How An “Ordinary” Girl Got into Stanford through Bribery

Zhao Siyu, an 18-year-old girl got into Stanford after her father bribed the school.

“Today I just want to tell you guys that going to Stanford is not a dream. As long as you have a determined goal, and work hard for it, the dream will come true.” Zhao Siyu said in a live-streaming video. She encouraged viewers to share the video, so that more people would come to know her story and get inspired.

In the one and a half hour long live-streaming video, she introduced herself repeatedly and stressed that Stanford is the top university with the lowest acceptance rate in the world, about 4 percent. Oxford and Cambridge, comparatively speaking, has an acceptance rate of 20 percent.

She mentioned Oxford and Cambridge because she went to high school in Britain. In the video, she stresses that some of the colleges there don’t attach importance to students’ personalities. “I don’t mean that those who go to Cambridge and Oxford don’t have a personality, or that they are learning machines. It’s just that American universities put more importance on it.” According to her, she chose to go to school in America due to the application and enrollment policies of American colleges.

The first few sentences sound very “American dreamy”. She seems to be a well-educated teenager immersed in the western methodology, about dreams destined to come true, about her self-enhancement over the years from an ordinary little girl who barely passed her classes in primary school to a Stanford student. “Step by step, your studies will get better.” It’s hard not to be skeptical about the superficiality of the words.

From the video, we could see that her logic is not very clear. Instead of talking about some substantial stuff on how to prepare exams or exactly how she studies, she is full of empty words, and keeps feeding “chicken noodle soup” to the viewers.

“I am also an ordinary girl. I live in a big family, with four siblings. I like to play the piano, and practice singing with it. I like the feeling of riding horses, it’s just like flying. I love art, and abstract artwork. Stanford is not a dream, as long as you have a dream and work hard for it.”

Later media found out that the reason for this unsubstantial empty talk is because most of what she’s saying simply isn’t true.

She keeps bragging about having the highest ACT score in America, ignoring the fact that viewers are not stupid enough to believe that.

Her father is actually a billionaire businessman from Shandong, president of a Chinese pharmaceutical company called Buchang Group. She a rich kid of the third generation. Her grandpa founded the group, and her father advanced it to get listed.

It has been reported that Zhao’s father tried to fabricate a fake identity for his daughter claiming she was an active sailor to make her look more attractive in the eyes of the admission committee. He also paid an alarming $6.5 million to an intermediary which then got her admitted into Stanford. This March, the local prosecutor announced charges to 50 bribers in the college entrance exam, among which Zhao had paid largest in the bribing amount.

Just as Zhao Siyu successfully got admitted to Stanford, her father’s company went listed. It’s clearly not a small amount of bribery money for any Chinese family if not for the huge sum raised after the company went listed.

After the staff bribery incident broke out at the University of Bath in 2013, many Chinese students expressed their concern and even resentment for the community they belong to, or at least from an outsider’s perspective. “Most of the Chinese students here are either children of officials or have rich parents. Ever since childhood, these kids have been severely influenced by the last generation’s values, about official guanxi (networking) or businessman methodology. Their indifference to luxury goods seems unbelievable to British students. This is an embodiment of the difference between Chinese and western culture. This incident was alarming. We came here for knowledge, not merely for a graduation certificate. We must have faith. ”

However, kids like Zhao Siyu cannot stand for most Chinese students studying overseas. There are those that need to go to restaurants to wash dishes just to pay their tuition. Instead, Zhao wears shiny gold and silver accessories to casino tables.

The point is if she could have just laid low and played it quiet for a while, nobody would have noticed. She could just live her campus life extravagantly but quietly in the world famous university. Instead she had to fake her stories, boast about unreal hard work, telling people that she was the number one in the ACT test and expose herself on live-streaming platforms. In the end, she was expelled by the university, and might have serious problems attending another famous school due to pressure from media and society.

The main problem here is that, people like Zhao are spreading hierarchical values, although she herself might not have realized it. With the widening wealth gap between families, the chances for equal education resources are becoming ever scarcer. Let’s put the bribery aside, the underlying lines behind her presentation is that the only way to be outstanding is to study abroad and go overseas; If you don’t go to school in America it’s because you didn’t work hard enough.

Our culture certainly values hard work and dreams coming true, but bribery, not so much.

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