Here in late 2019 the fallout continues in the College Admissions Scandal, with some parents already serving jail time while others dig in and continue to fight charges that they used bribery and false documents to shoehorn their privileged children into select colleges. Some of the students who were admitted under false pretenses (with made up or enhanced ACT and SAT scores, or under scholarships in sports where they were not college-level participants) have claimed that they didn’t know the fix was in and believed they had been accepted at high-level schools on the strength of their own accomplishments. If so, the realization that you are carrying exaggerated academic or atheletic credentials would be a tough emotional setback, especially in a world where imposter syndrome is already common among accomplished people. How must it feel when the federal government is making a strong case in court that you are an actual imposter and Martha Stewart is slamming your mom for the way she wears her prison garb?
Each spring, many high school and college graduates at every level receive as a gift the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go“, his famous attempt to boost the confidence of those entering the work force. Seuss tries to inject a note of reality into his reader’s hopeful expecations, (“I’m so sorry to say so / but sometimes it’s true / that Bang-ups and Hang-ups / can happen to you”) but I’m convinced even he could not imagine a scenario where hopeful graduates suddenly discover their success is largely a parent-generated mirage.
So with my usual apology to Dr. S. for stealing his style, meter and rhyming scheme, here’s an attempt to make a version of that classic poem that delivers some broad hints to the graduate on your list he should be looking a little more closely at the transcript and test scores that were submitted on his behalf.
An indifferent student,
you’ve picked up a win.
Somehow, you’re in college.
One tough to get in!
Your books, left unread,
could deliver some clues.
But it really hits home
when you turn on the news
and you see, though you thought that you made your own bed,
Mommy’s in the hoosegow, cause SHE made it INSTEAD!
And by “made it” I mean she paid cash. Very much.
It was given to proctors and coaches and such
to pretend that your talents were real and complete
and exceptional, and that they made you elite!
Which is one of those things
the world fights to define
in a way that’s not
twisted, corrupt or malign.
The incentives are strong
to cheat so you’ll belong.
Getting there with achievements
instead, takes a while!
And your parents know full well
hard work’s not your style.
So they financed some fibs
Tiny ones! Others, sizeable!
Making you someone new
and quite unrecognizable.
You get sick on the water.
One wave, up you throw.
But your scholarship says
you’re a star when you row.
A sports star who’s good without having to practice.
A scholar who knows what each relevant fact is.
A brilliant test-taker. A champion. A saint.
And a hundred and ten other things that you ain’t.
Oh, the disgraces you’ll know!
When the charges are filed
to expose the whole hoax –
that your transcript was padded
with cash from your folks.
You may say it’s unfair. That you hadn’t a clue.
That the bribes were clandestine and unknown to you.
That they did the whole thing and you had no idea,
and it’s not right that you’ll have to work at IKEA.
Because that’s just not you.
Except, many folks do!
Be your name Macy or Wilson or Blake
Or Jane Giannulli Van Loughlin O’Fake
You are in a new realm
And you’re far from alone.
So it’s time now at last
To stand up on your own.