The Ivy Coach Daily

January 27, 2021

Students Should Not Advertise Working with Private College Consultants

Many students work with college consultants, but that doesn’t mean they should advertise it (photo credit: Namkota).

We came across an article today about a private college consultancy that we thought was an April Fools’ Day joke. But then we checked the calendar and we realized it’s only January 27th. Hey, life’s not going by that quickly during this worldwide pandemic. In any case, the piece, up on Mothership, is entitled “Allan Wu helps 16-year-old daughter in Ivy League admissions by enrolling her in university admissions consultancy” and boy is it absolutely ridiculous! In the piece, a parent of a 16 year-old boasts about working with a private college consultancy, Crimson Education. In fact, it seems that he believes working with this private college consultancy will help his daughter stand out in the competitive admissions process. If you suspected that we’re gagging, we sure are!

Many College Applicants Work with College Consultants

The fact is, a solid chunk of applicants to highly selective American universities work with private college consultants. Some of these private college consultants are, of course, better than others. Several years ago, the marketing firm Lipman Hearne conducted a nationwide survey of 1,264 students who scored at the 70th percentile or higher on the SAT or ACT to gauge the use of private college counselors in the admissions process. Their study concluded that 26% of these students admitted to working with a private college consultant. The survey’s findings sparked a slew of articles in which parents, educators, journalists, and just about everyone in between put on their best faux surprise faces as they lamented why such a high percentage of students get outside help. We too find it ridiculous — just in a different way. You see, the most important word in the survey’s findings is…a-d-m-i-t. If 26% of students admit to using a private college consultant, imagine the percentage of students who actually do! Perhaps a silent majority? Pulling from our own personal experiences over the last 28 years in college consulting, our former clients rarely refer friends. But we always get the siblings…and we usually get the cousins. It tells us everything there is to know.

Yet Majority of College Applicants Working with College Consultants Wisely Don’t Boast About It

You see, the vast majority of students (and their parents) don’t want to admit they had help in earning admission to the college(s) of their dreams. And that’s absolutely ok! In fact, they’re wise not to promote the fact that they worked with a private college consultant — not that there is anything wrong whatsoever in doing so provided the college consultant is among the vast majority of ethical private college consultants (and not bribing athletic coaches or having imposters take the SAT for students). But the reason it’s most unwise to do what this Crimson Education client has done — by advertising that he and his daughter are working with Crimson Education — is that it’s likely going to significantly hurt his daughter’s case for admission. Duh!

Boasting About Working with a College Consultant Can Undercut One’s Case for Admission

Our students at Ivy Coach so often earn admission to their dream schools because they present as likable to admissions officers. Their applications inspire admissions officers to root for them, to dare them not to offer them admission. Our students do not flaunt privilege. Yet working with a private college consultant, which is often quite costly (yes, we know!), invariably flaunts privilege. Of course an admissions officer is capable of doing a quick Google search of this parent’s child and of course the admissions officer is going to have difficulty getting behind a student whose parent boasted in the press about working with a private college consultant to beat the very system the admissions officer is tasked with upholding.

Yet Some Parents, Students, and College Consultants Unwisely Do Boast

So how could a private college consultancy, in good faith, “proudly” allow this article to be published? As Mandy How writes in the Mothership piece, “Some parents move to Bukit Timah for their children’s education, but Allan Wu, 48, is thinking a little bigger. To increase his daughter’s chances of entering an Ivy League school, the Singapore-based host has gotten help from a ’university admissions consultancy and mentoring company’. This was proudly announced by the company — Crimson Education — in a press release on Jan. 14. In response to queries by Mothership, the company confirmed that they are collaborating with the host to promote their services. The release quotes Wu as saying that he hopes for 16-year-old Sage Wu to be accepted to the likes of Oxford and Cambridge. He added: ’Today we live in an increasingly globally competitive world, so Sage won’t just be competing with U.S. students — but with students internationally — in her efforts to gain acceptance to the US university(ies) of her choice.’”

The Lowly IECA Encourages College Consultants to Interface with High School Counselors

In short, Crimson Education, which has made headlines in the past, put out a January press release in which they said they were working with a student. And then Mothership ran an article about their press release. But it’s not like Crimson Education is alone. There are other college consultancies that put out similar releases. In fact, the Independent Educational Consultants Association, a lowly organization in which membership is not worth the paper it’s written on, has historically encouraged private college consultants to interface with their clients’ high school counselors. Yes, you read that correctly! And, yes, that’s as insane as you might think. We would never want our students’ high school counselors to know they’re working with a college consultant. Why? Because we would never want our students’ counselors to think they don’t have the utmost faith in them. The relationship between a high school counselor and a student is hugely important. After all, it’s the high school counselor who writes a letter of recommendation on the student’s behalf.

File this one away under oy vey!

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