the average, stressed college student when they say, “college is a scam.” Test proctors, athletic directors and coaches were willing to collectively open a door for a handful of rich kids out of greed. There was no guarantee these kids would succeed afterwards, but the status that comes with being accepted to these prestigious schools was good enough.

The respect for impressionable, aspiring students throughout this documentary makes it a good watch. The documentary emphasizes that college should not define who the students are, and every time these people succeed in admittance during the documentary, there is someone to say, “I bet they did not think about this,” or “I bet their kids would have liked to have achieved that on their own.”

To hear educational professionals actively say that kids are being too hard on themselves and acceptance should not define them is a boost of reassurance to the impressionable and aspiring who are watching.

“Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal” gives the target audience a pat on the back for being brave.

Edited by Chloe Konrad | ckonrad@themaneater.com

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