First-gen student reflects on admissions scandal

Katie Balevic

After barely graduating from high school, Chris Smith never thought college was something she could achieve. Ten years after completing high school she ended up at UT, and now she will graduate this May. 

But the college admissions scandal this March made her reevaluate her place on campus. 

“I was upset by it,” Smith said. “I think everyone should get in on their own merit. I think that’s the point of admissions.” 

After high school, Smith began working and later enrolled in community college part time because her family encouraged her to, and she wanted to “give it a shot.” 

“It’s been a really long journey for me,” Smith said. “I never thought college was something that I could do in the first place.” 

After she started taking a few Austin Community College courses each semester, tragedy struck. 

“I had an apartment fire, and I lost all my stuff,” Smith said. “After that, I kind of had to look at myself and realize that if I was going to pick up the pieces and remake myself, I was going to really do it.” 

Smith sent an application into UT “on a whim” and was surprised when she got in to the College of Liberal Arts.

“It was pretty amazing,” Smith said. “I didn’t have the highest GPA.” 


Now 27, Smith is set to graduate after just three years. 

“I entered the English Honors program last year, and I’m finishing up my thesis,” Smith said. “I got to study abroad at the top university in Korea. UT has been amazing, and I’m really proud of it. It makes me sad to see it stained with this scandal.” 

Smith said she will take a year off to decide whether to get her Ph.D., but she’s already thinking about the loans she would have to take out. The fact that someone paid $100,000 just to get into UT is “incomprehensible” to her. 

“You could have four college degrees with what some people paid,” Smith said. “You could have put them through undergraduate. You could have put them through an MBA, a Ph.D. or more than one Ph.D.” 

Smith said she understands that the college admissions process is extremely stressful, but there still were likely plenty of options available to that student through “honest means.” 

“When it comes down to it, that was just the wrong decision to make,” Smith said.