The College Admissions Scandal Is a Teachable Moment

Mighty Mommy shares four ways to turn the Varsity Blues scandal into a useful tool and create the guiding principles for your family.

Cheryl Butler
8-minute read
Episode #525

By now, you’ve probably heard the appalling news story about the college admissions scandal that rocked the nation. While most of us with kids applying to college were coaching from the sidelines, a select group of folks tried other tactics.

Federal prosecutors charged 50 people, including Hollywood actresses, business leaders, and elite college coaches, in a blatant scheme to buy spots in the freshman classes at prominent American universities. Dozens of parents paid millions of dollars in bribes, test scores were inflated, essays were falsified and photographs were doctored.

Not surprisingly, students, parents, faculty, and admissions counselors across the country are weighing in with disgust, disappointment, sadness, and most of all—anger.  In the Los Angeles Times article, "College Admissions Scandal Shows How Desperate the Privileged Are to Keep it That Way,"a mother and former teacher from Oakland is so irate that she has already filed a half-trillion-dollar class-action lawsuit against the defendants, saying that their kids got into top schools but students like her son didn’t, “not because he failed to work and study hard enough but because wealthy individuals felt that it was OK to lie, cheat, steal and bribe their children’s way into a good college.”      

In The New York Times piece, "What Students Are Saying About the College Admissions Cheating Scandal," many students chimed in about how unfair this was to the hardworking, dedicated kids who work their butts off for a chance at being accepted to a top-notch college.

Instead of harping on how wrong this situation is, Mighty Mommy has four valuable lessons that will allow parents to make a teachable moment out of this public fiasco.

Student Ava Clause from Lakewood, Ohio had this to say, “College admissions are cutthroat for a reason. Only the best and brightest should be admitted into the elite of schools; however, it seems that in many cases, wealth, power, and status are prioritized. This unfair and unfortunate precedent is sending a message to the students of America. A message about the competitive and money-driven world we live in. A world in which hard word doesn’t always pay off, and there is no guarantee of success, especially when up against wealth. Is this the message we want to be sending to the students of our future?”

However, as you know, Mighty Mommy is all about making lemonade out of lemons. So instead of harping on how wrong this situation is, I have four valuable lessons that will allow parents to make a teachable moment out of this public fiasco. 

The Importance of Perseverance and Passion

The timing of this admissions scandal is conspicuous. The story broke just as thousands of high school seniors across the country were learning the fate of their college applications. Check your daily newsfeed and you’ll see proud parents touting the news of Johnny’s GPA, numerous acceptances, scholarships, and every other detail they can possibly boast about. (Yes, I’ve done it myself!).

See also: 4 Positive Thoughts for Your Non-College-Bound Child

To date, none of my eight kids have applied to an Ivy League college, yet this heinous admissions debacle still infuriates me. Several of my children had significant speech delays, therefore placing them in a learning-disabled category. They had to work twice as hard just to process information and maintain average grades throughout high school and gaining admission to a mid-level school was a challenge. But everything they did to accomplish their academic goals was done completely on their own merit. One of these kids is heading to graduate school in the Fall and the intense pride I feel for all of her grit, determination, and sacrifice just to be a part of the collegiate experience is something none of these cheaters will ever know.

That’s why when I read Inc’s article "Why Many 'C' Students End Up Most Successful" I practically stood up and cheered. The article focuses on “brilliant or ambitious individuals such as Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Walt Disney who gave lackluster performances in the classroom but crushed it in real life.”

Author Ilya Pozin writes, “Every year schools take time to honor the highest GPA and the most outstanding student in each grade and doing so gives a false impression to young people in our society. The reality is that grades just aren't that important...This is why our world isn't run by valedictorians and straight A students. For every CEO of a major company that graduated with a 4.0 GPA, there are scores more who did not. What matters in business, and in life, is pursuing goals with a sense of purpose. Having ambition and directing that ambition toward a problem.”

Kudos to the students who persevere through adversity with their heart, soul, and tenacious effort and not because they were given an opportunity on a silver platter. This lesson comes from valuable experience and cannot be bought for any price.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.