Perspective From Last Admissions Scandal

Woman who lost her job at MIT over falsely claimed credentials now advises college applicants on importance of authenticity.

May 20, 2019
 
Marilee Jones

In 2007, a scandal shook the world of college admissions.

Marilee Jones, then dean of admissions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, resigned after the university confirmed that she had claimed academic degrees she never earned. She had claimed at various points to hold degrees from Albany Medical College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Union College -- she didn't hold degrees from any of those colleges.

Her resignation shocked her colleagues across the country, because she was a leader in the movement to encourage students to avoid the stress over getting into top colleges that was already present then and has grown in the years since. She was known as the co-author of a widely praised book, Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admissions and Beyond.

After Jones left MIT, she was for a time silent. A few years later, she started a private counseling service for families going through the admissions process. At that time, she declined to talk to Inside Higher Ed (and she declined again this weekend).

But she spoke to The Boston Globe for a profile that ran Sunday about both her departure from MIT and her view of the admissions scandal today.

She told the Globe that her career fell apart when someone called MIT and reported that she was calling herself "Dr." when she didn't have a doctorate. When an MIT administrator called her to ask, she first said that sometimes she was introduced with the honorific "Dr." and that she didn't want to correct people. “After I hung up the phone,” she said, “I knew I had falsified my résumé. I went down the hall to see him. I took advantage of the moment. That was it. I told him.”

Jones said she was doing what she coached students (then and now) not to do: portray themselves as perfect in ways that aren't true.

The current scandal, she said, shows how much work needs to be done to promote honesty in admissions.

She described a discussion she had with a student with whom she is working who claimed something false in an essay draft. “This isn’t the truth,” she said she told the student. Using a false claim would show that “you’re signaling to yourself that you’re not good enough. I totally get that. That’s what I did. But, let me tell you, it never helps.”

Jones said she hopes that her failings can teach something relevant today. “If I’ve learned anything, it’s the importance of authenticity.”

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