Over the course of the past two weeks, details surrounding one of the biggest nationwide college admissions scandals have surfaced, and the admissions practices of elite universities have been under scrutiny. After it was revealed that the parents of college applicants fabricated athletic credentials, grades, and scores on entrance exams, many have started to ask how experts in the admissions offices of top-tier schools didn’t notice. Previously, Penn admissions has stated that they generally don’t have time to fact-check applications. But in light of Operation Varsity Blues, it is clear that Penn and other Universities need to hire fact-checkers to verify the credentials of admitted students, as well as a system to verify the decisions of coaches in athletic recruitment.
Recently, former Penn men’s basketball coach and star Jerome Allen testified to accepting $300,000 in bribes from the father of a current Wharton senior in order to earn his son a spot on the basketball team. This unethical and illegal scheme seemingly occurred under the nose of the admissions officers who admitted Morris Esformes. Penn needs a better solution to ensure the credibility of its athletic recruits and applicants.
Applicants have the ability to get away with lying to admissions officers. Admissions officers perform initial application reviews in as little as four minutes. Therefore, hiring a team of fact-checkers for admitted students would take the pressure off of admissions officers, and help decrease instances of students being admitted on false pretenses.
There are a number of ways in which the college admissions process is unfair. Chiefly, wealthy applicants who have better access to counselors, test-prep services, and other institutional advantages undoubtedly have legal methods of achieving a leg up in the admissions process. While there are important steps universities can and must take towards addressing these larger systemic issues, fact-checking would be a straightforward step to increase fairness for all applicants and a safeguard against schemes like those that Penn has failed to catch in the past.
While the solution for ensuring that recruits have earned their spot is somewhat more challenging because of the lack of information and people with sport-specific knowledge, it is still a critical step in ensuring fairness. Admissions officers cannot continue to trust the words of coaches without confirming the abilities of recruited athletes. If Penn’s admissions department is serious about preventing future wealthy applicants from buying their way onto a team, they’ll find a way to verify the assertions of coaches.
Operation Varsity Blues and the Jerome Allen case have both raised questions about fairness and accountability in the college admissions process. While the nuances of the admissions process can be overwhelming, Penn has the opportunity to use these scandals to reimagine what college admissions ought to look like. College admissions might never be a meritocracy, but the University has a responsibility to ensure that applicants can’t falsify credentials to earn admission to Penn.
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