Imposter syndrome—Fake Elite University Admissions: Who are they really cheating?

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.

By Maramis

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.

We’ve been told by those who are educated enough to know — and have letters after their name testifying to their knowledge of this apparent truth — that everyone lies.
If such people are including those of us who answer “Fine” when someone asks how we are or how things are going, or those of us who tell our grandmother that she looks good when wearing that fashionable-30-years-ago yellow and pink outfit that no one would wear to put out the garbage today (but she likes it so much she wears it at least once a week), then I can fully agree. But as a mother (maybe because of such a conclusion that everyone lies) it was part of my job
to teach my children truthfulness.
Yet here’s the big BUT… if everyone lies, it was also my job to teach my children when it was permissible, acceptable, or even necessary to lie. And when they should NEVER lie.
I’m a big fan of “The Greater Good,” but that in itself needs to be taught and cannot be left up to a child to decide, as in whether it’s more important to avoid a punishment or tell their parent the truth.
As we all know from watching certain movies that condense many years of life down to about two hours of viewing time (and we even know of such things in real life), the consequences of telling a lie can be disastrous and even fatal. Lies can send innocent people to prison or even to death row. Lies can ruin reputations or allow unqualified professionals — from doctors to lawyers to pilots to teachers — to work at their job and cause misery, harm, and even death in their particular field. Who would want an unqualified surgeon to operate on their loved one? Who would want an unqualified lawyer defending them on a murder charge? And who would even want an unqualified teacher preparing their child for graduation, to say nothing of life?
Somewhere along the way of growing up, children have to be taught the value of the truth, but if the adults around them don’t hold truth as a value for themselves and even encourage lies if such lies will help them get ahead in life (whatever that means), how are they to understand the real value of truth?
Some people do not see lying on paper — as in “fudging” information one puts on an application, a resume, or a report — the same as misstating the words that come out of one’s mouth. Some people lie on social media to — in their minds — make themselves look better. If they could then live up to what they said about themselves, they might get away with it, but words do not make one stronger or more adept at football or any other sport; and words cannot make one brighter, more able to “speak calculus” or grasp concepts. If just saying something is true would work, why did not the students about whom their parents
lied to get them into those elite universities lie to become all that they were hoping to be so their parents would not have to lie to get them in since they were obviously not qualified? And why is lying to gain that entrance a greater value than gaining entrance to a less “elite” university by being truthful? Is it really more for the parent’s bragging rights than the child’s good or welfare?
Sometimes students need a little help to just get through high school. Maybe they were taught at the hands of sub-adequate teachers who never even noticed or cared about their need for a little extra teaching time. But to “give” extra credit or credentials, as it were, to students whose parents could afford to pay big bucks for that boost for their child, is kind of like trying to buy your way into heaven.
Once you get there — to either heaven or the university — it won’t take long for the “real you” to come to the fore, and if you’re not genuinely qualified, you’ll be asked to “move down to a lower seat at the table.” It can then be more embarrassing than just not making the cut along with all your other classmates.
Yes, they’ve recently uncovered the worst crime in college admissions history, thanks to those parents who were willing to pay for their child’s gain. Even hearing about it now, knowing that perhaps on a smaller scale things like this might have been going on for years, it is still overwhelmingly disturbing.
The bribery scheme, ostensibly orchestrated by TV producer Rick Singer, consisted of wealthy parents willing to pay extremely big bucks to falsify test scores and athletic accomplishments and such of their children to secure their admission to colleges for which they are not qualified. In other words, they’ll get what they want because they can afford to buy (bribe) their way in.
And it wasn’t just about scores and academics. Some parents wanted their kids to get onto athletic teams, and while many well-qualified students were more than qualified, their parents didn’t have the big bucks to bribe the appropriate people (nor would they) and therefore their names would go to the bottom of the list below those who could enrich the cheaters’ pockets. There is no way to view any of this other than an “I can afford to get what I want for my child and I’m willing to pay” attitude coupled with an “I’ll be happy to make it happen for a fee!” It’s the ever-popular Greed Monsters making it possible for all those want-what-they-want parents to have a way to get it.
Sometimes a parent can do more good for their child by showing them that false credentials are not better than honest achievements, and no amount of lying will equal even a little bit of truth.
Why, we wonder, when the parent/s had the opportunity for a great and lasting teaching lesson in life they chose instead to show them the worst way to get what they want (or to get what they — the parents — wanted) instead of going for the greater good — that of doing their best and being rewarded for their own efforts, not slipping by on the wealth of their parents.
Even when one gets such an opportunity based solely on the “donation” from a parent, it will not make them the person they would have become on their own. In fact, it may send a permanent message that they can buy their way into what they want and buy their way out of trouble, as long as the price is right.
Favoring wealthy (by virtue of their parents) students has probably been going on for a long time, and who knows if they got into the school on their own merits. Yet merits or not, no doubt their daddy’s donations couldn’t hurt their standing.
But this new and recent scandal spoils all the good that parents are trying to do in teaching their children about going forward on their own merits and finding success through their own efforts. Why would those privileged parents think it would be a good thing to let their child suffer by trying extra hard to catch up to the students who were way ahead in everything they had to lie about? Didn’t they realize that one can fake it only so long, to say nothing of the admissions
board who may find it hard to ever automatically believe a student’s admission record again.
The Imposter Syndrome can last a lifetime if it starts out with the full support of one’s parents.
* * * * *
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at

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