Skip to main site content.
Yusi Zhao (YouTube)
Yusi Zhao (YouTube)

Cheating the system

Family of Chinese student paid $6.5 million to get her into Stanford, prosecutors say

By WITW Staff on May 3, 2019

Video of a Chinese student bragging about how her hard work paid off with an acceptance to Stanford University is attracting attention after it was revealed that her family allegedly paid $6.5 million to a college consultant at the heart of a wide-reaching college admissions scandal.

“Some people think, ‘Didn’t you get into Stanford because your family is rich?’” said Yusi Zhao in a video posted to social media ahead of her freshman year at Stanford in 2017. Actually, she continued, “I tested into Stanford through my own hard work.”

Ms. Zhao has since been expelled from Stanford amidst the revelation that her family, the billionaire owners of a pharmaceutical empire, apparently paid disgraced college consultant William Singer $6.5 million to ensure that she was accepted. According to prosecutors, Singer forged a resume full of fabricated sailing accomplishments in a bid to get Ms. Zhao recruited to the Stanford sailing team — then donated $500,000 to the sailing program upon her admission into the school.

The bribery scheme, which has engulfed a number of wealthy families — including those of Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin — has also provided a window into the high price many Chinese families were willing to pay to ensure acceptance at top American schools for their children. The family of another Chinese student implicated in the scandal, Sherry Guo, is said to have paid 1.2 million to get her into Yale as a recruit for the soccer team, despite the fact that she had no experience playing competitive soccer.

Ms. Zhao’s family has denied that they tried to bribe her way into Stanford, claiming instead that they were tricked by Singer and had actually meant to make a legitimate $6.5 million donation to the school. In a 2015 profile of Ms. Zhao’s father, Zhao Tao, he said he hated dealing with young people who used their family’s wealth to buy accomplishments instead of earning them.

“I really look down on those kids who don’t rely on their own abilities,” he told a Chinese magazine. “If I come across one, I give them a dressing down right away. I just can’t stand that type.”

Read the full story at the New York Times.


Felicity Huffman likely to serve prison time after admitting guilt in college admissions scandal

Wealthy parents and Hollywood stars snared in college bribery sting

Unstoppable Rohingya teen overcomes circumstance and tradition to pursue college education