Culture

The College Cheating Scandal Highlights The Different Paths Many Face Getting To College

When Denise Ocana heard the news the about the college admissions scandal, she wasn’t surprised. Ocana, 25, worked weekends at a swap meet with her parents to save enough money to attend UCLA, her dream school. Coincidentally, UCLA was one of schools embroiled in the the nation’s largest admissions scandal. Whether it’s working multiple jobs, studying long nights for the SAT or applying for endless scholarships, Ocana is one of many individuals that have to make every sacrifice possible to even have a chance of attending college.

While some were shocked to learn of reports that wealthy parents essentially paid to get their kids into elite schools, the news is a shot of reality. It’s also a glimpse into the two different playing fields people face when applying to their dream school. The scandal has started discussions about why factors such as donations and legacy status are part of the admissions process, which has traditionally benefited wealthier families.

The college admissions scandal reinforced the belief the process can be gamed by those with wealth and influence.

@karla_estrada22/Twitter

Like Ocana, Karla Estrada, 28, wasn’t surprised when she heard about the scandal. Estrada, a UCLA graduate, said it reaffirmed her belief that a portion of her classmates “got some help” in the admission process.

“It was common knowledge that some bought their way in but to have it confirmed was satisfying in a sense,” Estrada said. “But there’s some bitterness because it’s not fair to just have it handed it to them and have us have to fight for it.”

Estrada was an undocumented student which made getting any type of financial assistance nearly impossible. She worked full time to save for school and had no financial help from her parents. There was no federal aid available for her let alone enough scholarship money for her to pay tuition. For these reasons, Estrada had to find a sponsor to help her get enough money to attend school.

“We barely had enough money to eat let alone for school. I had to get sponsorship so I literally showed up to random companies to speak to their CEO to ask if someone could pay for my college,” Estrada said. “Lucas Oil and Lite Source ended up helping and because of them I was able to afford college.”

The scandal has started a discourse around affirmative action.

@EricaLG/Twitter

The admissions scandal highlights the racial and economic disparities that plague access to higher education. Yet when many students of color get access to these institutions, a stereotype follows them. The notion that affirmative action is the only reason they are there. At times they are accused of taking slots from white students just because of their ethnicity or race.

Izaak Ramirez, 27, disagrees with the notion that students of color get into college easier based on the color of their skin. Ramirez applied to seven colleges but didn’t get into UCLA, his dream school. He had to go the community college route despite having a 3.7 GPA in high school.

“It was overwhelming and I sat there and cried because of all the efforts I put forward felt wasted in a way,” Ramirez said. “Being a person of color or a Latino doesn’t automatically means you’re getting through that door.

Ramirez knows what accessing an elite school means in terms of getting a career and making a name for yourself. Grads of elite universities tend to earn annual salaries that are as much as 50 percent higher than all other college grads. That alone is worth making countless sacrifices to get themselves into these institutions.

Even during college things don’t get easier for many.

@hija_dl_trueno /Twitter

Ocana is currently in a graduate program at California State University, Northridge where she is pursuing a degree in Public Administration. Yet as she pursues the next chapter in her education, she is still reminded at times how hard it is to stand out at these institutions. Ocana says at times she feels she’s competing against the system and the admissions scandal reminds her how easy it is for some.

“No one’s surprised by the news and honestly it was just a matter of time before everyone knew,” Ocana said about the scandal. “If we all had the money to pay to get into college we’d all be here but what’s the pride in that. If my option was CSUN or USC , I’d still go to USC but that’s not how it works.”

Despite the advantages that some may have, hard work is something that will always be valued.

@latinoheritagela / Instagram

While the admissions scandal has shined a light on what’s wrong about the college application process, it’s also highlighted what’s good. For the number of those that try to cheat their way in, there’s more that are working harder just to get their chance.

Estrada is an example of this hard work. No legal status, limited financial help but a work ethic that few can match. Today, she is a immigration law & criminal defense paralegal trying to make a difference in her own community.

Despite the negativity the scandal has brought, Estrada hopes it starts a much needed conversation about the reality that so many Latinos and people of color have to endure in college.

“Sometimes we believe that we don’t belong here even though we have earned our seat in the classroom,” Estrada said “We have to constantly prove to the world we are good enough and then prove to ourselves. I say we are more than good enough.”

