Revoked offers and prom bans: What happened to the kids in the college admissions scandal
One of the parents claims his daughters were ‘handcuffed as they stood outside barefoot in their pyjamas’
In the wild story that is the college admissions scandal, you hear a lot about what happened to the parents who took part in the fraud scheme, but hardly anything about the students themselves.
The college admissions bribery scandal was the biggest of its kind in American history, and has now come back into the public eye as Netflix has released a documentary about it, titled Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal. The scheme saw William “Rick” Singer pocket $25million from parents who were desperate to get their kids into the most elite colleges in the country. More than 50 people, including celebrities and big-time CEOs as well as coaches and admissions staff at the colleges, were caught out for being involved. Parents paid up to millions of dollars for Rick’s so-called “side door” entry into uni.
The parents were sentenced to prison time, hefty fines and community service. One parent, Douglas Hodge, received the harshest of sentences out of all the parents involved in the scandal. The former CEO of Pimco, a top investment firm, was sentenced to nine months in prison, two years supervised release, 500 hours of community service and a $750,000 fine.
However, most of the kids whose parents paid Singer claim to be blissfully unaware of what was going on – they thought they got into university fair and square and then got the shock of their lives when the scheme came crashing down. They had their college places withdrawn, were trolled online, shunned by their classmates and embarrassed by their parents lack of faith in them to get a place off their own merit.
None of the students were criminally charged, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t suffer from the fallout. Here’s what happened to students caught up in the college admissions scandal.
Most of the students involved in the college admissions scandal were kicked out of their college or left their university places
According to the New York Times, almost immediately after arrests were announced in March 2019, colleges opened investigations into students with ties to the scandal. Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Northwestern and the University of Southern California each expelled students or revoked students’ admissions. Many of the students who were in their final year of high school had their applications denied or were forced to withdraw them.
New York Times reports that Sophia Macy, daughter of actress Felicity Huffman, was flying to Juilliard for a final round of auditions for admission to the performing arts school when officials sent her an email withdrawing the invitation. Her father said that Sophia had rang them “in hysterics” over what happened to her.
Another of the most high-profile parents involved in the scandal are actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli. They paid half a million dollars to Rick Singer in a bribe to get their daughters Olivia and Isabella into university.
In 2018, Olivia Jade started her freshman year at USC, as a communications major. Olivia Jade was on holiday in the Bahamas when news of the scandal broke. It was reported that Olivia Jade immediately dropped out of university, but it was later confirmed she dropped out officially in March 2019 after a court hearing. Neither her, or her sister are now enrolled at the college. Olivia, who is a successful YouTuber and influencer, lost thousands of social media followers and was harassed online after the scandal.
On top of being rejected from their future colleges, other students faced further rejection from the high schools they were attending at the time. Hot Pockets heiress, Michelle Janavs, was sentenced to five months in prison for paying $300,000 to get her two daughters into prestigious schools. She paid Rick Singer $200,000 to have one of her daughters labelled as a beach volleyball recruit at the University of Southern California. She also paid $100,000 to have her other daughter’s entrance exam altered.
According to lawyers for Janavs, her children’s high schools banned her daughters from campus and events like graduation and prom, adding that the girls “were shunned by friends, teachers, and classmates.” The eldest daughter had her college offer rescinded and was banned from applying to USC ever again. New York Times reports that when their mother was arrested, the two girls’ father claims the girls were “handcuffed as they stood outside barefoot in their pyjamas”.
However, there were some cases where the students in the scandal were still allowed to attend the college they got a place at
Not all of the students lost their places at college. Matteo Sloane, whose father Devin paid $250,000 for his admission as a water polo recruit, is still enrolled at USC studying environmental science. After the scheme was revealed, Matteo Sloane asked his father: “Why didn’t you believe in me? Why didn’t you trust me?”
Jane Buckingham, an author and businesswoman, was found guilty of paying $50,000 to cheat on her son’s college entrance exam and was sentenced to three weeks in prison. She was also given one year supervised release and a $40,000 fine. Her son, Jack, had already been admitted to Southern Methodist University when his mother was arrested. He spoke to the college himself, and it agreed to enrol him based on previous, authentic, test scores.
Some of the students got accepted into other colleges after the scandal
In April 2020, it was reported that Sophia Macy, the eldest daughter of Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy, had been accepted into Carnegie Mellon University’s theatre course. People Magazine confirmed Sophia’s younger sister, Georgia, was also going to university, and heading to Vassar College. According to Felicity Huffman, Sophia was unaware of her mother’s involvement in the scheme and when she found out about it asked her: “Why didn’t you believe in me?”
The wife of Agustin Huneeus, a winemaker who pleaded guilty to participating in both the test cheating and bribery schemes, confirmed that one of their daughters involved in the scheme retook her previously falsified exams and got into a different, “great college”.
Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, quizzes, drops and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.