Private admission consulting has become a new trend amongst stressed out parents and students applying for college across the nation. Data shows that getting help from these consultants does result in more acceptances and better test score results but what about all the students that can’t afford to pay for these services? It’s not fair that individuals with better finances get an upper hand when it comes to applying and getting accepted into the top schools in the nation.

In 2013, more than 25 percent of all college applicants hired a “private admissions consultant,” according to Ruth Starkman, an academic teaching staff member at Stanford University. Many private admission consultants were once admissions readers at colleges which gives students an insight on what in particular they are looking for. Most of these services base their models and programs around collected data of previous clients that applied and got accepted into those institutions.

One of the most popular services that’s booming in the industry is called Think Tank Learning. It was founded by Steven Ma and more than 10,000 students are using it, bringing in revenue of more than $18 million. They’ve said that about 85 percent of their applicants get into a top 40 college as ranked by U.S. News and World Report.

The average cost for a guaranteed admission in the Think Tank program is about $40,000. That’s roughly the cost of a state college undergraduate education. Sure, the owners and CEOs of major companies can afford to pay this for their kids but the average middle class worker can’t even imagine doubling the cost for their child’s college education. However, there are less expensive services that students can use such as one offered by the Independent Educational Consultants Association that costs an average of $4,000 but even this can be pricey.

To even apply to a school students pay hundreds of dollars. Most schools require you to make certain scores on the ACT and SAT. Each one of these tests charge about $50 each time you take them and usually students take them multiple times. Other expenses include application fees and visiting fees. Before a student even gets accepted into an institution, they’ve already spent a lot of money. Affording these types of private services can be very difficult for the average person.

These private services are critiqued by school counselors and teachers because these businesses take advantage of the misconception that what school you go to really makes a difference in your career.


“A good counselor helps students and families get comfortable with the world as it is not how they wish. The world isn’t just Ivies,” said CEO of IECA, Mark Sklarow.

“College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won,” said Jim Conroy, chair of post-high school counseling at New Trier Township High School.

Colleges should be chosen based upon what suits you personally and what you plan to study and want. Most students strive to pick the top schools because they believe that’s what’s going to help them in their careers but Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at Stanford disagrees. She said that research shows that in the majority of cases the undergraduate college you attend doesn’t play a serious role in your long term careers.

Private admissions consultants have figured out exactly what universities want and charge people outrageous amounts of money in order to give them the answers. This gives a major disadvantage to all the underprivileged students who can’t afford it. There are students who strive to go to these schools, not because of the way it’ll look on their resume but because they’re genuinely interested in getting an education by certain professors or taking certain classes but because they can’t pay thousands of dollars to know what to put on their applications, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. It’s not a fair industry but it definitely is a money making one.

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