You may have seen recent news about a vast college admission scandal in the United States. Charges included such things as bribery, conspiracy, cheating, fraud, etc. and involved a wide range of people at several colleges, but also parents.

I could not help but think about how these kinds of shocking and illegal attempts to game the college admission system could be possible, and why they even happen.

Maybe you have wondered: Can you game the system?

The answer: Yes. In a way, you can.

Admittedly, that is a little bit sad. But, yes, aside from clearly illegal ways, people seem to always find other unsavory methods to gain an unfair advantage.

However, there are also a lot of myths about supposedly easy ways that people “think” are shortcuts. Their information is entirely inaccurate. Dangerous because they can lead to dire consequences.

Some of these myths are:

Myth #1: Money Can Buy Your Way into College

As the recent admission scandal proves, attempts to use money to influence admission decisions have happened. And, I am sure, some have succeeded.

However, there exists a considerable misunderstanding about making donations to gain an advantage in college admissions. Many people do not realize what size of contribution would have to be involved. They may think that a gift of several thousand dollars, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, would somehow get them benefits, attention, or credit with the admission office.

That is just not true.

The fact is, at most colleges and universities, there is a firewall between the admission office and the development office (which is responsible for fundraising and donations). These security measures prevent the fundraising staff from directly calling the admission staff to let them know that a gift has been made or to strongarm them in any way.

Of course, I am not naive. As I said, it happens, and it can happen again.

It depends on the university. At some, this never happens. But where it may be possible, here is the only way it would happen:

  1. The sum of money donated would have to be so massive that it would shock most people. (We are talking about tens of millions of dollars, if not more.)
  2. The donation also likely has to include the prospect of more money coming in at future times.

In other words, the benefits for the university would have to be extraordinary before a donation would ever register in the admissions office.

Myth #2: Certain Majors Can Serve as Backdoors to Get into a College

Some majors, especially those that rely on a special talent, allow some admission offices to put less emphasis on more traditional factors such as grades and test scores. But to suggest that you can choose one of those “easier” majors without displaying exceptional talent and get into a college is not true.

Honestly, who would even think that such a major is “easier”? Unless you are magically blessed with a very particular talent, you would have to work very hard to develop the skills needed to keep up in such a specialized subject, such as music or other scholarship in a unique area.

In general, colleges maintain a neutral view of different majors. For example, a Biology major is not considered harder or easier than Physics, Philosophy, Psychology or English Literature. Regardless of what major a student chooses, there is a baseline standard of what colleges want to see in an incoming student. They want to be sure that if a student enters with one major and then changes that major soon after entering school (which is quite common), they are still qualified to be at that university, contribute, and learn.

Myth #3: Cheating on Exams or Standardized Test Is Not a Big Deal

Cheating can happen. Every year, I read news reports about cheating on college admission testing. I know that SAT and ACT leaders work hard to stop these problems by continually updating policy and procedure to close loopholes. As a result, cheating on standardized tests is extraordinarily rare.

If you find yourself tempted to consider cheating on an exam or in your application in any way, you must know this about the world of academia: Honesty is one of the primary values, above and beyond almost every other virtue.

What this means is that academic integrity—being honest about your academic record, even if it is bad—is more critical than most people realize. Academic careers can be ruined by professors misreporting research results, even just a little.

Cheating in higher education brings severe and long-term consequences with it. It is a risk you should not take because the consequences of getting caught are extreme.

For instance, if you lie on your admission paperwork, you will not be admitted. If your college discovers you falsified anything in your application after enrolling, you will get kicked out, even if you are a great student or are close to graduation. If you try to transfer to another college, it will say on your transcript that you were dismissed for academic integrity issues. This will make it highly unlikely that they will consider admitting you.

What is likely is that your college career will be over, forever.

I am an experienced Independent Educational Consultant. And while I will not help you game the system, I would like to help you make the college admission process as worry-free as possible. Please, contact me if you are ready for professional and reliable guidance and support.