What was the Varsity Blues Scandal?

Posted on 16th March 2019

In light of the college admissions scandal that surfaced this week, we at UES thought it wise to give some guidance for students and parents who are concerned about the situation and want reassurance that they are getting professional and ethical advice.

Firstly, the investigation and the implications should not be downplayed – it was the biggest of its kind in history and involves serious allegations of corruption against the individuals involved, including cheating on standardised tests and the bribing of coaches to recruit student athletes without the necessary athletic pedigree. 200 FBI agents were involved across six states, and fifty individuals were indicted. The scale of the malpractice was significant and has raised understandable concern across the industry.

However, parents and students should rest assured that despite this malpractice, there are professional bodies in place that do set clear guidance on professional conduct for counselors, universities, and coaches. Two organisations govern most college admissions in the US: the NCAA, which sets the guidelines for most student-athlete recruitment, and NACAC, which governs college admissions counselling. UES is a member of IACAC, the International Association for College Admission Counseling, which is affiliated with NACAC and adheres to its professional code of practice. In light of the investigation, NACAC released a statement, which you can read here.

We strongly recommend that families considering external support from consultants and sports scholarship advisors seek assurances that they are committed to NACAC and the NCAA’s standards of professional conduct. We at UES ensure that all of our partners abide by these rules, and we would never refer a family to another company whose judgement and integrity we did not trust implicitly.

In particular, we urge families to consider the following when getting any form of external support:
  • Advisors should be honest and transparent about their fees and the level of service that they offer before asking you to commit.
  • Advisors should work transparently with the student’s school, and should aim for clear, honest communication with all other professionals involved in a student’s application.
  • Advisors should act with integrity and honesty at all times and should encourage students to be ambitious but realistic in their college choices.
  • Advisors should never offer to undertake any aspect of an application on a student’s behalf, including test-taking and writing college essays.
  • Sports scholarship advisors should never take any commission from an award of a sports scholarship or offer to make a payment to a coach on your behalf – this is a clear violation of NCAA guidelines.

This moment gives all of us involved in college admissions the opportunity to affirm the importance of abiding by the ethical code of practice that governs our industry and to commit to serving our partners and clients with the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.
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