A high schooler’s stream of consciousness on the college admissions scandal

Writer Sam Falb shares his thoughts on the college admissions scandal from the perspective of a high schooler in the midst of the college admissions process.

Image and story by Sam Falb

“Holy crap. We’re all screwed.”

Such was the essence of my thinking immediately after seeing that Aunt Becky had spent $500,000 to illicitly ensure that her daughter gained entrance to the University of Southern California. A million thoughts raced through my mind.

“Well, we kind of joked about this in passing, and it was on Gossip Girl.”

Trying to make sense of it all. Could this be impacting my admissions story?

The electric, thick, hot feeling of anxiety whirred through my brain as I ran through the hypotheticals and recalculated my personal decisions and actions (both negative, positive, and everywhere in between) in high school. All had been whipped into shape and integrated into my army of applications, which then shipped out and left me speechless, no more words to say after writing essay after essay, conducting interview after interview, bright smiles, shaky hands, colorful adjectives and all.

How to verbalize such a feeling? To me, it’s felt like one of those situations where it’s almost better not to know. Before, I was able to shrug off the rejection from the schools I’d heard back from. I placed all of my extracurricular leadership titles, strong report cards, and that “thing that set me apart” in a basket and trusted that no matter what, there was a place for me that I would find, somewhere along this highly institutionalized, red-tape suffocated road and oh god it’s already harder to breathe.

I have six schools left to hear back from and I think about it every day.

It’s easier when you’re outside of the sphere. When you’re not a statistic among innumerable students being rushed through (as files) through the hands of the powers-that-be at the University of X. I’m even going to do the angsty thing and say that the adults of yesterday had it easier. There were much less of them, it was much less expensive (even taking inflation into account), now people around the world are all in on the game, and now, the game just (affirmably) became a whole lot dicier (without a doubt, this type of underground admissions was before, and is still hiding out there in some form or another).

“I did everything I could. If it doesn’t work out, maybe it wouldn’t have been the right fit after all.”

How am I supposed to know now? I’ll say it again, sometimes it’s better not to know about these things, as naive as that sounds. Petty corruption, I’d call it. Like nepotism in the workplace, or when a waiter drops a roll on the floor of the restaurant and hands it off to you anyway. Of course these are things that shouldn’t be happening. But learning about that woman from “Desperate Housewives” doling out fat wads of cash so that someone could boost her daughter’s SAT score is the last thing I needed right now. Deep breath.

I am a senior in high school, so close to the finish line. I am tired, overjoyed, and humbled that my high school experience has almost come to an end. I am so hungry for a loud, obnoxiously free, academically enriching (why not), four years of laughing until it hurts with new friends from all walks of life, morning running around campus as the sunbeams poke over the horizon, interning in zany, new environments, and thrusting my cap into the air at graduation with the elated energy that the rest of my life has just begun.

I want it square (don’t we all deserve it square?), and I want it just as bad as every other person in my position who didn’t happen to have the odd hundred-thousand (or million!) dollars to throw at someone and name a school.