Two Wall Street Journal reporters reveal the inside story of the college admissions scandal lead by hustler Rick Singer, who easily exploited a system rigged against regular people. Exploring the status obsession that seduced entitled parents in search of an edge, Korn and Levitz detail a scheme that eventually entangled more than fifty conspirators—a catalog of wealth and privilege.
A ticktock account of last year’s explosive admissions scandal ... I followed the media coverage when the scandal broke, but I found the story somehow more outrageous and more haunting as a book. Korn and Levitz go beyond the celebrities, though they are included, and show how each of the parents involved ultimately decided what level of fraud they were comfortable with—and almost more interestingly, what lines some wouldn’t cross ... Korn and Levitz deftly handle a complex cast of characters, with a gentle touch for the children involved, even those who probably knew about the deception. Still, I found myself wanting to know more about the other students—the ones who could have gotten into Yale or Georgetown but didn’t because their spots were taken ... Race is an important, though somewhat ignored, subtext of the book. Some of the White, wealthy students lied about their race on their applications, under the mistaken impression that being White put them at a disadvantage when applying to college.
... a book as depressing as it is gripping ... Unacceptable reads at times like a rushed attempt to flesh out the colourful indictment and subsequent court reporting, when it could have dug much deeper. There is little on the effects of parents’ cheating on their children, for instance, and the reactions to the scandal of the examiners and the universities get scant treatment ... This broader context awaits a more comprehensive treatment than Unacceptable offers.
Piercing the veneer of perfection worn by Hollywood A-listers and corporate elites, Korn and Levitz show how wealthy families bribed their way into colleges like Stanford and the University of Southern California rather than bet on their children’s potential ... outlines the role that legacy and athletic preferences play in admissions, and forces us to grapple with whether their dominance is truly fair ... Part of me ached for more than a narrative version of court documents from Korn and Levitz. At times their accounting of events appears to extend sympathy to recently divorced parents looking to assuage their guilt about the toll the separation took on the family. That stands in stark contrast to the public damning of parents who falsified addresses to register children in crime-free primary schools ... speaks to the current political moment.