Operation Varsity Blues: A Wolverine’s Opinion

Originally published on Medium on March 19, 2020.

in order from top to bottom, my best friends Alex, Alli, and I at Michigan vs. Notre Dame game at The Big House in 2019.

Watching Operation Varsity Blues reminded me of when I was applying to colleges and watching my peers refresh their application portals. I live in Michigan in the U.S., and the school rivalry of the University of Michigan and Michigan State is prevalent everywhere. I know people who don’t associate themselves w/ people who went to MSU when they went to Michigan or vice versa.

However, an underlying factor present is your class status and family income. In addition, both colleges have these strong values of legacies. This means that if your parent or sibling went to that school, that can be used in your application and express how important it is to you AND your family to keep up the tradition of being a Spartan or Wolverine.

My Experience

My family is not from Michigan, but we have lived here for a while. So it was almost foreign to us how much college sports or the college one’s family is devoted to mattered when moving here. My mother was one of the only people in her graduating high school class who could go to college, as her siblings didn’t go. So the question surrounding the culture that my parents grew up in was, “Are you going to college or are you going into a trade?” etc. Now, the question is are; it is “WHERE are you going to college?”

My relationship with the public school and higher-level education system is unique and a reality that many, many, many people also face. I was born with Central Auditory Processing Disorder, affecting my processing skills and memory. I grew up taking speech classes during lunch and tests outside the classroom. Many nights were filled with crying because I couldn’t get past a D- in Geometry. Feeling “othered” in these environments isn’t hard, especially when standardized testing and grades become embedded with your self-worth. Some kids in my classes lived and breathed these schools and based every decision they made on how it would affect their application, like taking another AP class or signing up for more ACT prep.

Shown from Operation Varsity Blues: I had no idea that accommodations on these standardized tests were exploited, along with the photoshopping kids in athletic pictures. These tools are a luxury that neurodivergent and other kids need to help them succeed. Not everyone is blessed with the resources to get a medical diagnosis. Having these EXPLOITED for fucking influencers and kids who can be okay with “mommy and daddy’s” money.
After electing to stay at home and go to the local college, I felt “othered” again in a sense. Everyone I knew moved away, and I thought I missed a step in the college experience by staying home.

My College Years

During my sophomore year, I decided to apply to transfer to Michigan. I was ecstatic that I got in and spent the second half of my undergrad career in Ann Arbor! Fall 2019 was the start and, honestly, the “end” of what a “normal” college experience looked like. In my last semester, the phrase “the new normal” and the idea of the college experience should be ejected from our consciousness. The “college experience” of rushing Greek life and moving away is not attainable for everyone. Like coming-of-age movies interpret high school, I don’t know anyone who turned from a nerd to a homecoming queen. These ideas come from written fantasies of high school and college. This is what people have mythologized their “glory days” out to be. Or better yet, rewriting the history of what they wished their experiences were like.

Throughout my college years, 80% of my experience has been living at home. By June, a year and a half of it will have been online. In the future, I hope that we start to realize that there is no set path to emerge into adulthood. The idea that someone has to go to college to be successful and consume every decision is unhealthy. Because even if you sacrifice everything to get in, someone like Rick Singer can be the reason you got deferred.

Thoughts on Operation Varsity Blues

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the documentary and the case itself! ? stream Operation Varsity Blues, only available on Netflix.

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