There is a college-bribery scandal in the news, and every nonwhite college student who was ever mistaken for a janitor, maid or potential assailant just rolled his or her eyes.

Rich, privileged—and very often white—people use their money and influence to give their kids a leg up in a rigged college system?

You don’t say.

In the days after it came out that some wealthy Hollywood actors have been accused of criminally conspiring to get their kids into the University of Southern California, I loved this Associated Press headline: “Admissions scandal highlights divide over class in America.”

All it needed was this amendment: “for white people.”

Not to be crass, but the only people who need the scales to fall from their eyes about how money and power are abused in a country that supposedly reveres merit are those who don’t need to prove themselves.

For those who still go to bed at night with the comforting fantasy that all it takes to succeed in America is the willingness to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and work harder than the other guy, “the corruption in the college admission system exposed by Tuesday’s indictments further shatters any notion that hard work, good grades and perseverance are the way to get into a prestigious school.”

The Associated Press goes on to list the ways that students matriculate into college. The “front” door, which means the standard fairy tale of hard work, good grades and excellent standardized test scores; and the “back” door, wherein parents donate large sums of money to a school expecting to influence admissions decisions.

Newly introduced to our lexicon is the “side” door. This scenario, the one that got the Hollywood people into trouble, involves all kinds of alleged malfeasance, like bribing college-entrance exam proctors, substituting test-takers, and passing off nonsports people as recruited athletes.

And that doesn’t even take into account the whole “legacy” system of college admissions at the most elite universities, where the children of graduates are given preference.

Whatever. That’s all been well known to people of color who made it through the higher-education system in this country.

More interesting were the reactions of people who, like me, were the first in their families to attend college and, upon arriving to campus—and then in the professional world—had to constantly prove that they belonged.

“Shout-out to all the children of immigrants who had to figure out college application forms, fees, financial aid forms, books, tuition on their own because they knew the impossible burden it would be on their parents,” tweeted Gabe Ortíz, an immigrant activist and staff writer for the Daily Kos.

As for me, well, I’m on the record for having walked away from a full-ride scholarship at a prestigious university because it was clear to me that the professors, staff and all my fellow students believed I had gotten in just for being Hispanic.

Now that people are finally understanding that lots of kids get into universities and colleges merely because their parents have the cash to make it happen, I kinda wish I’d stayed.

Esther Cepeda writes for the Washington Post Writers Group. Reach her at does not condone or review every comment. Read more in our Commenter Policy Agreement

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