Unacceptable:  Privilege, Deceit & the Making of the College Admissions Scandal

Unacceptable:  Privilege, Deceit & the Making of the College Admissions Scandal
Thursday, March 4, 2021 | 3:00pm - 4:30pm


UNACCEPTABLE is the definitive story of the college admissions scandal that shocked the nation and shattered myths about meritocracy. Join the authors Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz, Wall Street Journal reporters who broke major developments in the story that exposed Rick Singer's operation which helped children nationwide secures spots at the schools of their dreams - for some, by any means necessary.They will share the history of this now famous operation, tracing the rise and ruin of the largest scam of its kind ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice. There will also be ample time for Q&A. Presented in partnership with VA Festival of the Book and WriterHouse. Register in advance, below:

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Melissa Korn is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal in New York covering higher education. Previously, she wrote for Dow Jones Newswire. She is a graduate of Cornell University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Jennifer Levitz is a national reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Boston covering general news, economics, and politics. Previously, she wrote for the Providence Journal. She is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. She graduated from Loyola University of Maryland.

"Unacceptable" is available from these vendors


Talking Points from UNACCEPTABLE

The book paints a riveting portrait of Rick Singer and the history of his operation.

  • A deep dive into his personality  and character traits that made him able to pull off such a brazen scheme for so long.
  • How he was able to exploit loopholes in admissions systems, most famously, utilizing the back and side doors of college admissions with sizable donations and fraudulent athlete flags.
  • The stranger than fiction strategies for cheating on standardized tests--the professional test takers who doctored results and manipulated allowances for special needs students.
  • The evolution of college admissions into blood sport, which fed on the deep desires of already privileged families to achieve the ultimate status symbol: acceptance at the “right” school.
  • The idea that there are secrets to know and ways to win, which helped fuel a burgeoning industry around college counseling.

Korn and Levitz had unparalleled access to the families involved.

  • Exclusive insights into parents that provide well-rounded assessments of their motivations and Singer’s operations.
  • So far, the only interview with one of the children involved. For Matteo Sloane this interview seemed like something of a watershed moment of asserting his independence. He gives his side of the story, and sends a message to parents everywhere. 
  • Behind-the-scenes details of the investigation and legal battle that spanned the country, from California to New York to Boston. 
  • Riveting accounts of the high-profile arrests and courtroom dramas.


Numbers worth noting:

  • Rick Singer was paid up to $75,000 for his testing scheme and between $100,000 and $6.5 million for his illicit athletics admissions service, with the majority paying between $250,000 and $400,000 per student.
  • Between 2011 and 2018 parents paid some $25 million to Singer’s charity Key Worldwide Foundation to bribe coaches and a college administrator to designate the children of wealthy clients as recruited athletes.
  • Test-taking whiz Mark Riddell earned more than $200,000 cheating on college entrance exams more than 25 times in Canada, Texas and California as well as other places over the course of the cheating scheme.
  • Forget real estate porn, the court proceedings provided tons of bank account porn. One mother who was charged and pleaded guilty, heiress to the Hot Pockets fortune, received $100k monthly in a trust fund.


Open to all.