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May 23, 2019

They were rejected from their dream schools – but rich kids got in (with a lot of help)

March 14, 2019
The Georgetown University campus on March 12, 2019. Georgetown University and several other schools including Yale, Stanford, the University of Texas, University of Southern California and UCLA were named in an FBI investigation targeting 50 people as part of a bribery scheme (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

She thought she was destined for Georgetown.

Alyson Clare Decker first considered attending the elite Washington D.C. university following an advanced placement Government Program hosted by the Junior Statesman of America on the Georgetown campus. Ahead of her freshman year of college, set to begin in 2000, Decker, now a California-based attorney, kicked off the application process with an interview by a local alumnae, who seemed to think she was a “shoo-in for the school.”


She was a dedicated student enrolled in a special magnet program in the Los Angeles Unified School District called “The Highly Gifted Magnet,” which she described as a “public school alternative to a private school,” with a focus on advanced courses, academic extracurricular activities and summer programs.

“Everyone within the program went to college and mostly to top schools,” Decker said.

Her SAT scores were “well in the almost automatically accepted group” just like her grades, so she couldn’t help but be shocked when she received a rejection from Georgetown University.

Alyson Clare Decker
Alyson Clare Decker (provided)

“It was one of my top choices at the time as I had been very interested in getting involved in politics and law and it seemed like a natural choice. And I had loved my summer living on the campus and being in DC,” she said.

Even her interviewer was surprised by the rejection — when he called to ask if she would be heading to Georgetown, she was forced to tell him she’d been turned away by the school.

“I just sort of brushed it and assumed I wasn’t conservative enough or Catholic, or ‘East Coast’ enough or something,” she recalled. “It was also clear in my applications that I would have needed a decent scholarship to attend and did not come from a well-off family, so I knew that might have been a detractor as well.”

Nearly 20 years later, Decker said she couldn’t help but feel the sting of rejection from her dream school — especially in wake of the widespread college admission bribery scam that has implicated dozens of parents in addition to school officials, test proctors and university coaches.

According to investigators, parents paid up to $6.5 million to boost their kids’ chances of getting into schools like Georgetown University, Yale University, and Stanford University by paying people to take tests for their children, and bribing test administrators to look the other way. Athletic officials were similarly bribed to falsely identify incoming students as top athletes, also in a bid to boost their likelihood of getting an acceptance letter.

At least 50 people, including Hollywood stars Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, are now facing charges in the $25 million scheme.

Huffman, famous for playing Lynette Scavo on “Desperate Housewives,” was indicted on charges stemming from the $15,000 she paid to have someone take an admission exam for her daughter. Loughlin and her husband are facing charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud after they allegedly paid $500,000 to have her daughters listed as potential recruits for the USC crew team despite the fact that they do not participate in the sport.

Decker, who went on to attend Brandeis University, said she didn’t even fill out an application for Georgetown when it came time for her to start considering law school.

US actress Felicity Huffman(L) attending the Showtime Emmy Eve Nominees Celebration in Los Angeles on September 16, 2018 and actress Lori Loughlin arriving at the People's Choice Awards 2017 at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California, on January 18, 2017
US actress Felicity Huffman(L) attending the Showtime Emmy Eve Nominees Celebration in Los Angeles on September 16, 2018 and actress Lori Loughlin arriving at the People’s Choice Awards 2017 at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California, on January 18, 2017 (LISA O’CONR / AFP/Getty Images)

Instead, she got her degree from USC, which is “not a bad school by any means,” Decker noted, adding that she still believes an undergraduate degree from the D.C. school would’ve likely made her professional journey a bit easier.

“Very few people from Brandeis ever got accepted to Ivy League or T14 schools and that means you don’t get the same job or clerkship opportunities,” she explained.

And Decker’s not alone in re-examining her past college rejections in light of the high-profile scandal — a Stanford University student on Wednesday filed suit against eight universities, each of which had associated individuals caught up in the scheme. The student, Kalea Woods, said she never would have applied to schools like Yale and USC had she known the system was “warped and rigged by fraud.”


People across social media are also echoing their frustration.

“I tried for years to get into USC. I took hard classes, pulled all-nighters working on supplements and as many know — I was rejected and didn’t take it well,” one user with handle, @Writer_Girl14, recalled.

“A year later and I can look back & see that I did the best I could. I was rejected but at least I wasn’t accepted by bribery.”

Another person quipped: “I wish I had an Aunt Becky when I got rejected from USC,” referring to Loughlin’s morally-upright character on the hit sitcom “Full House.”

Decker said she couldn’t help but be upset when learned of the scandal, but not just because of her rejection from Georgetown.

“Throughout my education we were always told you just need to work hard and you can do anything you want. You can go to any school you want,” she said. “Like we all knew about legacy students and children of big donors having an advantage, but I think we thought that our grades and work and years of grinding would give us access to an evener playing field or at least get us a spot at the table, and that really doesn’t seem to be the case.”

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