Columnist Ryann Sheehy argues that Lori Loughlin, one of the parents who face charges from the college admissions scandal, would have benefited from teaching her daughters about failure instead. 

Next semester, a brand new class of bright-eyed, eager freshmen will burst onto JMU’s campus. They toured plenty of schools, took their SATs, studied hard to get good grades and, finally, chose James Madison as their home away from home for the next four years. Each and every one of them worked hard to share the quad with those who came before them — at least, that’s what one would hope. Most students face adversity during the college admissions process, whether they don’t get the exact SAT score they need or get deferred from early action at their top school. Some parents, however, decide that paying for these obstacles to disappear will give their child unhindered success when the opposite is true.

“Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman pled guilty May 13 to paying Rick Singer $15,000 to provide her daughter more time to take the SAT. Singer also fixed the test answers so Huffman’s daughter could score 400 points higher. Another parent, Stephen Semprevivo, paid $400,000 for his son to be admitted to Georgetown University as a tennis recruit. First red flag — his son didn’t play high school tennis. Singer has allegedly been paid by many wealthy parents to bribe college coaches and fix college admission test scores. These parents are part of a huge college scam that includes 14 parents who have pled guilty and 19 who pled not guilty.

What these parents have clearly never learned — and what lesson they’ve never taught their children — is that failure is an inevitable and positive experience. Countless valuable lessons can be learned from failure, such as perseverance. In a parent’s quest to protect their children from the negative feelings of failure, they can actually make it harder for their children to cope later in life. Mandie Shean writes for “The Conversation” that “failure is not the absence of success, but the experience of failure on the way to success.” Maybe that’s why failure makes such a great talking point in a job interview.

Michael Lindenmayer, a contributor to “Forbes,” lists the five major benefits of failing. First, Lindenmayer suggests that, when someone fails, more clarity may come to an otherwise chaotic situation. Second, failure weeds out friends who don’t have a person’s best interests at heart. The friends that stick around when times are tough are the true “champions.” Third, when someone faces an insurmountable obstacle, that failure may spark creative solutions that are even better than the previous ones. Fourth, failure gives a person grit that leaves them more resilient than before. Fifth, failure can bring about a certain kind of freedom that releases someone from the pressures of perfection or invincibility. The first failure can make others to come feel less monumental.

The parents that are a part of the college cheating scandal are greatly mistaken if they believe that shielding their children from rejection is going to help them in life. Setting a child up to go to a school that is above their academic level may lead to much more failure. College is college: there are schools at all levels that provide a degree, academic challenges, lifelong friends and unforgettable experiences and opportunities.

It’s normal to fall off a bike the first time the training wheels are taken off, it’s normal to bomb a test or two and it’s certainly normal to get rejected from a school that isn’t the right fit. Parents should learn to trust in their children to work hard and make the right decisions that will guide them through their own path — not the path paved by mom and dad’s wallet.

Ryann Sheehy is a sophomore theater and media arts and design double major. Contact Ryann at