Guilty Admissions: The Bribes, Favors, and Phonies Behind the College Cheating Scandal

Twelve Books: Grand Central. Feb. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9781538717097. $28. CRIME
In March 2019, the Varsity Blues scandal made headlines with accounts of wealthy Los Angeles residents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, paying vast sums to ensure their children’s acceptance at prestigious universities. In this gripping work, journalist LaPorte vividly evokes a high-stakes world where parents pick preschools for their toddlers with the hope that the right program will lead to Harvard or Yale. Enter Rick Singer, a college admissions coach who promised results with his “side door” method: bribing coaches to falsely claim that applicants were skilled in golf or tennis (admissions offices rarely vetted information about these relatively minor sports). Some parents fooled themselves into thinking Singer’s actions were unorthodox but ethical; others played active roles in the subterfuge, purchasing sports equipment and staging photo shoots for images to submit in the applications. Though LaPorte never excuses the parents’ behavior, she explains how such a toxic culture led to criminal behavior. Her research is superb; citing court cases and interviewing parents, coaches, and administrators. LaPorte vividly lays bare a world of privilege and entitlement.
VERDICT Readers curious about the dark side of wealth will be enthralled by this exposé of corruption in education.
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