Meghan Daum

Who Deserves a Fancy College Education? I Probably Didn’t.

The ultimate status symbol isn’t getting into a fancy school, but taking it for granted

Meghan Daum
GEN
Published in
7 min readMar 20, 2019

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Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY / Stringer/Getty Images

“I don’t know how much school I’m going to attend… I don’t really care about school, as all you guys know.”

These were the words, posted to social media last fall, of Olivia Jade, a 19-year-old social media influencer and beneficiary of an elaborate bribery scheme in which parents paid enormous sums to get their otherwise unqualified children into top-tier colleges universities.

Jade, the daughter of actress Lori Loughlin, is one of dozens of kids whose parents were so fearful of having to resort to safety schools that they paid a college admissions coach upwards of $1 million in some cases. His services included bribing athletic coaches and arranging for cheating on exams, among other acts of nefarious hubris.

The desperately sought goal, as Jade’s father, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, wrote in an email, was “getting her into a school other than ASU!” (Jade eventually enrolled at the University of Southern California.)

It’s curious that he would care so much, since not attending or caring about school can be done anywhere — or at least needn’t be limited to institutions you have to buy your way into. But despite being as outraged and appalled by this scandal as anyone else, I also, in a perverse way, understand the whole “fear of the safety school” mentality.

My life growing up was nothing like Jade’s. My parents couldn’t have conceived of offering bribes — or even pulling strings, since they had none to pull — to get me into the right college. But they spent their last dollars sending me to an elite college I didn’t necessarily “deserve” to attend. That college was (and is) a highly ranked if not quite tippy-top liberal arts school that is exponentially more difficult to get into now than it was 30 years ago, when I went there. (Like a lot of Gen Xers, I take some solace in the fact that even though I missed the stock market boom, I still managed to buy low and sell high when it comes to the currency of my college and its brand name.)

For parents, paying for that elite…

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Meghan Daum
GEN
Writer for

Weekly blogger for Medium. Host of @TheUnspeakPod. Author of six books, including The Problem With Everything. www.theunspeakablepodcast.com www.meghandaum.com