On March 12, the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicted over 30 parents across the country, in addition to college coaches and a college counselor, on charges including mail fraud, tax fraud and bribery. This exposition may only be the beginning, as prosecutors indicated that more indictments may follow.
Walking into class that Tuesday, talk of the scandal was unavoidable. Even though no Harvard-Westlake parents appeared on the list, the news hit close to home. Many of the people involved in the scandal are members of neighboring school communities, some with personal connections to Harvard-Westlake families. For many of these families, it is clear that getting into what they have deemed a “good” college was a top priority.
Harvard-Westlake is definitely no stranger to the stress and desperation that can surround the college process. We understand how the pursuit of college admissions can become a singular focus and can sometimes seem to guide our decisions, dominating our high school lives. However, the news that those indicted were willing to allegedly commit fraud in order to secure a spot at prestigious universities shocked many of us. But perhaps not as much as it should have.
While the severity of these alleged crimes is uniquely extreme, this is not the first time that news of immoral or unethical behavior in the college process has reached our campus. In some occasions, it has even occurred within our walls. Cheating and academic dishonesty are obvious violations of the Honor Code, but unfortunately they often go undetected and, in some cases, have become normalized.
The appeal of this dishonest behavior often stems from a similar mindset, prioritizing acceptance at a top university instead of preserving morality. Although the magnitude of the actions in these criminal cases are more serious than we would ever hope to see in college process, it provides the perfect opportunity for us to reflect on the lengths some will go to obtain an acceptance letter.
College shouldn’t be the only reason we attend high school and strive for academic success. When students choose to cut corners, they are cheating themselves out of the full potential of their education and experience. There is so much more to an education than the grade we receive or the recognition that we get; it’s about developing the person and thinker that we want to be when we leave high school. If we cheat our way through the process, then we are depriving ourselves of an opportunity to grow.
Our community should take these allegations as an important reminder to conduct ourselves with integrity and to not sacrifice our good judgement or morals for the sake of an admissions decision. We should all respect ourselves enough to know that our best effort is enough, and the way to achieve success is not through pretending to be something that we are not.
This does not mean that immoral behavior should be avoided at the risk of being caught. Instead, we should uphold moral standards simply because it’s the right thing to do. There is no question that when you put your own work into something, the experience is more gratifying than the end result, no matter what it is.
No one can ever take away the pride in your work that you earn on your own. If we are completely true and honest with ourselves, we will be able to hold our heads high and know that our work was enough and that we are enough.