The cycle of lies


Ellis Becker

For three years, I spent multiple Saturdays going to the Middle School, helping prospective applicants find their way during the Student Ambassador-hosted family visiting days and then lying to them.

And although a lot of the lies I told held truths to which I was oblivious, I don’t think that the Student Ambassador program adequately prepares students to truthfully answer these questions. When the question of stress came up, I answered with the experience of only one to two years at the Middle School.

When the issue of partying or substance abuse was questioned, I again only answered with the limited experience I had at the Middle School. It is not only unfair to the applicants and their families to perpetuate the lies they are told, but it is also unfair to have student ambassadors themselves lie to these families.

And yes, there are Student Ambassadors at the Upper School, but the vast amount of tours during interviews and tours at the Family Visiting Days are conducted by middle school students, and are led by middle school students.

Additionally, many of my peers who are still involved in the Student Ambassador program believe that they were much more involved in the program when they were at the Middle School, and feel like the insight they have gained at the Upper School is not being shared nearly as much as it could be.

While most of the lies I perpetuated were told unknowingly, there were times that I lied to these families on purpose: the times I was directly told to. If a family ever asked if my perception of the student would affect the admissions process, I said no, and this is simply not the truth.

And although it can be reasoned that if students knew they were being evaluated then they would act differently, in my eyes that does not justify lying to people’s faces.

Every year, a Student Ambassador Training Day is hosted at the Middle School. And each year, every ambassador is not only told, but even trained, to lie.

Because when a family asks if the student ambassador evaluates the student, ambassadors are trained to say no and trained how to evaluate the student.

After I would help my assigned student find his family when the day was over, I would enter a classroom. A white sheet of paper was taped to the window of the door, so no one could see in. In this room, I, along with other student ambassadors, would evaluate the applicants on a lime green sheet.

It seemed like no big deal, but looking back on the experience, I could have changed someone’s future. That’s a responsibility I don’t want. I didn’t sign up for that.

And I feel bad because I was once that little kid who got into Harvard-Westlake, believing the falsities I was told, until I got there, joined the Student Ambassador program, and perpetuated the lie that landed me here in the first place. I’m not the first kid who went through this cycle, and I won’t be the last.

I remember the beat my heart skipped as I gazed for the first time upon the gorgeous Middle School, unaware of the smaller, much more stressful Upper School. I remember being told all about the opportunities provided at Harvard-Westlake, unaware of the late nights and stress it would cost. I was unaware of the trap and even more oblivious to the fact that the Student Ambassador program is the institution that sets that trap.

It’s no accident that the Middle School is much more well-presented and much more developed than the Upper School.

It’s no accident that there are so few tours at the Upper School, compared to the four to five a day at the Middle School.

It’s no accident that the Student Ambassador program continues to allow students to perpetuate lies about stress, substance abuse and the admissions process itself.