While I was waiting for the Justice League Snyder Cut to get uploaded on HBO Go, I checked out the new streams on Netflix and stumbled across Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admission Scandal. I vaguely recalled some parts of the scandal because I read how TMZ covered the case of Lorie Loughlin bribing colleges to get her daughter in. So I decided to find out more about why it was such a big deal back then.
Synopsis: The documentary centered around the side door operation of college adviser Rick Singer to get rich white people to bribe their children’s way into Ivy League colleges. His modus entailed manipulating information to make it appear as though the rich students were sports recruits. In doing so, his operation earned him $25 million from 2011 to 2019. The case resulted in the indictment of over 50 people and the imprisonment of top executives who availed of Rick’s services.
I liked that the documentary used the actual dialogue from the conversations between Rick and his clients when they didn’t know that the FBI was listening in. These clandestine transactions were re-enacted to illustrate the payoffs that most parents didn’t even want their kids to know about.
I felt bad for these kids whose parents made bad choices that forever branded them as cheats. I also felt bad for the parents for falling into the trap of wanting what’s “best” for their kids but not being confident enough in their abilities to get into college based on their own strength. For many, they were merely seeking insurance so that their kids would have a bright future, perhaps because some of them struggled to get where they are. But still, this did not excuse their blatant use of their money to get ahead of other students who deserved the spots in the college of their dreams. They were complicit in the deed and deserved what they got.
Throughout the entire documentary, my heart bled for Stanford sailing coach John Valdemoer. I felt like he was deliberately set up by Rick because of his good reputation to earn him more cooperation points with the FBI. Rick threw his name around to his clients as if he was well entrenched in the operations when he did not even pocket a single cent for himself. I’m glad that the documentary gave him a chance to at least air his side and clear his name.
While usually, I try not to be too judgemental in my reviews, in my view, Rick was a total scumbag, a weasel and opportunist. This was based on his dealings with his clients, whom he was quick to betray after he sweet talked them into availing of his services. It’s unfair that he is still a free man when he has destroyed countless people. When he gets sentenced, I hope he gets the end he deserves, along with his cohorts.
Growing up from a normal family and not even in the US, education is indeed a premium, but it is possible to get a good one even from universities that are not part of the “top” schools. I completed my college education with the combined effort of my mom’s work, my part time job and a tuition discount from a service scholarship that I received. And rather than feel bad for having to work my way through college, I am actually thankful for the lessons that prepared me for the real world.
For me, the biggest takeaway from Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal is this. Some kids equate an education from a top university to a pass to a smooth career, but that’s not it. Go where your parents can afford to send you and study the best that you can. Amass as much experience as you can and get a head start in dealing with #adulting responsibilities. That’s your key to success. And parents, stop raising entitled kids by giving them everything. Stop using wealth as a leverage to get ahead. Let your kids earn what they deserve using their own merits. It’s the same no matter where you are.