March 28th, 2019
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
Dear Mr Bradshaw,
My husband and I have three children in grades nine through 12 and we have a number of friends who have hired college consultants to work with their children. I never heard of this when I was seeking college admission but with the recent headlines about the abuse of the process it appears that this has been a growing trend.
Competition, dwindling resources
brought college admissions scandal
While there is no “official history” linked to the college consultant profession, I have a theory based on 20 years of experience. The primary reason that parents hire college consultants is because the competition for admission gets tougher each year.
One major difference between your experience in preparing for college and the process today is that there are more international students competing for a seat at the table. Many of these students come from countries where hiring consultants to prepare for college has been the practice for years.
A large number of these students are from Asia and families there are willing to spend thousands of dollars on consultants to help prepare their children for college entrance exams. In Japan they call the academic prep business “cram schools.” China, Korea and India are also major users of tutors.
The pressure is on these students to score well on exams so that they have a chance to attend a top college in the United States and eventually pursue a successful career.
Many American parents are familiar with the Japanese term “Salaryman.” These employees work long hours and dedicate their lives to their companies. This dedication develops in part because as young students, they attended “cram schools” after their regular classes and full time on weekends. Some of these students study up to 90 hours a week so they can obtain high scores on admissions tests.
A student from Japan who attends a top American prep school had an interesting perspective on the difference between the undergraduate experiences of
students in America and those in Japan who attend well-respected colleges.
He said: “In America, one’s college years are seen as a time to expand your knowledge and prepare for the professional world. In Japan, the prestige and history of a college frequently determines a person’s job placement.
“Once a student has been accepted by a top Japanese university, they are relieved from the stress of attending ‘cram schools’ and decide to party
during the entirety of their undergraduate years. They know that the reputation of their school will play a decisive role in their future job placement, and they
lose the incentive to perform well and reach their full potential.”
Americans, although many may not know it, are experiencing a true revolution in the way students prepare for college. It starts in preschool and moves on to private coaching and college consultants who help to prepare students for the SAT and tutor them in writing and leadership skills. I often am asked if college admissions officers can tell when a student has been coached. The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) has said they cannot.
At their upcoming conference they will be discussing the implications of “the recent admissions scandal and working to determine what changes might be needed to ensure that the admissions process remains fair and equitable.” At top schools it is generally expected that students use consultants in test and essay preparation.
There are close to 5,300 colleges and universities to choose from in the United States and the admission process is complicated.
One spokesman for a major university said because of the shortage of economic resources in high schools, there is a need for reputable college consultants to help students navigate the increasingly difficult admissions process.
Gerald Bradshaw is a top US college admissions consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting.
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