As we are writing this post, the college admissions scandal took a new turn. You can read about it in “Students Receive `Target Letters’ in College Admissions Scandal, Lawyer Says,” an article by Jennifer Medina and Anemonia Hartocollos that was published in The New York Times on April 16, 2019. It reports that children whose parents paid bribes to get them into college could now be charged in criminal cases.

That’s right. Mom and Dad paid the bribes, but their kids could now be charged as criminals. As the article points out, some of these students apparently knew that their parents were cheating to get them into elite colleges, while other students apparently did not.

How Far Should Guidance Counselors Bend the Rules?

Let’s take a look at a slightly different question . . .

If you are a guidance counselor, could unethical decisions you make permanently harm the students you advise?

It can be tempting for guidance counselors to bend the rules only a little, to give their advisees an edge in the admissions process. If you are a counselor, have you ever been tempted to do one of the following things?

  • Advise a student to apply for a special accommodation that allows extra time to take a standardized test . . . even though it is questionable that your advisee really needs it.
  • Encourage a student to omit some family financial data from an application for financial aid, because it would lessen the chances of getting a scholarship.
  • Have a student exaggerate what he or she really contributed to a community or charity project.
  • Encourage a student to list him or herself as a member of a minority group in order to gain an edge in admissions, even though you are not completely certain of his or her true ethnicity.

As a counselor, teacher or parent, it can be tempting to consider doing things like those. However, as The New York Times story we mentioned above points out, you might not be the only person who will suffer harm that can come from bending rules. The students you counsel could suffer too – not only legally, but reputationally.

Incidentally, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) publishes a list of ethical standards for its members to observe. Whether you are a parent, student, teacher or guidance counselor, they are worth reviewing and thinking about.

To Learn More about Trends in Higher Education

We invite you to further explore the findings of the Career Pathways and 21st Century Skills study.

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