Palo Alto Patch Aids Private Admissions Consultants Advertise Services – Ugh

I have pretty strong feelings about ex-admission officers who go on to start their own private consulting firms and make TONS of money off of rich families who are paranoid and fearful that their children will not get accepted to colleges. To peddle your “insider” information that you learned while working at a higher education institution as “exclusive coaching” just widens the equality gap between students who can afford these services and those who can’t. Yes, private schools already do that. Yes, SAT prep courses already do that too. And, yes, again, if you can afford to send your student off to some third world country to do “community service” – that also widens the gap further. There is a special circle in…well, that may be a bit extreme.

My friends have been forwarding me this article from two days ago on the Palo Alto Patch about Stanford Admissions. I’m no journalist, but I see that the attention grabbing sub-title works: “Former Stanford Admissions Officers reveal the presence of a separate mechanism for processing applications of students who are children of faculty or top donors.”

Basically the article says that top donors and faculty members have special consideration when it comes to the admissions process. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. You know who else get’s special consideration? Students from South Dakota. and Iowa…because we don’t see that many applications from there. You know who else? That one track athlete who went to the Beijing Olympics. And the Math Olympiad from Bulgaria. And the first generation low-income student from South L.A. Many applicants get special consideration, and faculty and donorĀ  offspring are no exception. I know what you are going to say next – “But it’s unfair because all of those other applicants worked hard and deserve to be at Stanford.” I can see both sides. I agree that money alone should not be a factor in getting you into an university…but with money (or legacy status, or faculty parents) comes the privileges of being highly educated. Stanford has a really high first year retention rate, and is well above the national average for 4-year graduation rates. These students are academically qualified, and they are not flunking out. The institution has its own priorities to admit students that add to the school, and the basic fact is that money does add to the school. I went to my college with almost half of my expenses paid for by financial aid. Some of it was generous Pell Grants from the government, and some of it was financial aid from my college – guess where some of that money comes from? Wealthy donors. We’re probably talking about a HANDFUL of these students – it’s not like every other student @ Stanford carries wealthy donors’ DNA.

Yes, the system is not 100% fair. But, life isn’t fair. You know what else isn’t fair? People like the two women who decide to get free advertising from a “sensationalist” article in some local paper to get more clients. I am not even going to mention their names here because I don’t want to give them more airtime. Seriously. I did not work with these two individuals at the office when I was there, but seriously, who are you people? According to one website one woman charges USD950 for a 90 minute session. NINE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS!? Are you serious? For information that I would give you for FREE!? For information that you can call any admission office for and they would help you with!? That to me is the most unfair part of this little “news piece.” There are so many companies like this out there – and they are unregulated and you can’t really compare or understand the quality of the service you are paying for. All you see are little testimonials from “Stanford Class of 2016 says ‘Thanks to your service I got into my first choice.’” Blah Blah Blah. Do you know if these are real? How do you know that this student wouldn’t have gotten in without this service?

Private consultants prey on parents who are worried, and kids that are stressed out. Do you really need $950/hr services to get into college? If you do, then you need to re-think your college choices. And don’t give me BS that these companies are there to “help reduce the stress and make the process better for families.” There are thousands of amazing individuals who do not use these kinds of services and do well in the college process due to their sheer authenticity. Ladies like these, and one particular woman I know of who used to work at Dartmouth who now charges USD14,000 FOR A FOUR DAY WORKSHOP are just fueling the fire and making families that are already stressed even more crazy.

On the other hand, universities need to get with the program and start having a unified policy on how they handle students who use private consulting firms. I mentioned in another post that I found Chinese students who would buy college admissions essays from companies. Sure, there is difference between outright buying a ready-made essay and getting private consulting to “spruce” up your essays…but there needs to be a policy on both. I think the Universities and the College Board and all of these national professional organizations are super slow and quite frankly, LAME in the way they respond. They need to come up with a strong response one way or another. If I were Dean of Admissions, I would REQUIRE that applicants disclose if they hired these types of private consulting services. We don’t want to see some slick packaged version of the high school student…we’re looking for authentic, genuine, love of learning. Not some Palo Alto Stepford Version of your high school student. Yuck.

To be a little more objective, here’s what the NYT Choice Blog has to say about private admission consultants.

About "Asian American Admission Officer"
I'm a education professional with many years of highly selective admissions experience at a small East Coast liberal arts Ivy as well as a med-sized research institution. After reading many personal statements from Asian American high school students with the phrase "I'm not just another Asian American...(fill in the blank with stereotype)," I decided to write about Asian Americans in higher education. My goals are to 1) educate readers about issues related to Asian Americans in higher education, 2) offer college admission advice to high school students and parents, and 3) serve as a resource for students with questions about applications, college life, and related issues.

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