The Korean math prodigy at one of the nation’s top high schools had Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg on the phone, personally encouraging the teenager to attend Harvard University. She received letters from Harvard professors, encouraging her to bring her brilliant abilities to Cambridge next fall instead of accepting her admission to Stanford University on the opposite coast.
As she struggled to decide between five-figure scholarship promises from both schools, she got a novel offer: She could spend two years at each elite school as part of an arrangement just for her. The exciting dual-enrollment opportunity garnered starstruck coverage from Korean media outlets, which dubbed her the “Genius Girl.”
But none of it was true. …
The senior’s tale of academic conquest of admission into what turned out to be a bogus program apparently was designed to impress her parents, peers and teachers as part of the annual cutthroat competition for the relatively tiny number of spots at the nation’s top schools. The faked admission story went much further than most teen fantasies because it made its way to the international media, where her parents ultimately admitted it was false and publicly shamed themselves before the Korean community.