#55 - The College Admissions Scandal Summation

-Front Door Method -Back Door Method -Side Door Approach -Testing Scam Process -Summation of the Scandal


Rick Singer is the “Wizard of Oz” behind the curtain of the college admissions scandal. He had a background in coaching and as a legitimate college counselor to help prospective students get into colleges and universities. His persona is that of a man that will go to any length for his clients.


-Former tutor of for students to help them with their SATs -Former athletic coach - he knows the athletic recruiting process

-First independent college advisor in Sacramento -He also had legitimate clients and built a great reputation as being the “guy."


Front Door Method (the old fashioned way)

-Student: grades, testing, extra curricular activities, admissions standards -Athlete: recruited as to play a sport for a school in exchange for a free education: admission standards are skewed -Affirmative action: color, race, sex, religion, or national origin are taken into account in a selection process. Preference is given to underrepresented or discriminated parts of society.


Back door (large donation route)


Involves large donations to the school which are made as direct donations. The amounts are in the millions of dollars and are in reach for the top 1% of earners. This method does not guarantee that one’s son or daughter will be accepted.


Side door approach (created by Rick Singer)


Part 1)


Parents give money to Singer and he guarantees their children will be admitted to the prestigious university of their choice usually in the $300,000 - $500,000 range. The catch is that the children are submitted as athletically gifted. Singer starts to contact his inside connections at highly sought-after universities and tells them to keep an eye out for those students. Singer, the parents, athletic directors and coaches ultimately collaborate to make a kid seem like a competitive applicant.


Part 2) Singer receives photos and doctors them to create the persona of athletes. He primarily works to create opportunities for the so-called athletics programs where they will be registered walk-ons. He also works with SAT/ACT proctors who manipulate test results to give students desired test scores.

Part 3) The fake athletes are submitted to niche programs such as rowing, water polo, soccer or sailing. Singer contacts his connections at the universities and tells them to keep an eye out for students that he identifies. These programs are under the radar and the coaches tell the school administrators that these walk-on athletes are “good."


When the students actually attend school they can skip the athletics as they were just walk-on candidates. Part 4) Singer has the parents make donations into his charitable organization and then he takes the money and distributes it to athletic directors, coaches and SAT proctors. The typical testing goals are as follows: SAT 1500+, ACT 34-36.


The Testing Scam Process

-Parents applied for extended time for these kids citing learning differences meaning they doctored medical needs -The parent, the student and the proctor fly to an alternate location -The student takes the test solo with a proctor on a Saturday -The student writes the answers on a separate sheet -The proctor fills-in the correct answers to create the desired score


-The child thinks he/she did really well (presuming they didn’t know about the scheme)


Summation of the Scandal

The scheme was in place for more than 20 years according to Singer. The dialogue/acting in the Netflix documentary was taken from FBI recordings. Ultimately, Singer was busted by another person not because of the scheme - this person was under indictment for insider trading and gave Rick Singer up to protect himself. The FBI broke the news to Singer and he agreed to record his clients. This was unusual as typical investigations start on the low levels of the chain; however, they had the head of the snake and Singer worked his way down the food chain.


Many people went to jail; however, for short periods of time and their fortunes are intact. There are some that have plead guilty and have not been sentenced and some that plead not guilty and are awaiting trial.


As for Singer, he paid a $500,000 bond and is a free man until all sentencing is completed. The consensus is that it will be “some time” until the case is closed. It is estimated that Singer took $25 million in the scandal.


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Episode Link:

Rick Singer - College Admissions Scandal Explained