A Singer senior effect?

Faced with last spring’s college admissions fraud, many seniors are wondering how it might affect them in this application cycle


Gazette/GBT.org illustration by ANGELINA KOLOSEY

This year’s seniors who are applying for college have some questions and concerns about the process about the spring scandal directed by private college counselor Rick Singer.

Power and money are two powerful forces that can and have been proven to be able to ultimately help an individual obtain almost any wish, including the desire to gain entry into some of the world’s most prestigious schools. 

In March, college counselor Rick Singer was indicted by U.S. federal prosecutors for his role in a multi-million dollar scheme to get the children of his wealthy clients into  some of the most prestigious colleges in America – including USC, Yale, Stanford, UCLA and Georgetown – by boosting test scores and constructing applications and qualifications in a fraudulent manner. 

Parents of the students, as well as multiple college coaches, face criminal fees and sentencings. Singer pleaded guilty, as have several of the parents and coaches who were involved.

Singer got his start as a college counselor in the Sacramento area, and many former Granite Bay High students were his clients in the early 2000s. He moved to Newport Beach in 2011, and most of his clients in recent years came from the Bay Area and Southern California.

Still, the scandal is reverberating all the way back to Granite Bay High – especially for seniors this year who are now preparing to apply for college.

“It was interesting that (the scandal) was as blown out as it was because (college scandals) happen fairly regularly and have for a while,” GBHS senior Rathip Rajakumar said. “It’s interesting that it caught mainstream attention.”

Lynette Matthews from the College Planning Center in Granite Bay said many parents of prospective college students have vocalized concerns about the entire college application process and how Singer could get away with what he was doing for so long.

It was interesting that (the scandal) was as blown out as it was because (college scandals) happen fairly regularly and have for a while.

— Rathip Rajakumar

“Mostly families didn’t understand how this could happen,” Matthews said. “Since we work with many recruited collegiate athletes, we understand the process… (The scandals) made perfectly good sense to us.”

Singer was not an unfamiliar name in Placer County as the college admissions scandal managed to affect the educational industry immensely with ramifications in the Granite Bay community. 

The main question for many students and families after the scandal broke was to what extent would the scandal affect rising senior classes. 

“My only concern was that I was just hoping that none of our students were affected by it,” GBHS career technician Teri Keeney said. 

A scandal as sweeping as Singer’s operation has the potential to negatively affect the hopes and aspirations of the rising senior class.

Senior Nabeel Qureshi said that even though Rick Singer and a few other scammers were caught, there are probably other scammers out there – scammers whose fraudulent actions will affect his future. 

“There’s definitely still some doubt in my mind that people are still cheating to get into college,” Qureshi said. “It’s disgraceful to have people paying to get into college when other people are working hard and have less (financially).”

College students fairly accepted to the prestigious universities where scandals occurred share a similar sentiment. 

“There is a general sense of integrity and pride in our achievements at schools like Stanford,” said GBHS graduate and Stanford student Bronson Vanderjack. “When people circumvent the system and cheat, it makes the hard work that everyone else put in feel cheapened until the offenders are outed.” 

It seems fitting that such news was a popular topic on the Stanford campus.

There’s definitely still some doubt in my mind that people are still cheating to get into college.

— Nabeel Qureshi

“The whole (Singer) case became a meme,” said GBHS grad David Song, who also attends Stanford. “The scandal was a topic of discussion for a little while.”

Vanderjack said that although the scandal involved illegal activities, there are legal actions in the college admissions game that are equally unfair.

“A joke at (Stanford) is that the cheaters should’ve just donated a building to the campus,” Vanderjack said. “Somehow, the children of said donors are often admitted.”

Lighthearted, jokes such as these allowed both high school and college students to reflect on their own privilege, and privilege in general, during college admissions process. 

GBHS students have access to services like free counseling. Some can even afford private counseling services which includes test prep for various standardized tests. 

“(It’s) shown that (household) income has way too large a role in determining college qualification,” Rajakumar said. “SAT scores scale with income level.”

Furthermore, the expectations that come with living in a wealthier neighborhood are different.

“I think the dreams that people sell kids are different based entirely on wealth,” Rajakumar said. “I think there’s a systemic suppression of people.”

Song also concedes that while illegal activities are blatantly unfair, there are also more subtle unfair advantages.

“There’s an underlying social/political/economic issue in the country as a whole, which is more difficult to fix than patching a few loopholes,” Song said.

Matthews, the private college counselor, said that, if anything, the college admissions scandal has only helped the local community better understand the process, and it has also increased college awareness about the importance of making fair admissions decisions.

“Colleges are (now) taking more effort to vet out students to make sure they are who they claim to be,” Matthews said. “Also, college administrators are clear that the decisions they are making may be held under a microscope for all to see. We can expect that they are more carefully and fairly making admissions decisions.”