, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 329–334 | Cite as

An Embarrassment of Riches: Admission and Ambition in American Higher Education

  • John R. ThelinEmail author
Symposium: Varsity Blues


Allegations of bribery and corruption in admission to prestigious American colleges brought academics and athletics into the public forum in March 2019. This paper distinguishes illegalities from inequities in the decisions that elite college admissions offices make about student applications. Typically special admission allowances tend to favor outstanding athletes whose academic record may be marginal. The incidents in Varsity Blues indicated a different imbalance: namely, that athletic admission slots, especially in so-called “country club” sports tended to give an admissions edge to applicants who did not show great athletic achievement or potential. These episodes put into bold relief new examples of advantage and privilege in going to college as part of American society.


Admissions Affordability Athletics Ambition Access Colleges Prestige Privilege Upward mobility 


Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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