For high school seniors, there is no time more harrowing than college admissions season. Years of grueling classwork and extracurriculars, all in preparation for a single envelope: accepted or rejected. Unfortunately, the most prestigious schools are highly competitive, examining every last detail, significant and insignificant, of a student’s application. Of course, hard work and ambition are not the only factors in play — “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal,” Chris Smith’s documentary about the 2019 college admissions scandal, investigates a far more heinous approach to achieving success.
Bribery is not an unfamiliar tactic in the world of college admissions, but Smith’s documentary examines one of the most elaborate and heartbreaking schemes to have ever been exposed. In 2019, the nation was shocked to hear news of privileged families, such as Lori Loughlin from “Full House,” involved in a large-scale conspiracy worth years in federal prison. The reason? Rick Singer, otherwise known as the keeper of the “back door.” The phrase was coined to explain Singer’s tactic: a fool-proof method for wealthy families where the “front door” — legitimate acceptance into the university — was no longer a viable option. Doctored sports photos, corrupted officials and false SAT results: Smith’s documentary explains it all.
The documentary chronicles the scandal with transcribed conversations between Singer, parents and coaches, which the F.B.I. used to convict involved parties. While listening to the many recorded conversations, the real perpetrator is the blatant inequity. Although universities have attempted to remedy economic and racial factors in acceptance, the 2019 scandal is yet another example of the top one-percent’s disregard of fairness. With tens of thousands of applicants and only a selective number chosen, many hardworking students were robbed of admission, for reasons outside their realm of control. Parents who paid for Singer’s services often kept their children blithely unaware, having their children believe they had been admitted on their own merit. Ultimately, the conspiracy was not only devastating for students who applied to prestigious universities but also the students whose parents were involved. “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal” is a must-watch.