READ: UCLA Men’s Soccer Coach Jorge Salcedo Is One Of More Than 50 People Indicted In College Bribery Scandal

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If You’ve Been Struggling with College During COVID, These Tips Might Help You Cope

Things That Matter

If You’ve Been Struggling with College During COVID, These Tips Might Help You Cope

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Covid-19 is changing the all-American college experience. There is no more late-night munchie runs at 3 a.m., house party hopping, or late-night cramming with friends in the library. The spirit has completely changed, but all for the greater good of keeping others healthy and safe.

Still, that doesn’t discredit the fact that we are losing the value of our education by it moving online. We’re no longer able to use the campus as a resource to help fuel ourselves academically or socially. We long for the day we are able to build a sense of community again.

Here’s how Covid has changed the college experience and what you can do to make it better.

The Move to Online

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Being a college senior myself, remote learning has taken a huge toll on me. My days are lengthened with logging on to Zoom for everything, and yes- even my pair of blue-light glasses can’t keep me focused.

I find myself eagerly waiting for my professor to say “That’s it for today everyone,” and sometimes can only hang in there for half of the time. I’m constantly left feeling anxious and frustrated.

I was sure that universities would begin to understand how different students cope with a very tricky, unstable, and scary situation at hand. However, I’ve experienced the opposite. An overwhelming influx of papers, online assignments, and weekly quizzes quickly presented themselves. Not to mention more group projects. Weekends soon became “working-weekends” and with assignments piling up I truly felt like I was drowning.

It wasn’t long until I had to think for myself. How am I going to cope with the now? I needed to figure out the best plan I could to navigate something out of mine and everyone else’s control. If you too are struggling during this time whether it be financially, academically, emotionally, etc, please know you are not alone. Below are some resources that might help each day go by just a little better than the last, and hopefully give you peace of mind.

Finances:

COVID Emergency Assistance Funds

The last thing that we want to do is pay full price for online learning, especially during a pandemic. So check with your college or university about COVID Emergency Assistance/Relief Funds. This has greatly helped students access resources such as food, housing, course materials, technology, and affordable health care. In some cases, they even pay you to be at home. Additionally, FAFSA is allowing students to get even more aid granted despite if they were already given their semester disbursement- so it’s definitely worth checking out.

Visit your official college website & https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa for more information.

Scholarships

Trust me, we all could use a little help in this area. Luckily, Tuition Funding Sources’s (TFS) database connects students to monthly scholarships based on needs, wants, and qualifications. They have highlighted “scholarships of the day” as well as career aptitude tests that can help your search become even more personal.

Businesses are also partnering up right now to help students around the world get the support they need to further their education. The McDonald’s® HACER ® National Scholarship assists Latino students to be front and center and attain the education they deserve. In 2019, more than $500,000 was granted to 30 students in order to help finance tuition costs. And better yet, The 2020-2021 application period just opened October 5th.

For more information on how to apply for the listed scholarships, visit https://www.tuitionfundingsources.com  or https://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/community/hacer.html .

Mental Health & Well-Being:

Headspace

This app is a lifesaver. From brief wellbeing exercises to longer guided meditation, Headspace is offering free downloadable tracks that can help you ease your mind at home or on-the-go anywhere and anytime. Tune in when you need a break or to re-center yourself.  

Visit https://www.headspace.com/covid-19 to see what tracks are available now.

Podcasts

Sometimes hearing someone speak and having an honest conversation about a certain topic is really fun to engage with. It provides us another perspective other than their are own, and it’s interesting to get a glimpse at the way other people live. Taking 30 minutes out of your day to listen to an episode can help ease some stress, reminding you that others are by your side who, too, have felt the same chaos.

For a great selection of podcasts, search Spotify or Apple Podcasts to start the search on some good series.

Be Patient with Yourself

Credit: @nbc/ Giphy

Remember, this pandemic is not forever although it might feel like it right now. Do not feel like you are responsible for the frustration you are undergoing. Take some time to care for yourself and take a step back from the craziness of the world to remind yourself that things will get better.

