Senior year is filled with stress, anguish, a multitude of “lasts,” and, for college-bound students, college admission decision letters. Nothing can quiet the anticipation of waiting for admission letters and the stress of ultimately committing to a university.

As if the college admission process was not difficult and daunting enough, a new challenge was revealed in March with the nationally reported news that numerous elite schools had been involved in an admission scandal of unprecedented size and scope within the United States.

Federal authorities announced that they had obtained evidence that dozens of parents had been paying thousands and in some cases even millions of dollars in order to get their kid(s) into elite schools.

According to the news reports, the leader of this scheme is said to be William “Rick” Singer, who helped students cheat on their entrance exams or make fake athletic profiles, ran the college prep business Edge College & Career Network and the charity Key Worldwide Foundation. He allegedly pitched his scheme to parents as the “side door” method to getting into colleges.

Singer ultimately pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering and money laundering. Now, over 50 people have been charged with alleged involvement in the scheme. It should be noted that, according to The New York Times, all of the defendants are out on bail.

After the news broke, multiple college students who claimed they were denied a fair chance in the admission process began suing the University of Southern California, Yale, and many other elite schools. Two students from Stanford, Erica Olson and Kalea Woods, were the initial plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Three new plaintiffs were later added to the case.

These students claim they weren’t given a fair chance to be accepted into the elite colleges to which they applied, alleging that other and possibly “less deserving” students had been admitted based on fake athletic profiles and inaccurate test scores.

A statement from Zimmerman Reed LLP, one of the legal firms representing the plaintiffs, read: “The students who filed the complaint didn’t receive what they paid for — to participate in an application process free of fraud. ... These schools represented that their admission process would be based on the applicants’ merits, considering their character and performance. Instead, the students allege that what they got was a process tainted by bribes and school officials who failed to assure an honest application process. ... They request that anyone who paid an application fee to any of the eight named universities but was denied admission gets their application fee returned.”

Also, a former California teacher named Jennifer Kay Toy filed a $500 billion civil lawsuit against 45 defendants who were involved in this college admissions scandal. She’s claimed that affluent parents who believed it was OK to cheat the admission system had robbed her own son of the chance to be admitted to colleges, despite his incredibly high (4.2) weighted GPA.

The significance of this scandal is that college admissions for any student at these schools is now tainted. It may also be deterring honest students from applying to elite schools. As students know, the college admission process is hard enough. However, this new angle complicates it even more: The colleges are sending the message that admissions can tilt in favor of the privileged.

Those who bribe and cheat to get their kids into colleges and universities are committing a crime against our entire society because they are using their abundant wealth to weaken the integrity of our institutions and are actively participating in weakening the ideals of American education.

This isn’t just cheating people out of admissions at an elite school; it is cheating them out of future career choices and cheapening their hard work.

Young adults going into college are in their prime — and they’re being robbed of the opportunities to achieve their life goals. This affects more than just where they go to school. For many, it will have lifetime repercussions.

Should there be a consequence for the students, even the ones who claim they did not know what their parents were doing? Should the diplomas of students who were wrongly admitted be revoked? Do they deserve their degree if they were able to academically compete at the university once “admitted”? Should the students be required to note on their resume the scandal surrounding their education?

This new scandal has raised many questions on how to set a standard for this sort of incident and how to administer justice to those who have been cheated out of a fair chance at admission.

Cara Elzie is a senior at Riverside Christian School.