Netflix documentary Operation Varsity Blues explores how the wealthy subvert the college admissions process


Netflix’s documentary Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal delves into how actors Lori Loughlin (left) and Felicity Huffman (right) relied on William “Rick” Singer (center) to get their undeserving children admitted to top universities.

Netflix’s documentary Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal takes on the 2019 college admissions scandal in a new light by showing it from the perspective of William “Rick” Singer, the man behind the whole operation, as well as his conversations with his clients. 

When the college admissions bribery scandal of 2019 hit the news, it was shocking and spread quickly across the nation. It wasn’t only that parents had been privately cheating their child’s way into top schools, it was celebrities and their children that were involved. Notable celebrities such as Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman, Michelle Janavs, Jane Buckingham, and Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez were all a part of this scandal and were found or pleaded guilty. 

Not only did this expose these celebrity parents of bribery, but it also exposed how the wealthy can exploit the system to get their children admitted to top schools, even if their grades and school record are not fit for it. 

Singer, the mastermind behind the college admissions scandal, called his method the “side door,” meaning it was another way into these schools. “There was the front door for kids who can get into elite colleges on their own merits’” wrote Kirsten Fleming of the New York Post in explaining the different “doors” of the college admissions system.  “There was the back door where parents could write a very sizable check, hoping it has enough zeroes to sway the admissions office. And then there was Singer’s side door, which he opened with his company called The Key.”  

The Key was the vehicle Singer used to funnel money from the rich and famous parents to college coaches and staff members, as well as SAT exam proctors who would correct test-takers answers after the test. 

Not only did Singer help to provide those celebrity families with fake test scores, but he also faked clubs and school activities to make the rich kids’ college resumes more appealing to top colleges and universities. 

“He [Singer] asked parents to have their children pose in photographs playing a sport they were unfamiliar with, then turn around and use that sport to secure them admission to an elite university,” Annabel Gutterman of TIME Magazine wrote in explaining Singer’s ways to fake school sports and clubs. “The film does make mention of the Giannulli family—and also includes vlogs from Olivia Jade, their daughter and the YouTube star who posed as a crew recruit.”  

The college admissions bribery scandal of 2019 has many people wondering if colleges and universities have taken any measures to ensure that something like this will never happen again, but at the end of this Netflix documentary, it is written that the “back door” is still open for colleges that are willing to accept money, and there are still many such colleges and universities.