‘No One Is Really Surprised'…Yale Student Reacts To College Admissions Scandal

Mar 14, 2019

U.S. attorneys in Boston say Yale has been a victim in the college admissions scandal. They accused Yale’s former women’s soccer coach of accepting thousands of dollars to recruit a student who never played soccer. The university says it will reevaluate its athletic recruitment process. Still, students and college coaches say the scandal has exposed the power of money in the admissions process.

Yale undergraduate student Samantha Wood says the bribery scandal involving admission to elite colleges didn't come as a shock.
Credit Courtesy of Samantha Wood

Samantha Wood comes from a small town in New Hampshire.

“My dad fixes appliances. He didn’t finish high school, got a GED…Going to Yale wasn’t necessarily expected to be in my future. But I got good grades, I did well on the SAT, and got in.”

Samantha was surprised. She knew she didn’t have the advantages wealthier students have.

“Test prep, summer programs, connections. That sort of thing. Going to Phillips Exeter instead of going to Kingswood Regional.”

That’s her local public high school. She says she’s not surprised to learn some parents had rigged the system.

“People like to leverage connections in any way they can…I don’t know whether a lot of people have done it, but I definitely think no one is really surprised by this.”

She says she’s not surprised, but she is disturbed.

“I worked really hard to get here and some people didn’t because of bribes, their parents using connections to help them get in.”

Michael Trivette, a college admissions counselor, says his job is nothing like the fraud exposed this week.

“No. Absolutely not. What you saw was obviously someone trying to cheat the system.”

Each year Trivette works with dozens of students to help them get into colleges – even elite schools like Yale. Students now have to have near-perfect grades, extracurriculars and take high school leadership roles just to be taken seriously.

“This is the type of process that selective colleges and universities throughout the U.S. have built and promoted for better or worse, and oftentimes for worse.”

Michael charges $3,000-$5,000 to prepare a normal student for college – far less than the hundreds of thousands some parents paid in the cheating scandal. He says every now and then he sees a parent who tries to take a bit too much control of their child’s college application. He’s sympathetic.

“It is their child, they’re trying to do right by their student to help them go on and have a good career.”

But he says he sometimes has to pull parents aside for a conversation about, for example, what’s appropriate in a college essay, which is supposed to be a student’s very personal story.

“An overly polished essay or an essay that reads like it was written by a 40-year old is going to do nothing but arouse the suspicions of an admissions officer and ultimately not help them in the process.”

Trivette says he wonders if the scandal will drive forward the conversation on the role money plays in the admissions process, like multi-million dollar building donations or the legacy admissions that prioritize children of alumni.

“Those avenues, legally, have always been there. And they haven’t really been questioned quite often.”

Yale student Samantha Wood has some questions. She’s heard legacy students criticize the affirmative action process that prioritizes minority applicants.

“My friends who are people of color will hear a lot of, oh you just got in because you’re Puerto Rican, oh you just got in because you’re black. Then they say, no I got in because I’m a good student and I had a compelling application.”

Wood says it seems pretty hypocritical. She doesn’t blame Yale for the flawed process, like some people have. But she says she earned her acceptance.