College Admissions Scandal: A Med Student Reacts

Frank Cusimano


March 21, 2019

How to Change the Game

Paying a kid's way into school via false athletic records, cheating on tests, and other such tricks is obviously unethical. It points to a larger problem, one that could be solved with an overhaul of the admissions process. Most schools use nationwide application services; thus, revamping the process would take coordination from hundreds of schools and sometimes multiple application services.

The admissions process shouldn't rely on arbitrary facts, numbers, or standardized tests. Writing and selling yourself on paper shouldn't be the only parameter. The application process should not only include creative writing and past classroom performance, it also should borrow techniques used by modern companies, including critical thinking, mandatory video uploads, and teamwork-based modules. Instead of applying whenever they want over a given period, students should register to apply and then be given a set date on which to submit. All applications should arrive over a short period of time, and they should be randomized for admissions committees. Having this structure would prevent testing bias and time-based biases, and would force students to think critically and learn to craft a narrative about themselves, in their own words.

As an education "lifer," I can tell you that the system is broken. But it still has value. I've never fit in; I have always been fighting upstream. I see why the system benefits those who play the game. However, the educational system is not unrecoverable. It is still valuable if you choose not to play the game.

I have built my educational career by not fitting in. I haven't followed the rules. Although I have received pushback at times, my belief in the "why" and the purpose of education is what has kept me sane through all the years of schooling. I am one of the few truly happy medical students and PhD candidates that I know. I have consistently dived headfirst into the philosophical implications of everything we learn, something that has not always been looked at positively by professors.

What these parents did is unfathomable and condemnable. However, the issue can't be solved by just preventing admissions bribes. We need to change the system. We need to restore what higher education is supposed to be about. We need to bring back the purpose of universities. We need to educate not for a degree or diploma, but so that students can graduate with the intellectual training to be creative, productive, fulfilled citizens of the world.

I'll end with one of my favorite quotes from Christine Gregoire, the former governor of Washington State: "Education is the foundation upon which we build our future." We should use the education we received from this recent indictment to rethink higher education, rethink college admissions, and move to a place that will better serve the future of humanity.

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