Report: Parents seek fake mental health labels to boost children’s scores on standardized tests for Ivy League schools

Teens attending elite prep schools are being allowed to have extra time to complete SAT and ACT admission tests, with the help of fake mental health diagnoses. 

At least that’s what their…

Teens attending elite prep schools are being allowed to have extra time to complete SAT and ACT admission tests, with the help of fake mental health diagnoses. 

At least that’s what their parents hope will be a key to their acceptance at Ivy League schools. 

Parents are taking their high school-age children to mental health professionals seeking letters that state they have ADHD, anxiety, depression, or other psychological disabilities in order to obtain an accommodation of as much as 50% more time to take the tests, observed a report at the New York Post.  

Christopher Rim, CEO of Command Education, a college counseling company, confirmed to The Post parents are “1,000 percent” taking advantage of accommodation policies set forth by the standardized testing companies for students with disabilities. 

“If I were to guess, a score could possibly go up on the SAT by 200 points,” Rim said. 

The ACT, for example, says in order to qualify for accommodations, in the case of students who have not had an individualized education program (IEP) or other plan designating their disability services at school, they must submit documentation that: 

  1. Identifies a professionally diagnosed physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; and   
  1. Requests allowable accommodations that are appropriate and reasonable for the documented disability.   

“There are definitely unethical families out there who are trying to take advantage of this system,” Rim said, noting it should raise suspicions when a student receives a sudden diagnosis late in high school. 

Rim condemned the practice. 

“It was a popular tactic before COVID, but it slowed down a bit when schools went test-optional,” he said. “In the past six months, I’ve had more and more students tell me their classmates all of a sudden got extra time.” 

David Randall, director of research at the National Association of Scholars (NAS), told The Lion that manipulation of the accommodation policy has been going on for some time. 

While he noted abuse of a system is not unusual whenever an accommodation is available, Randall, who also serves as executive director of the Civics Alliance, pointed to the lack of transparency as the crux of the matter. 

“The much larger institutional and cultural shift to propagating debility in the name of therapeutic accommodation needs to be reversed to deal with this particular issue,” he said. “Practically, it would be better to simply have people take a test, send in notes from doctors if they so desire, and allow the admitting institution to decide whether to make an accommodation. 

“That way, at least the thumb on the scales would be transparent.” 

Dr. Camilo Ortiz, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Long Island University, told The Post he frequently gets requests for ADHD testing accommodations.  

“Some parents are none too happy when I don’t agree the child has ADHD,” Ortiz said. 

A recent Ivy League graduate who attended an elite New Jersey boarding school also told The Post she believes nearly a quarter of her fellow students were granted the accommodation of extra time to take the tests. 

“More and more people got diagnosed as time went on, because I think they realized it was just something they could do because everyone else was doing it,” she explained, but added, “You don’t get that in real life. All of a sudden you graduate, and then what? No boss is giving you more time in a workday.” 

Following a four-year “test-optional” policy, Dartmouth College, Yale University, Georgetown and MIT have once again reintroduced the requirement of standardized test scores – SAT or ACT, or others, such as Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams – included in applications for admission. 

Despite criticisms from equity activists, Yale said the test-optional policy actually served as “a disadvantage for students from low-income, first-generation, and rural backgrounds.” 

“Because the admissions committee needs to first establish an applicant’s academic foundation before it can consider their many other strengths and potential contributions to Yale, we’ve found that standardized tests are especially valuable for students attending high schools with fewer academic resources and fewer college-preparatory courses,” Jeremiah Quinlan, Yale dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid, said in a press statement in February. 

Randall takes a “broad perspective” when it comes to this issue of abusing the system to get into an Ivy League school. 

“What we need to do is decouple success in college admissions from success in life,” he told The Lion. 

“People cheat because college admissions has become almost the sole gateway, first, to middle-class prosperity and, second, to membership in America’s elite,” he said. “With the incentive so high, of course many will cheat.  

“So, we must find ways to allow many more people to succeed in life without needing to go to college, and thus reduce the cheating incentive.”