I have worked in higher education for much of my career – with students just like you. They came from a variety of backgrounds, had differing levels of advantage or disadvantage, and came with the hope that when they left college they would be destined for success.
I understand that your situation is terrible. If you had no idea what your parents had done, you likely feel betrayed and incredibly ashamed. If you knew, your complicity is now public and an embarrassment. Either way, things are looking very bleak right now.
It is these points in our lives that we have to make a decision on how we move forward. You are young and have a lot of life in front of you; time to leave your mark on the world and do great things. Don’t let this be the moment that defines you. Instead, make it the moment that moves you toward the person you want to be.
I am sorry that adults will shame you as you go through this time. It is unfair and, in some cases, undeserved. Understand that it often comes from a place of frustration, having seen their own children struggle to get into college and succeed, and now feeling cheated themselves by an unfair process. You now have the chance to prove that you are more than the beneficiary of cheating. It won’t be easy and you will need support, but it is possible. Take this as an opportunity to truly examine who you want to be, then take the steps to get there. This hard work is exactly what people think you aren’t capable of. Prove them wrong.
To those who feel I am giving these students or their parents a pass, you are wrong. Each of those involved has a price to pay and consequences to face. I just believe that at 17, 18 or even 24, how you handle your mistakes (or those of your parents) is far more important than the mistake you made. We are a society who believes in second chances. I am a believer in opportunity to change. Neither of these is a free pass, but rather an opportunity. It is the hard work put forth by these students from now on that should define them. And I want them to have that chance.
So, students, take this time to reflect. It is so important. Then, move on. Try to repair relationships that have been damaged and work to build a new reputation that you will be proud of. This is not the end for you unless you let it be. Just like all of the students I have worked with in the past, your future is in your hands. And just like those students, it is the ones who take the time to know what they want, are willing to work very hard, and embrace failure as an opportunity who will succeed. I hope you will be one of them.