Like most people, I am outraged by the college admissions scandal. As the parent of five adult children and as an admissions consultant for approximately 25 years, I view the alleged behavior of the parties accused in Operation Varsity Blues as shameful and repulsive.
Although I have not played a role in writing this statement, I’d like to share and endorse the response of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, which I co-founded and where I served as first president several years ago.
The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) was established with the express purpose of setting high ethical standards in the graduate admissions consulting industry and applauds the U.S. Justice Department’s recent actions. Today, our membership consists of more than 200 members around the world who agree to our stated principles of good practice. These principles reflect the standards with which our members relate to their clients, graduate school applicants:
- Serving their clients and prospective clients in an ethical manner, with professionalism and respect.
- Insisting that clients write their own essays.
- Advocating that clients’ recommenders write their own recommendations.
- Avoiding any relationship that creates or appears to create a conflict of interest.
In order to become an AIGAC member, admissions consultancies must go through a rigorous membership application review that includes an intensive background check and approval by the AIGAC Board of Directors. In addition, a governance committee meets quarterly to reinforce members’ continued commitment to meeting the high standards laid out in the organization’s principles.
The Justice Department’s Operation Varsity Blues case is a reminder that the high-stakes admissions process is not just stressful, but can create opportunities for unethical players. AIGAC exists to provide support and professional development for those helping young people self-reflect through the admissions process and attain the right education in the right way. The current discussion around admissions practices—good and bad—creates an opportunity to provide greater clarity of the trustworthiness and distinguishing character traits of an AIGAC admissions consultant.
We, the leaders and member consultants of AIGAC, reaffirm our commitment to the high standards with which we serve our clients and prospective clients. AIGAC members are dedicated to demystifying the application process and helping applicants gain admission to schools that will enable them to realize sincere goals while upholding the integrity of the admissions process.
“Each year, the association receives membership applications from consultancies that we deny because the consultancy fails to meet our highest ethical standards,” says Brett Haber, president of AIGAC. “The recent admissions scandal demonstrates that not all self-described admissions consultants share high ideals. If someone promises you something that sounds too good to be true, for you or your child, then you should keep looking.”
I’d also like to quote Jason Gay, the Wall Street Journal’s sports columnist and father of young children, who wrote a scathing editorial when the scandal broke. The last few lines really sum up the key lesson for any parent, applicant, or admissions consultant.
“There isn’t a diploma in the world that’s more valuable than your integrity—and you can’t buy your integrity back. These may be old-fashioned, naïve notions, but I don’t care. This is what I’m telling my kids…”
It’s worth repeating, and remembering: “There isn’t a diploma in the world that’s more valuable than your integrity—and you can’t buy your integrity back.”
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• From Example to Exemplary, a free guide to writing outstanding application essays
• 16 Grad School Application Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make, a podcast episode
• Personal Statement Tip: Less is More