The article “Parents Are Paying Consultants $750,000 to Get Kids Into Ivy League Schools,” published by Bloomberg, has caused quite a stir. It’s no surprise that wealthy individuals spend a fortune on so many things, but when it’s for something that nobody should be paying for at all, it hits differently.
As someone who works on the front lines of college admissions, I can confirm that these parents who spend $750,000 on pre-college services could see a return on their investment. However, it’s not for the reasons you think.
To begin, this $750,000 package is the all-in cost for parents of students who are starting in the 7th grade. According to Joshua Velasquez from Ivy Tutor, who has spent over half a decade in elite college admissions offices, the key to getting into prestigious schools, assuming a student meets certain criteria, is to “tell a compelling story.” So what kind of story is worth $750,000? For these wealthy parents, it’s a story that is created in real time.
Typically, college advisors look back at a student’s past several years and find a story to tell that underscores the unique value the student promises to offer to the university. In contrast, for $750,000, parents can take a proactive approach: helping students author in real time a story that appeals specifically to elite university admissions officers. For these students of privilege, from the 7th grade on, every action and decision becomes another contrived plot point of their story.
Is this just marketing hype? Do parents and students really need high-priced consultants to “craft a story in real time?” Definitely not. College admissions officers evaluate students on a curve and are aware that high-priced consultants help engineer applicants’ achievements. It’s simply not plausible that a 15 years old would, say, create a viable charity that helps domestic abuse victims in Laos —at least without serious help. Thus, smaller achievements that a high schooler could realistically accomplish offer a more genuine reflection of a student’s character and values and, therefore, may carry greater weight.
The takeaway for parents who hope their students can compete with consultant-guided students is to set their students on the right path early and trust that admissions officers are not naïve to the attempts of ultra-wealthy parents to get their students into elite universities. However, this doesn’t mean there is no room for expert guidance. Parents of younger students occasionally reach out to us for help in understanding what they can do now to put their students on the path to success. What’s more, they may get more from this small investment than they would from a $750,000 outlay.