Ambitious parents are spending hundreds of thousands on consultants to help get their kids into Ivy League schools

Francesca Maglione and Paulina Cachero

March 31, 2023

Some parents are paying consultants as much as $750,000 to work on their children’s college applications from the seventh grade as acceptance rates plummet.

Acceptance rates have fallen as mandatory standardized testing is increasingly shunned by many elite universities.

Data from FairTest, an advocacy group for equitable testing, suggests more than 1,800 US colleges including Harvard, New York University (NYU), and Stanford are now test-optional, favoring other measures of aptitude instead.

NYU’s acceptance rate plummeted from 15.3% for 2024, with 13,000 accepted from 85,000 applications, to just 8% for its recently announced class of 2027, according to Crimson Education. Just 9,600 students were accepted from 120,000 applications. The acceptance rate for NYU’s class of 2018 was 36%.

That competition’s also upped the ante for parents trying to give their kids a leg up, with consultants starting to advise on students’ academic lives from the age of 12.

“These schools every year get better and better at getting students to apply,” Brian Taylor, managing partner at private college counseling firm Ivy Coach, told Bloomberg. “As an extreme example, more C students applying to Harvard does not make the Harvard applicant pool more competitive.” 

For IvyWise, a college consulting group, the services include refining coursework plans from the ninth grade, recommending suitable extracurricular and summer activities, and identifying suitable teachers to eventually write recommendation letters.

The six-figure outlay to get their kids into college adds to the increasingly prohibitive cost of attending those institutions.

Bloomberg reported that the cost of attending Ivy League schools — including tuition, accommodation, and fees — was pushing $90,000 a year, with four years of attendance potentially costing more than $300,000.

Consultants told the outlet that the increasing exclusivity of Ivy League attendance may work as its own status symbol for some parents, encouraging a bigger outlay on preparation.

While its generally accepted that Ivy League graduates have higher earning potential than their peers, it seems that Americans are increasingly discounting the value of having a college degree at all.


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