Power Players

Kevin O'Leary on college admissions scandal: 'I'll tell you who you really screwed: Your kid'

Kevin O'Leary: College admissions scandal damages kids
Kevin O'Leary: College admissions scandal damages kids

On Monday, actress Felicity Huffman and 13 others agreed to plead guilty to charges stemming from what prosecutors have called the largest college admissions scam in U.S. history, according to CNBC. On Tuesday it was announced that actress Lori Loughlin and others are also facing new charges related to the scam.

For self-made multimillionaire, "Shark Tank" star and father of two 20-somethings Kevin O'Leary, the idea of cheating to get your kids into college is "totally uncool."

In fact, says O'Leary — who famously makes his kids fly coach while he flies first class to teach them they have to make it on their own — it's harmful.

"It's not really about the parents," O'Leary tells CNBC Make It. "It's the damage they've done to their kids."

The 50 defendants have been accused of wrongdoing ranging from paying bribes reaching into the millions, to helping their children cheat on college entrance exams to faking athletic accolades.

"Imagine that you were a child that your parents did this to, in other words, you didn't know, but your parents are buying your entry into a college. You wouldn't feel so good, would you?

"That's the tragedy of this. We don't know how many hundreds of kids are actually in colleges — or maybe even finished — and they were bought in."

(Prosecutors says some kids embroiled in the college scandal knew what their parents were doing and others did not, but federal prosecutors have not charged any students.)

"I'll tell you who you really screwed: Your kid," O'Leary says.

O'Leary is known for his down-to-earth approach to parenting, like cutting off his kids financially after college.

In fact, he remembers his own kids, now in their mid-20s, having a tricky time navigating the admissions process. But they worked hard, and did it on their own, he says.

"If you're going through this process, get focused. You're a winner. Don't let anybody tell you you're not. You just got to really work hard on playing the game," O'Leary says. "You've got to learn how to write those tests and score in the top quartile. And you've got to keep doing it over and over again till you get there."

"You know why I say that? Because I watched it happen to my own kids," he says. "They really struggled with it, but it worked out well for both of them in the long run. I didn't buy them into college. I can't even think of doing that. That's crazy. They got to get there on their own."

It's a life lesson, he says.

"When it comes to getting into college, it's all on you. The only person who can help you is you," O'Leary explains. "Sure, your parents can wish for you, and sure all of your relatives can say good things, but in the end, it's on your back. So get focused and make it happen for yourself.

"And by the way, that's what life is all about."

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Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."

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