College Admissions Cheating Scandal is Alarming and Disgraceful

Nick Standlea weighs in on the college admissions scandal.

Background info: In the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted, wealthy parents, Hollywood actresses, coaches and a college consultant have been accused of carrying out a nationwide fraud to get students into prestigious universities. The scheme had two major pieces. In the first part, parents allegedly paid a college advisory organization to take tests on behalf of students or to correct their answers. Second, the organization allegedly bribed college coaches to help admit the students into college as recruited athletes, regardless of their abilities. In all, 50 people were charged in the criminal investigation that went by the name "Operation Varsity Blues." Those arrested include two SAT/ACT administrators, one exam proctor, nine coaches at elite schools, one college administrator and 33 parents.

Guest Blog: Do SAT/ACT Accommodations Need to Change?

This is a special guest blog post by Marci Miller of the Miller Advocacy Group in Newport Beach, California. We are sharing this piece as she offers a unique perspective on how the recent admissions scandal is affecting students with LDs. 

I have gotten a lot of inquiries about how the latest college admissions scandal will impact disabled test-takers, and my response is always the same: I hope that it won’t. However, I know the reality is that the test accommodations fraud has already gotten more than its fair share of media attention and that disabled students may pay the price.

There have always been those out there who believe no matter what you tell them that “everyone” is fraudulently obtaining ACT or SAT accommodations. They now feel that they can point to the latest admissions scandal as proof that they were right all along. However, the facts in the case tell a different story.

  • Test fraud was just one of the multiple types of cheating and bribery involved

There were multiple levels of cheating and bribery involved in the admissions scandal, only one of which involved standardized testing fraud. And there were at least four different levels to the alleged fraudulent impersonation of students with disabilities in order to obtain accommodations. This included hiring impersonators to take the ACT and SAT exams for students, making false disability claims, paying to have test responses changed after the exams were taken, and bribing proctors and supervisors. The massive scheme could not have been accomplished without the multiple layers of fraud.

  • The students involved did not obtain their desired scores through their accommodations alone – they needed other types of fraud to obtain their scores and gain admissions

Although accommodations fraud was one of the four types of test fraud alleged in the latest admissions scandal, the students involved did not obtain their desired scores through test accommodations alone. They ALL relied upon other means to obtain their scores such as hiring someone to test for them or to change their responses. In other words, EXTENDED TIME DID NOT MAGICALLY LEAD TO HIGH SCORES!


  • It was not easy to obtain the fraudulent test accommodations

In the court documents, it does not appear as if it was always easy to falsely obtain test accommodations. One of the students described in court documents was denied accommodations twice and law enforcement had to step in to get him accommodations. ACT and College Board have both said in their official statements that they have been cooperating with law enforcement. In reality, school counselors are involved in the test accommodations process, and students generally need to have a history of school accommodations – a false doctor’s report would not generally suffice.


  • Only a few bad apples

It seems clear that accommodations need to continue to be made available to students who deserve them. This scandal has shown that it is very difficult to obtain fraudulent accommodations. We do not need to change the entire system based on a few bad actors, as that would unfairly penalize students with legitimate LDs.

Of course, there will always be people whose minds are made up and they will not be persuaded by the facts. In this situation, there was bad behavior alleged that reflected poorly on many different groups of people including recruited athletes, students with disabilities, athletic coaches, parents, and college counselors. We can only hope that no group of people, including students with disabilities, is judged unfairly based upon the misguided actions of a few.

CEO Nick Standlea Speaks at National Charity League District Event

Nick Standlea MC'd and spoke at the National Charity League District 5 Ticktocker Day of Inspiration. Click below for a snippet from his talk about awareness and how it shapes our experience in life and throughout the process of applying to college, along with clips from other speakers from the day

Nick Standlea MC'd and spoke at the National Charity League District 5 Ticktocker Day of Inspiration about awareness and how it shapes our experience in life and throughout the process of applying to college

Nick regularly speaks to high school parents on a range of topics, including:

  • SAT vs ACT -- Everything You Need to Know

  • Reducing Anxiety in College Admissions and Standardized Testing

  • 9 Ways to Teach Growth Mindset

  • PSAT and/or Pre-ACT Scoreback Nights

  • LDs and Standardized Testing

Nick is a published author and a former Research Associate at the Quality of Life Research Center at Claremont Graduate University - a think tank that studies education, learning, creativity, and motivation. He is also the founder of Test Prep Gurus. He earned a perfect score on the SAT, but is much more proud of Test Prep Gurus students' many successes and achievements. He holds a BA from Pitzer College and an MBA from the Peter F. Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University.  Nick is also a member of WACAC and a member of the NACAC Orange County College Fair team.

Past engagements include: UC Berkeley, Pitzer College, Claremont Graduate University, Golden West College, Loyola Marymount University, the Western Association of College Counseling (WACAC), National Association of College Counseling (NACAC) college fairs, A Better Chance foundation, The Orange County Private School Association, the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), The Webb Schools, Rosary Academy, Hawaii Preparatory Academy, JSerra Catholic High School, Connelly School for Girls, Fusion Academy, Orange Lutheran High School, New Roads School, Newport Harbor High School, Northwood High School, Capo Valley High School, Santa Monica High School, Sage Hill School, and many others.