She's done things no other high schooler has, and can answer questions you've never even thought to ask.
We've all heard the news about the #CollegeCheatingScandal. We've all seen the backlash and the outrage, which, sadly, is translating to shaming and bullying of students who may have had no idea their parents were involved in bribery, cheating, fraud, and other scandals.
Olivia Jade Giannulli, daughter of Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, is one such student. It's unclear whether or not she had knowledge of her parents scheming.
If she did, obviously she did not deserve a spot at USC. Cheaters suck, and any kind of academic dishonesty should be held in the highest contempt. At best, it's unfair. At worst, it's dangerous. (Hi, Andrew Wakefield!)
But. Say she didn't know.
First, let's take a moment to practice a little empathy and perspective-taking. Set aside your "poor little rich girl" bias -- because, believe it or not, rich girls have feelings, too. Imagine thinking you made it to college on your own merit, then finding out it was all a lie. Imagine finding out your parents didn't believe in you -- and they lied to you about it.
How can that not be a blow?
Second... looking at everything she's accomplished, I'm actually a little surprised her parents felt the need to cheat on her application, because she's actually an astonishing and accomplished young woman.
Yes, she had a huge leg-up from being born to a rich family and privilege is a real thing.
But... how many teenagers do you know who have negotiated deals with companies like Amazon, Calvin Klein, Lulus, Boohoo, the Smile Direct Club, Tresemmé, GlassesUSA, and Marc Jacobs Beauty, among others?
From: Lulus Try On Clothing Haul, Olivia Jade
How many teenagers treat social media like a craft (which it is) and have turned it into an income -- versus all the millions of teens who merely use it for cyber bullying and passive entertainment?
How many teenagers have collaborated with Sephora, a multinational chain of luxury beauty and makeup products, on their own palette?
Olivia has shown maturity, dedication, resilience, and responsibility by devoting countless hours to her YouTube channel, artfully creating posts on Instagram to fulfill obligations to partners, all while remaining fresh, authentic, and engaging enough to grow her audience and drive sales. She frequently faces negative feedback and angry responses to her posts, which get amplified at least partly because she’s a celebrity.
She is a makeup and hair expert... and if you think that's trivial or stupid, it's probably because you're sexist. Makeup is a legitimate art -- and it's a way many women either express themselves, or improve their self-esteem, or both. Why is it cool to be able to quote NBA stats or enthusiastically share trade rumors during F5 season, but vapid and frivolous and empty to be excited about Fenty's new Avalanche Loose Powder Eye Shadow set?
Given all these accomplishments, why does she necessarily deserve the spot any less than someone whose mom and dad spammed their coworkers to buy their daughter's Girl Scout cookies? (Hint: if you care about feminism, don't buy Girl Scout cookies online or from parents.)
Why does she deserve the spot less than someone who spent a comparable amount of time learning trumpet or waltz? Does a trumpet player bring any more value to the school than a social media star? If so... why?
Olivia is someone who has accomplished more at age 19 than many of us will in a lifetime. Her knowledge, experience and connections are valuable to those who know her -- that includes her USC classmates.
Her expertise could be just what it takes for a classmate who is struggling to make it as a musician, actor, entrepreneur, animator, fashion designer, sportscaster, or really anything. People like to think that social media is easy, the domain of unpaid college or high school interns. But, in reality, social media is really hard.
And, sure, she's publicly made statements that make it sound like she "doesn't care" about school.
Who among us didn't make some similar, dumbass comment when we were teenagers?
Who didn't brag about how we've totally only been to this class, like, four times this quarter? Who hasn't joked about hardly ever reading their textbooks?
"Effortless perfection" is so hot right now -- hot enough that schools like Duke and Harvard have actively warned students (especially female students) about this impossible standard. Nevertheless, students continue to think it's "cool" to look and be perfect and pretend they totally didn't study for the midterm at all, even if it's all they did all week.
At my alma mater, we called it "Stanford Duck Syndrome" (students are supposed to look like they are gliding effortlessly along, when, in fact, they are paddling furiously under the surface).
The other thing is, now that I've been out of school for a few years, I'm hearing more and more of my classmates lamenting that they "could have done more" at Stanford. As adults, as alumni of these great schools, I think we're all going to eventually realize that the things we thought were important -- football games, boat-building parties -- may not have been the best use of our time.
But at the time... it kind of felt like what made us who we were. "Late nights having discussions we won't remember with people we'll never forget" -- that sort of thing.
Of course, I haven't met Olivia. I haven't looked at her test scores or read her essays. Maybe there is something on her transcripts that makes it glaringly obvious that she is not intellectually comparable to her (former) classmates at USC.
But from where I'm standing, it's hard to reconcile her accomplishments with her being a dimwit.
And it's a shame her parents didn't have enough faith and respect in her to see that. While they were busy bribing people and breaking the law... they somehow missed that their daughter actually has a certain kind of genius.
Really -- how would you feel if you found out your parents didn't believe in you? That's a sting even money can't insulate you from.
(And, again, I take it all back if it turns out she was in on the scheme.)
Of course, Olivia isn't the real issue, here. The issue is wealth and opportunity inequality in this country. I grew up voting Republican -- although I never would now (the party has devolved into something cruel, ignorant, and hypocritical), I also never though I would even consider UBI, universal health care, or other measures that are clearly becoming necessary in our changing society.
The world has changed. Wealth inequality is a serious problem. That's a topic I'm not sure how to solve.
Instead, I'm writing about Olivia, because I want you to challenge your definition of "intelligence." Why are you worthy of admission if you code an app that gets a few thousand downloads, but not if you build a personal brand with millions of followers? Why is chess any more strategic or cerebral than social media? Why is painting considered a creative form of self-expression, but makeup is vapid? And do you really think retaking the SAT five times makes you more qualified than someone who demonstrated a genuine passion that she developed fully? Are you really going to hold it against someone that they didn't take AP Stats because they were busy analyzing their web traffic and Facebook Insights data?
As I wrote in Honestly, Who CARES Why You Got In? You Got In! Now Make The Most Of It (even though it's obvious from reading the article, I will point out for those of you who want to comment without reading it -- I'm not talking about cheaters. Cheaters don't deserve admission) :
No one (except cheaters) should "feel bad" about "why" they got in. No one should question their belonging, just because their story or intelligence is different from the conventional model. "Interdisciplinary" isn't just a hot buzzword in education right now -- it is the only way to innovate in a digital world with more knowledge and technology than ever before. Remember: achievement isn't normal - it's log normal. That is why we need students from all backgrounds and with all different skillsets at our top schools.
This isn't to say that Olivia was Stanford material... but I think she certainly could have thrived at USC. :P
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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