So You Don’t Have $10 Million For A Library

Written by Nikkee Porcaro on . Posted in Advice Columns

A college prep professional’s take on the recent admissions scandal.

Shock roiled the Internet (and memes were bountiful) when 50-plus people were charged in Operation Varsity Blues, an FBI sting operation that has proven perhaps the worst-kept secret in college admissions: Money and influence get you places we commoners can only dream of.

There are a few lessons we can take away from this train wreck.

Money Doesn’t Buy Everything.

For a while, these high-profile individuals got their kids exactly what they wanted. However, they were caught in a spectacularly humiliating way — and I have no doubt the indictments will keep coming as the FBI casts an even wider net. Now, people from celebrities to sports coaches to hedge funders are facing jail time, monetary penalties, and destroyed reputations. It is unclear what will happen to the students yet; most claim they were unaware of what their parents were doing, but regardless, their reputations are tainted as well. And once your reputation is shot, it’s very difficult to get it back — a good lesson for us all.

The Internet Follows You

This isn’t exactly ground-breaking news, but what you post online can lead to trouble. Olivia Jade Giannulli, the daughter of Lori Loughlin (who played Aunt Becky on “Full House”) and Mossimo Giannulli, two of the most prominent figures charged in the scandal, is a YouTube “influencer” who made flippant comments about never being at her high school and joking “maybe they forget I go there.” In reference to her acceptance to the University of Southern California, she remarked she didn’t “really care about school,” and was interested in attending college only for “game days, partying.” While these comments alone did not lead to the sting (a whistleblower in trouble for securities fraud tipped off authorities), they certainly lend credence to the idea Giannulli did not earn her way into USC, a very competitive school with an acceptance rate under 20 percent, and have angered those who feel they were denied a fair chance at admission. Giannulli has also lost lucrative sponsorship deals with Sephora and Hewlett Packard (not to mention, Loughlin got fired from the Hallmark Channel).

One positive that should come from this investigation is increased scrutiny of the admissions process, and a discussion about the legal but still questionable practices of legacies, athletic preference, and donor money. To a lesser extent, the issue of affirmative action is also being raised, as many racial minorities feel their admissions to certain colleges and their achievements are unfairly questioned, especially when this scandal has shown the back-alley ways some prominent (mostly) white families use to attain acceptance. Colleges have long had to balance a multitude of needs in building their accepted classes: qualifications, diversity, empirical data, athletic pressure, rankings, available space and, of course, finances, but should now be forced to be more accountable in how they make these determinations.

What does this mean for you, college hopeful without a seven-figure trust fund? It means that as tempting as it is to lie or inflate your record, crime doesn’t pay, and getting caught will ruin you. It means that, fair or unfair, you should take this as motivation to work doubly hard to make yourself stand out in a pool of moneyed, qualified applicants while understanding that the tables may have turned slightly in your favor toward a system of higher accountability in college admissions. But I’ve been telling you that in almost every issue! Start a club, initiate a charity drive, write an article for your local newspaper, increase your leadership roles, raise those test scores... just don’t have Mummy and Daddy hire a consultant who photoshops your face onto a water polo player’s body.

By Nikkee Porcaro


Nikkee Porcaro is the founder and president of No Anxiety Prep International, a greater Washington area-based educational consulting firm that assists students with their educational goals. Email Nikkee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.