Updated: Jul 21, 2021
By David Cho
Many students dedicate time and effort specifically for their studies and extracurricular activities in hopes that they have a great college application. Even then, for many of the top universities of this country, a large percentage of students are rejected annually, as the competition is just that fierce. Because of this, college decisions are usually hectic and distressing, as it is never a given that most students end up in their dream schools. During the college decision period, students usually aren’t the only ones worrying about where they are accepted to. In fact, parents, commonly due to them wishing success upon their children, are just as if not more anxious to find out where their children get into. Still, what can they do? It’s not like they can make it easier for their children by, for instance, paying someone with authority that could help their children’s application?
Well, that’s exactly what occurred during a college admissions scandal in 2019, when a sales mastermind was discovered to have worked with the athletic departments of schools to admit undeserving students. This mastermind was none other than William “Rick” Singer, a college admissions consultant based in Newport Beach, California.
Singer was not always the renowned mastermind behind suspect college admissions. He was born in 1960 in Santa Monica, California, and pursued athletics both as a student and a coach. According to USA Today, he had an “ultra-competitive streak [that] made him a lightning rod on campus.”
His first experience with college recruitment was as a coach at Sierra College in Sacramento, California; soon after he founded the company Future Stars College & Career Counseling, which as the name suggests, assisted with college admissions counseling. However, from 2011 to 2019, Singer selfishly utilized his built-up business and reputation to make money from parents by soliciting money to him.
Singer implemented many different strategies to successfully finesse college administration. For standardized testing, such as the SAT or ACT (both of which are extremely important factors that colleges weigh during admissions) Singer’s clients would sign up to take the exam outside of schools either in West Hollywood or Houston, the two testing areas he managed. They would fraudulently claim to have learning disabilities for additional time or less supervision, and Singer would pay a partner to take the test for the student, correct the student’s answers afterwards, or serve as a proctor to help them cheat. In fact, Singer would pay off test monitors for years for the students to have outstanding scores. Singer has also bribed sports coaches at his clients’ dream schools to recruit them, and he would create athletic profiles for students using photoshop. Since no one would verify if these student athletes actually played after acceptance, the students were never caught.
A total of 33 parents, including people associated with extremely well-renowned colleges, such as Yale, University of Southern California, Stanford, and Georgetown, as well as celebrities such as actress Lori Loughlin and Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award recipient Felicity Huffman, paid Singer to guarantee admission to prestigious universities through what he called “side doors.” According to Singer, there were three doors in college admissions: the front door, which was the legitimate method most students used. There was the backdoor, which was for students whose family had donated incredible amounts of money. Side doors were when individuals in schools’ athletic departments would be bribed to admit students by informing the admissions counsel that they were recruits. By sticking to his technique, Singer would launder a total of $25 million during that time span for his work.
Singer’s years of successful “side doors” and nearly perfect admission rates had left even the most cautious of parents feeling safe participating in this scandal. However, it is said that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Singer’s business and reputation toppled like a tower of cards when Rudy Meredith, the head coach of Yale’s women's soccer team, became involved in a separate fraud case and informed the authorities about Singer’s activities in exchange for lesser punishment.
As a result, Singer was caught red-handed, and many of the parents served time in prison varying by the amount of money paid for the whole scheme. Coaches from Stanford, UCLA, Wake Forest Academy, and the University of Texas were sent to be on leave, while actresses Loughlin and Huffman both lost important acting roles. Singer was charged and found guilty for fraud and racketeering on March 12, 2019, and has a sentence of up to 65 years in prison with a $1.25 million fine.
Still, Singer walks free till this day. He has served none of those 65 years in prison, even though this entire scandal was brought into attention nearly two years ago. Instead, due to Singer’s cooperation with the FBI, Singer has faced little to no repercussions.
In the end, even as these wealthy, powerful individuals have been caught and sentenced, the fact that corruption to this scale had been successful for many years shines light on the dark truth of America. Money seems to solve everything, and it has been this way for many years. Still, we must ensure where to draw the line, especially when it comes to the education that the future of this nation will be receiving. Although money has power, it can only go so far for the betterment of society. Rather than the amount of money someone has, the passion, dedication, and intelligence of a student should determine how much they can accomplish.