Hard work pays off, but money does too

Online Managing Editor Sophie Stephens ’19 writes about news that broke this week of a bribery scheme celebrities and other prominent figures took part in to help their children get accepted into esteemed colleges.

One of the most cliché pieces of advice we’ve all heard growing up is that hard work pays off. For the most part, this has proven to be true. Take the “miracle stories” of people working their way from the lower-class to making millions because of their dedication and ability to push themselves towards chasing their dreams, or the other classic rags-to-riches stories of how dedication and perseverance has brought someone to achieve their biggest goals.

But for some people, hard work falls second on their list of ways to get what they want. Hard work isn’t the obvious or go-to way to achieve all of their goals—privilege is.

The recent news that actress Lori Loughlin paid $500,000 to get her daughter accepted into the University of Southern California (USC) is just one case of where privileged students use what has been given to them to get ahead, instead of using their own achievement.

The college admissions process has enough leeway to allow a student to get accepted into an acclaimed institution without being able to prove they belong there based on academics, extracurriculars or even a desire to perform well in school and utilize the opportunities provided by such colleges. This is completely unfair to students that spend years proving through hard work that they belong at an esteemed college.

Think about the hundreds of students that apply to their top-choice school only to be rejected at the end of the process despite being perfectly qualified. Imagine being that student who checked all of the boxes off of a prestigious college’s list of qualifications to ultimately be rejected because there “wasn’t room” in the incoming freshman class. And then to realize that someone richer got in with below-par academics and/or standardized test scores belittles students and makes them feel ultimately unworthy of higher education despite being a perfect candidate.

Why is their dedication and hard work not “paying off” for them? Because they can’t pay up.”

College is something that some people work towards for years. They craft the best extracurricular list, resume, GPA and the test score, just to find out that it still might not be enough. Why is their dedication and hard work not “paying off” for them? Because they can’t pay up. Because a child that is privileged enough to grow up in a home that makes millions of dollars in a year can pay their way into a school not with merits and with work but the easier way: money and deceit.

A student that can scrape by simply on their parents hard work does not deserve the right to take away a spot at a top college. These students are paying for a college education they didn’t deserve, and they are attending these schools not because they appreciated the academic and career opportunities but “for fun.”

An even bigger problem, think about the students who have to decline an acceptance to such an prestigious college simply because they can’t afford tuition or didn’t get the athletic scholarship they thought they would. A student could be 10 times more qualified than those that pay their way into college but will end up going to a different school simply because they can’t afford tuition, which also means they can’t afford to fight for a place at that school when they aren’t accepted.

A student that can scrape by simply on their parents hard work does not deserve the right to take away a spot at a top college.”

This investigation also breeds a different question: are these schools well-known because of their cost and difficult admissions process, or are these schools truly held to a higher academic standard and educational integrity? Do the students paying their way into college even want to go to these schools for education, or are they attending at the request of their parents and throwing away an opportunity a more qualified candidate would have taken advantage of?

These schools are well known, and often when they appear on a student’s college list it is their end-all-be-all school. Admittance to schools like Yale, Harvard, Vanderbilt or USC could determine, for the student themselves, their academic ability and, more often than not, their self-worth.

The college admissions process has always been somewhat unfair and unpredictable. Take legacy students, for example, who are admitted to a school easier because their parents attended that college. But paying your way into a school discredits the amount of dedication and hard-work that the majority of college applicants spend years of their lives acquiring.

It’s unfair that a student can go through high school without caring about grades or attendance or planning for college and still get into a college that has an acceptance rate so low that qualified applicants are rejected.

Also, take affirmative action plans. Families complain that minority students are accepted only because of their race, not their qualifications they have worked on for years. When affirmative action is considered, minority students are blamed for “taking spots” of other qualified students. Why are affirmative action students blamed for being accepted to a school on merit when rich students can pay their way into these schools without work?

The truth is, the possibility that students from privileged lifestyles can put minimal effort into high school and still get into schools over the qualified and dedicated applicants is exactly why elitism exists in schools with high academic standards. This is an issue of using money and other privileges to get top outcomes for college without any work, when there are applicants that are working towards a college for years that could be “beat out” by students that aren’t as qualified or dedicated. This isn’t a new issue in the college admissions system, but it’s time to realize that it affects more than just the privileged students and the name of the esteemed colleges.