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I am happy to see that we have had several question on Admissions Consulting services in the last year. I would like to hear more experiences from Club Members.
Here are some insights that might be helpful to some applicants (note that these are general comments and are NOT directed at any specific firm or individual).
As with any industry, there are many competent, helpful people who will exert great efforts to help maximize your chance of admission.
On the other hand, I have seen a number of practices that seemed more appropriate for the sellers of used cars or penny stock telemarketers.
1) Comments from satisfied clients are interesting and useful. However, to state the obvious, they are unlikely to be a representative sample of the views of all clients.
2) I have seen some admissions counselors try to "sell" their own book of schools. Thus, they urge clients to apply to this set of schools when it is often not in the best interests of the client.
3) There is a serious selection bias problem in the admission rates asserted by these consultancies. Often students who seek these services are already at the right tail of the applicant group and are seeking every extra edge that they can. Many probably would have enjoyed a relatively high chance of admission without any form of intervention.
4) I have also seen admissions consultants attempt to discourage students from applying to high cluster schools even when it might be in the student's best interest to apply. Remember, if the consultant is seeking the most impressive admit numbers to a certain schools there is a temptation to discourage applications from "marginal" candidates as they might drag down the admission rate.
5) Remember that for USD 6,000 you could probably apply to every elite and ultraelite school in the US and the top schools elsewhere. I am not advocating the "shotgun" approach but if you take the "Casino" admissions model you would probably be admitted to at least one quality school with that many apps and a reasonably competitive profile.
So is Hjort saying that these services are a bad idea?
For some applicants, these services might be just the sort of interaction with a skilled individual they need.
Just be careful regarding how you spend you hard earned money.