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The College Admissions Scandal: Operation Varsity Blues

The College Admissions Scandal: Operation Varsity Blues

Concurrently with the announcement of student admissions abroad, Netflix has released a documentary film entitled “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal”. That film tells the real story of the student admissions scandal at a prestigious college in America, it is shown on Netflix on March 17.

“Operation Varsity Blues” is the name of the operation that the FBI used in exposing the scandal. Besides, the documentary does not focus on the Hollywood stars who also implicated in the scandal. It focuses more on how the main culprit of the scandal, Rick Singer, seduced the two celebrities and many of his wealthy clients into cheating to get their children accepted into prestigious universities.

The documentary film used reconstructions from transcripts and tapes of the Ministry of Justice's wiretaps.
Matthew Modine Rick Singer


Rick Singer played by actor Matthew Modine, appears to be on the phone with a client. He explains about a “side door” in student admissions. This means it can help parents get their children into top colleges. The “side door” or special route is in the form of bribing a number of sports coaches, cheating on exams, and falsifying children’s personal data.

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The film director Chris Smith said they have contacted nearly everyone involved in the scandal to be willing in interviewed on camera. Only one person agreed, he is John Vandemoer, a rowing coach at Stanford University.

The Special Route for Rich Family

Moreover, he became the first person convicted as a result of the scandal of one day in prison. Including the time he served in prison and a US$10,000 fine. He was fired from Stanford University.

Vandemoer did not accept the money for himself alone. In fact, with a tone of remorse and outspokenness during interviews, he described trusting Singer, who made a contribution to the rowing program. Donations are used to solicit that sports departments and universities.

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In particular, Rick Singer’s idea treated the students as recruited athletes, so they would get an admission guarantee. Some of the fake athletes at USC, seem like it would be hard to miss.

There is a 5’5” men’s basketball player, and not only a high school cheerleader is made to look like a lacrosse player. But also, a water polo player who did not play water polo in high school. It is pretty remarkable that none of these things raised a red flag as well.

Above all, this college admissions scandal did surprise me because it reflected a kind of blatant illegality. Equally, bribing college coaches to pretend that their children were athletes, when in fact they were not.

I thought its hard to get into a prestigious college, and it would hard to be accepted as a coach too. Why would a college coach jeopardize their job and reputation to let somebody in for a bribe?

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Racketeering College Admission Conspiracy 

1. The biggest factor in the Stanford coaches’ case

Stanford coaches did not personally enrich themselves, he proceeds that Singer received furthered the sailing program at Stanford. Rick Singer is skilled at leveraging off people. He had a sixth sense to exploit and find the vulnerability of people he was working with.

2. Felicity Huffman bribe college to get her daughter into USC

From my understanding, in the Felicity Huffman case. Singer told to Huffman, “Your daughter’s scores are not good enough to get into this school.“. Turns out that was made up, false. Thus, the daughter would have gotten in regardless, it is identifying those pain points.

Felicity begins to rationalize, “Am I good enough mother? Have I spent too much time on my career?”.  Singer said, “Don’t you want your daughter in a good school?”. Leveraging off the weakness is the pain point.

3. Fake data of ACT / SAT scores 

Singer offered a high score on SAT test for US$75.000. For many years the SAT was explained and advertised as an aptitude test. Furthermore, a very prominent predictive feature of getting a high score is not studied hard, but family income. Besides, some test prep institutions in America even offer a guaranteed score improvement of at least 150 points.

Poor people like us work hard to afford education. Indeed we are already left behind, without education we will fall even further.

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4. A clever Mark Riddell

Rick Singer had cooperation with Mark Riddell, he was a Harvard graduate who worked in college exam prep for IMG Academy. The story after he had his first child and needed more money, that is why he kind of got caught up in the pitch from Rick Singer.

He was the one who was flying out to different testing locations, proctoring or correcting answers. Then, your score will be whatever you want to be. He did not have inside information about the correct answer, he was just smart enough to get a near-perfect score on demand.

”If Rick Singer is the linchpin of this college admissions scandal, Mark Riddel is the brains.

What he did well, such as a good marketer does. He sold the benefits. 

“Would you like your daughter to go to Harvard?” 


“Great. If you’d like your daughter to go to Harvard, do this”

Your kid won’t even know it happened. It will happen as though she will think she’s really super smart, and she got lucky on a test. But, for real, the parents paid for her admission.

5. Chinese rich family

According to the photo, she talked for so long, and it feels like empty words about dreams and hard work. Yusi Zhao comes from a Chinese family who paid Billion US Dollars to get her into Stanford. Rick Singer faked Zhao’s athletic feats and donated US$500.000 to the Stanford sailing team. He pocketed the rest of US$6.5 million, the largest know sum paid.

The Zhao Family said they were victims of Singer’s scam. They believed the US$6.5 million was a genuine donation. Such as another Chinese family who paid US$1.2 million to get their child into Yale University, then said it was a donation. Nowadays, the word donation is used in place of corruption. If you want to bribe someone, just say that you are giving a donation or gift. 

“Getting into Harvard and Stanford is not a dream. With money, any dream can come true.”



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