The Operation Varsity Blues federal investigation into university admissions cheating that resulted in more than 48 indictments, including well-known actors and billionaires, is drawing crowds outside courthouses in Los Angeles and Boston – far away from Northeast Ohio. But there is an important takeaway that every parent should note.

Best, as in colleges and universities, is a matter of opinion. And the best college for your child may not be a big-name school.

Keep in mind that colleges, universities, medical schools, law schools and other such institutions need to be accredited by governing educational organizations that ensure professors and instructors are properly credentialed and the course work in the programs meets national standards.

Harvard University, of course, is one of the, if not the best known for excellence and status in the world. There of course are other status schools – Yale, Princeton, Brown – as well as other favorites – Oberlin, Notre Dame and the University of Southern California.

Not all schools are best for all students. Some students thrive at smaller colleges while others find their place at big universities. There are opportunities to grow and excel at all campuses.

And because Harvard does have that top-school reputation, we say no matter where you attend, make that school your Harvard.

In the cheating scandal, a number of parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, collectively paid millions of dollars to place their children in elite universities. According to court records, some wealthy parents paid as much as $6.4 million to admissions consultant William Rick Singer of California who engaged in bribes, test score manipulations and other devious tactics to get the sons and daughters of his clients into top schools. Mr. Singer pleaded guilty in federal court to racketeering conspiracy, obstruction of justice and other charges. He ran a charity named Key Worldwide Foundation, which received as much as $25 million from parents over the years, according to court records.

Some of the money went to athletic coaches who created fake profiles of students, prosecutors said, and some went to administrators who had stand-ins take the ACT or SAT for the students.

But here is an important fact to consider: college and university admissions departments strive to look at the whole student. That means grades, activities, original essays and standardized test scores.

Realizing that a test score may not necessarily reflect a student’s unique skills, artistic talents and abilities, more and more colleges and universities are allowing applicants to choose whether the admissions team looks at their scores. Many schools embracing this policy are considered the cream of the crop. The highly selective University of Chicago and George Washington University are both test optional – submitting scores is up to the applicant. Top-tier New York University is test flexible. Elite Hampshire College is test blind – they don’t want your scores. According to FairTest, more than 1,000 accredited colleges and universities nationwide have de-emphasized ACT and SAT test scores in their admissions processes.

Yet parents in all economic brackets pay good money to have their children take test preparatory classes. Some students spend hours upon hours taking practice tests that hopefully will help them score higher.

So many students have talents and aspirations in life. Parents understandably want to help their children succeed. Operation Varsity Blues is an example of taking extreme measures that only the ultra wealthy can afford.

The best path to take is finding a school that fits the needs of the student. It may not be Harvard. It may start as a community college with a move to a major university. It may be a small liberal arts college with just the right program for that student. If he or she works hard and takes advantage of all that those schools have to offer, then success is imminent. Success that students earn on their own most assuredly leads to great satisfaction and happiness.

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