The riveting true story behind the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal, a cautionary tale of parenting gone wrong, the system that enabled families to veer so far off course, and the mastermind who made it all happen.
When federal prosecutors dropped the bombshell of Operation Varsity Blues, it broke open the crimes of exclusive universities and wealthy families all over the country, shattering the myth of American meritocracy. In Unacceptable, veteran Wall Street Journal reporters Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz dig deep into how otherwise smart, loving parents became caught up in scandal, led through the side door by one man: college whisperer Rick Singer.
Unacceptable traces how, over decades, the charismatic Singer easily reeled in parents hoping to guarantee top educations for their children, and exploited a system rigged against regular people. Exploring the status obsession that seduced entitled parents in search of an edge, Korn and Levitz unfurl a scheme that entangled more than fifty conspirators, from wealthy CEOs to famous actresses, leading to imprisonments, ruined careers, and terminated enrollments.
An eye-opening account of corruption in America’s most exclusive institutions, Unacceptable tells the story of helicopter parenting, coddled teens, and the man who thought he couldn’t be caught. Detailing Singer’s steady rise and dramatic fall, Korn and Levitz expose the ugly underbelly of elite college admissions, and the devastating consequences of buying success.
About the Author
Melissa Korn is a higher education reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Previously, she wrote for Dow Jones Newswires. 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. Previously, she wrote for the Providence Journal. She has been a member of two Pulitzer Prize finalist teams. She graduated from Loyola University Maryland.
"Amidst the challenges posed by getting into competitive colleges, especially in this 2020 admissions cycle, Korn and Levitz’s book provides a telling look at the dark side of competitive college admissions. Only by frankly acknowledging the faults in the system can we begin to change it.”—Dr. Aviva Legatt, Forbes
“Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz narrate their well-researched account as if it were a thriller about the mob . . . a whodunnit in which the central crimes seem less significant than the crumbling social system they reveal – more Gosford Park than The Godfather."—The Times Literary Supplement
“Through Unacceptable, Korn and Levitz grant us access to [admissions’] seedy underbelly. From the social-climbing antics of Rick Singer, the mastermind behind the cheating scheme, to the velvet-gloved F.B.I. raids of celebrities’ homes, they take us along the roller-coaster ride of Operation Varsity Blues. Piercing the veneer of perfection worn by Hollywood A-listers and corporate elites, Korn and Levitz show how wealthy families bribed their way into colleges like Stanford and the University of Southern California rather than bet on their children’s potential.”—The New York Times Book Review
"The authors' highly readable exposé goes well beyond the tabloid level. . . A capable examination of the seamy intersection of ambition, money, and higher education."—Kirkus Reviews
"A ticktock account of last year’s explosive admissions scandal . . . The stories highlighted by Korn and Levitz are read-out-loud appalling . . . more outrageous and more haunting as a book."—The Washington Post
“I’ve been savoring [Unacceptable] . . . It’s jaunty, it’s readable, and the authors aren’t scared of tabloid argot."—The Boston Globe
“A fast-paced account of the massive college admissions scam devised by Rick Singer...This indictment of contemporary American culture offers an in-depth look at the families who were willing to break the law and ignore ethical principles to provide higher education for their children...A well-researched and detailed picture of a crime emerging in an American culture corrupted by wealth and celebrity.”—Library Journal
“This may be the tell-all book on which people will rely for details on the case."—Inside Higher Education
"One book alone can't change everything. But this is an excellent start."—LinkedIn
"What makes Unacceptable a worthwhile book is not just the voyeuristic insight into the way money-hungry institutions (or their employees) can fleece status-hungry parents, but rather the moral insight into the rottenness of the whole system . . . For hard examples of how the American class system is becoming more rigid as the wealthy find ever-less salubrious ways to pass on their privilege, Unacceptable is hard to beat."—Higher Education Strategy Associates