Talk to a friend, counselor, or therapist if you find yourself in a crisis more than you can bear. Crisis Text Line offers free, 24/7 service to anyone who needs some support and wants to speak with someone. What’s nice is you have the option to either call or text, depending on what’s most comfortable and effective for you. 

Visit https://www.crisistextline.org to get free 24/7 support whenever, wherever. 

Other Tips

Zoom Party

Credit: @snl / Giphy

Get-togethers are looking a lot different right now, but you can still plan an event that will keep all of your friends together. Zoom can be a wonderful platform not only for the classroom, but to catch up with everyone. Plan a “Whine Night” where you talk about all things life or vibe to shared music. Your university should give you an unlimited personal meeting room link so you don’t have to pay a dime for the time.

Virtual Social Hours

Many universities are offering virtual social hours so students can connect to each other and get more of a sense of community as we navigate through the days. Check online on your school’s website to see what types of activities they are offering students at this time, and what events might fit your personal or career interests.  You never know who you might meet!

Find Your Hobby 

Having a go-to hobby during this time can give you something to look forward to and be an escape from all the ongoing chaos. Look into things like surfing, socially distanced yoga classes, cooking, or hiking to get you feeling joyful and inspired. Try one thing out and see if you like it, and if not who says you can’t just move to the next thing? You’ll be surprised at what you discover will be your next “thing.”


The pandemic has definitely made college life and life, in general, a whole lot harder. Know that it is completely normal to feel mad, sad, scared, or anxious about what’s to come. With these tips, my only wish is that they help you cope just a bit more as they have for me. Together we will get through this, slowly but surely.

READ: A 13-Year-Old Student Just Became A California College’s Youngest Graduate

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This 12-Year-Old MENSA Member Is Starting His Sophomore Year of College But Stays Humble— ‘I Just Grasp Information Quickly’

Fierce

This 12-Year-Old MENSA Member Is Starting His Sophomore Year of College But Stays Humble— ‘I Just Grasp Information Quickly’

CBS

Twelve-year-old Caleb Anderson has a head on his shoulder that’s steering him towards a bright and brilliant future. Most kids Anderson’s age are diving headfirst into their 7th-grade year, he on the other hand is headed to college.

Back to college that is.

Anderson is currently enrolled at Chattahoochee Technical College as a sophomore.

From Marietta, Georgia, he’s on track to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in two years. Speaking to CBS News for an interview the pre-treen remains humble and chalks up his success to being quick.

“I’m not really smart,” Caleb explained in his interview with the outlet. “I just grasp information quickly. So, if I learn quicker, then I get ahead faster.”

When it comes to pursuing his education, Anderson has his eyes set on a greater prize than just earning his bachelor’s degree. The 12-year-old is intent on heading off to Georgia Institute of Technology or the Massachusetts Institute for Technology. He’s hoping to eventually wind up with an internship at Tesla working for SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

“When I was like 1, I always wanted to go to space,” Anderson said in a separate interview with USA Today. “I figured that aerospace engineering would be the best path.”

Just twelve and Anderson has made quite a few other accomplishments.

At just 9 months old he learned how to do American Sign Language began reading just a few months later. “I have this distinct memory of going to a first-grade class and learning there, and everyone was way taller than me, because, you know, I was 2,” he explained to USA Today. “I could barely walk!”

According to his interviews, Anderson began solving math equations by the time he reached his second birthday and qualified for MENSA at just 3 years old. MENSA is the largest and oldest high IQ society across the globe. The non-profit organization is open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized intelligence test. Members have included the likes of Geena Davis, Nolan Gould of “Modern Family,” and Joyce Carol Oates.

Explaining what it is like to raise a genius, Anderson’s father Kobi WKYC that he realized his kid was special when he began to speak to other parents.

“As we started to interact with other parents, and had other children, then we started to realize how exceptional this experience was because we had no other frame of reference,” Kobi explained. “He has far surpassed me in math, so I can’t help him anymore. Seriously! He’s in calculus two now!”

When it comes to her son, Anderson’s mother says that she hopes other parents see him as an example and that he inspires other Black children.

“I think people have a negative perspective when it comes to African-American boys,” she explained. “There are many other Calebs out there… African-American boys like him. From being a teacher — I really believe that. But they don’t have the opportunity or the resources.”

Check out Anderson’s interview below!

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