Rick Singer promised wealthy parents what he called a “side door” to the world’s most prestigious universities. The Gateway is the traditional application method that works for fewer and fewer young people every year, those with poor scores or extracurricular activities, although they devote far too much of their youth to trying. to appease an impossible machine. The backdoor is the commonly recognized giant donation path – donate a 7-figure amount of money to a school to build a new wing and expect your child’s request to come to the fore. The side door Singer promised was more reasonable, sometimes even for less than a million dollars, and it often relied heavily on outright fraud, giving applicants a track record they didn’t have and even asking to an expert to take their SAT and ACT tests for them in order to improve their scores. It was not just a matter of money for admission; it’s gone much further, and “Operation Varsity Blues” portrays an elaborate multiplayer scheme that rivals the crowd for its structure. Singer was just the godfather of it all.
Of course, none of this is possible without a corrupt and unbalanced system to allow this to happen, and Smith never loses sight of that as he presents the details of the case. Singer was targeting athletic programs that simply required an influx of money more than others. And Smith gets some of his most interesting documents from the only defendant in the case ready to talk to him (sorry for those looking for confessionals from Felicity Huffman or Lori Loughlin): Stanford sailing trainer John Vandemoer, who is open. to channeling “Singer gifts” into a program that really needed it. It would have been nice if Smith could have got a parent to sit down and discuss the decisions they made during this whole scandal, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Maybe it’s because of how casually it all went. Smith recreates conversations with Singer and his customers that seem as intense as ordering pizza. And the truth is, wealthy parents who have used Singer’s services have seen the donations they had to make so that their children could get into the best schools in the country on this matter. Six numbers for getting a kid to Harvard are nothing to someone worth tens of millions of dollars. But why did they do it? “Operation Varsity Blues” argues that these trainings are more about prestige than education, and it feels like the children involved were hardly consulted, and sometimes not even aware of the scam. Imagine the student who studied hard for ACT, took it, and then found out through a federal prick that the score they thought they had earned had been bought. It’s a bit heartbreaking.