'Snake Oil' College Advisers Can Run $40K

Counselors often embellish record, don't need licenses
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2009 11:01 AM CDT
No test or licensing is required to offer independent college counseling services.   (Shutter Stock)

(Newser) – Independent college counselors promise to use their admissions know-how to get students into the best schools. But there’s no way to evaluate their sometimes extravagant claims, and some charge more than a year’s tuition at many colleges, the New York Times reports. Still, business is booming in the largely unregulated field—despite concerns from college officials. “I guess there are snake oil salesman in every field,” says the president of the University of Pennsylvania.

Independent counselors, who are unaffiliated with schools, usually charge about $185 an hour, but some charge upwards of $40,000. “It’s annoying when people complain about the money,” one counselor complains. “I’m at the top of my field. Do people economize when they have a brain tumor and are looking for a neurosurgeon?” Admissions officers advise students to seek the advice of their high school counselors, but the applicants who could benefit the most from such counseling often can’t afford it.