This morning’s college admissions scandal has hit me in a way I really didn’t expect it to.
I have some scattered thoughts because that’s how I think.
To be clear, it’s weird that the story focuses on the two female actresses and not their spouses. Macy is more famous than the other two. So, yes, let’s acknowledge that.
I was indifferent towards Loughlin and actually really liked Macy and Huffman. They can all go to hell.
It’s really hard for me to say this next part without coming off like a jerk, but, Huffman and Macy spent tons of money and time faking qualifications for their daughter’s Yale acceptance, and the fake version of their daughter still didn’t do as well on her SATs as I did. I mean. I mean.
Re: the last point, education is not about competition, or it shouldn’t be. But admissions? Admissions definitely is. So that’s the only reason I’m bothering to compare. I don’t think doing better or worse on a flawed metric means you’re more or less valuable.
So here’s my real point. My parents (and teachers, and advisors, and everyone) expected Great Things from me. I was special, I was told, and gifted. But I was sort of a listless student until about 9th grade, when I became very diligent. I was fortunate not to be impoverished in any way or physically unwell (and I’m still male). But admission to top schools is guaranteed to no one, and you can’t really be a listless student and expect entry. I didn’t do as well as people expected of me on AP exams, but I did well on various subject SATs, the SATs themselves, and I was a strong writer. Still though, I was told (and rightfully so) by educators to complete my Eagle Scout project, to talk up my experience abroad, all sorts of things (since I wasn’t an athlete) to have a better shot. I didn’t really do much of that and I applied early. And I got in.
I figured from that moment I’d gotten lucky but earned it, but almost as soon as I got to school I felt like I didn’t belong. Everyone else, it seemed, could do just about anything they wanted to and I didn’t feel like I had any real skills. I was never directly told as much, but I got the impression some of my classmates really thought I was accepted through some trickery, and I came to believe it myself, especially as I initially struggled academically and emotionally. Yeah, everyone who cared about me told me otherwise, but it’s pretty difficult to get out of a mindset that surrounds you most days, and that’s how I felt.
Unfortunately, my belief about my own skills persisted for more than a decade, really until last fall when I did well my first semester in my doctoral program. Even now, when I do a new task for the first time, my first thought is that I’ll be found out as some sort of intellectual fraud and tossed back into the ether. I know how to ignore those thoughts now, but they still occur.
I say all this to say, what did these students think? Did they feel they belonged where they were? Did they ever feel excluded? Maybe they did. But I can tell you, at least to my parents, the only way in was to actually earn it, and, though it took me way too long to understand it, I really did earn it way back in 2002.
This plan that these parents and students had, it was so elaborate and complex. And at no point did it seem like they ought to just apply to different schools or figure out what it would take to improve their qualifications. They even laundered the “donations” to be tax-deductible.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I’m just peeved that I always thought I hadn’t belonged when I really did, while apparently so many people who shouldn’t have been there were. I wasn’t ever less qualified than they were, and I wish I hadn’t spent so long believing that this was the case.