Last week, a life coach named William “Rick” Singer was named as one of the men alleged to be behind the college admissions scandal, in which nearly 50 people were charged in a widespread college admissions cheating plot. Singer, who has been in the college-prep business for decades, allegedly devised the scam, and a new report from the New York Times details Singer’s methods for recruiting parents into his scheme — by preying on parents’ fears, and promising lofty guarantees.
According to the Times, Singer started out as a college counseling consultant — “part coach, part therapist, part motivational speaker and part name dropper” — who sold parents on dreams of prosperous futures for their children. He began offering his services as an admissions consultant in the 1990s, though his business appeared to reach a turning point around 2011, which is when his earliest deceptions can be dated back to, according to investigations.
“He was like the Pied Piper,” Dorothy Missler, a former administrator at a school in Sacramento encountered Singer about 20 years ago, told the Times. “He played the music, and they followed him down the lane.”
The music, the Times reports, included promises that he could get students into certain schools (“I can do anything and everything, if you guys are amenable to doing it,” he reportedly once told one parent). Parents interviewed by the Times said that they were drawn in by his confidence, and his implications that he knew the tricks to give students an edge in college admissions.
“It drove me nuts that he would say that he could get you into X college, because an ethical consultant cannot make promises like that, since there are no guarantees,” said Margie Amott, a certified educational planner in Sacramento, who said she was a volunteer at a school in the mid-1990s where Singer spoke at a college night event.
Singer also allegedly recruited college coaches (whom he paid off) into his scheme by telling them that plenty of other coaches were already involved, and that he had already handled plenty of student applications this way without incident.
When a father asked about whether or not cheating on standardized tests could get a family in trouble, Singer assured him, “I have never seen it happen.”
Last Tuesday, Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy, and now faces a maximum of 65 years in jail.