The 5 Most Obnoxious Questions Parents Ask During Free Consultations

We figured we’d share some of the most obnoxious questions some prospective clients ask during free consultations.

What are the five most obnoxious questions certain prospective clients ask us during free consultations? Wonder no more. Not only will we share these questions with our readers today but we’ll share our typical responses, too. Do keep in mind when reading these questions and answers that these parents are not our clients. Rather, they are prospective clients. They reached out to us to inquire about our services. Also keep in mind that on our website and in our email communications before this free consultation, we’ve made very clear that our free consultation is designed only to answer questions about our services — not to offer any specific advice related to a student’s case for admission. So here goes!

1. Do you offer a guarantee? I assume, with your hefty fees, you do.

No we don’t offer a guarantee and if anyone should offer you a guarantee, you should run, run fast, and run for the hills. No one can offer you a guarantee in the highly selective college admissions process. Even asking the question reflects a misunderstanding of the admissions process. All we at Ivy Coach can stand on is our track record built over the past quarter of a century. And if you happen to read our blog, you know we publish our admissions statistics — and not just a blanket statement like 94% of our students earned admission to their top choice college this year. Rather, we publish that we were perfect at Harvard this year, perfect at Yale, perfect at Princeton, and at every other Ivy League school along with Stanford, Duke, MIT, Northwestern, etc. We couldn’t write that if it weren’t true — our clients who work with us on their applications and their parents read our college admissions blog. Find another college consulting firm that can do that. It will be an exercise in utter futility.

2. Can I pay installments after my child gets in?

No, because that implies you’re looking for a guarantee. And, yes, as the press suggests, in our over quarter of a century in business, we did once file suit against one former client. And why? Because, as the press article on the subject details, we helped this student earn admission to the Ivy League school of her choice in the Early round. We did our job. The student then tried to stiff us on a final installment that was due in advance of the Early Decision / Early Action submission deadline. We filed the suit as a warning shot against any potential clients in the future who ever entertained any such ideas. Remember, we filed this suit. We brought this conversation into the public domain. We were proud to help this student earn admission to an Ivy League school in the Early round. And we’re proud to charge the fees we command in America’s free market economy — and to enforce our contracts. Our word is our word. We expect our clients to be held accountable as well, to hold true to their word. A contract is a contract.

3. Why should I work with your college consulting firm over other firms?

We hate this question because the prospective client is invariably asking us to sell. The truth is we are not interested in selling. If a prospective client doesn’t wish to work with us, we won’t lose any sleep. If they do, terrific! The fact is we can answer this question in so many ways — and we have over the years. But our blog about our results for this past cycle should suffice for now. So maybe we’ll say: Have you read our blog lately?

4. Why do you charge such high fees?

Because we can. Because we do. Because we can only work with so many students each year and working with any students at lower fees would be an opportunity cost to us. Except for our select veterans whom we proudly work with on a pro bono basis.

5. How much do I need to donate to a college for my child to get in?

There is no amount of money that can guarantee your child’s case for admission. Is there an amount that can improve your child’s case for admission if you have ties to a university? Yes. But, in our experience, anyone who asks this type of question never actually becomes a client and in fact you’re probably just asking this question to brag about the money that you don’t actually have. Ok, we don’t say all that at the end. But it’s probably true.

And would you believe that a prospective client asked just about all of these questions in the course of one free consultation this week? It happened! Really! And we lived to tell the story. The parent was astounded that we believed we weren’t a right fit for them. Because, yes, we will say that if we don’t believe we’d enjoy working with a family. Life is too short. There are lots of businesses that will just take anyone on as a client for the right fee. Not us. We are selective with the families we choose to work with. In fact, the free consultation is designed as much to determine if we wish to work with a family as it is for the family to determine if they’d like to work with us…much to their surprise and occasional indignation! And what’s the key determinant of us choosing to work with a family? It’s not a student’s grades or scores. It’s if we like the family. And in the game of highly selective college admissions, likability proves to be a key factor as well. Imagine that.


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