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

John R. Thelin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-334
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 2019


  • Access
  • Admissions
  • Affordability
  • Ambition
  • Athletics
  • Colleges
  • Prestige
  • Privilege
  • Upward mobility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (all)


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