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College Admissions Scandal: Fraud vs. Friendly Advice

Last week, one of the couples that participated in what’s colloquially known as the “College Admissions Scandal” was sentenced to a month in prison for paying a “corrupt” proctor to change the answers to their daughter’s ACT and SAT exams.

Obviously paying someone to change answers for an official exam is blatant cheating--and illegal. But the line between fraud and friendly advice sometimes is grayer than one may expect.

So let’s discuss some college admissions advisor red flags, or signs that you are either being sold results that are too good to be true (and most likely are not going to happen) or, worse, engaging in actions that can get you into serious trouble.

1. Money / Scholarships / FAFSA


A college admissions financial advisor cannot guarantee you any amount of money, not without misrepresenting your income and then causing you a whole host of problems with your acceptance and possibly even the law itself. You need to be very, very suspicious of people who claim they have a way to get you X amount of money for college.

Friendly Advice

College admissions advisors ARE knowledgeable about how to apply to FAFSA (and when), how to take advantage of scholarships and grants, and how to access money that you may not be aware of or know when to apply for. These advisors can help with simplifying your search and clarifying information that often lacks clear guidelines and procedures. (They can also help with preparing materials.)

2. Applications and Essays


If you hand over your resume to someone and ask them to “do the rest” -- i.e., write the essays, fill in the applications, maybe even polish the resume itself -- then you are misrepresenting who actually did the work for the college applications and essays. Now, there are obvious gray areas when it comes to soliciting help and feedback on, say, essays. But the basic idea is that you, the student, should be putting in the most effort with YOUR college admissions materials, not blatantly paying someone to do it all (or most) for you.

Friendly Advice

College admissions advisors should be brainstorming topics WITH YOU, providing feedback on what YOU’VE WRITTEN, and offering strategies to clarify ideas and focus the application materials that YOU correct. This process should involve you AND the advisor. The advisor should not be stealing your voice in the college application, college admissions essays, or anywhere else.


Now that you have a better idea of what to expect from honest and high-quality college admissions advisors, you can make the best choice when preparing your materials over the next few weeks and months. The thing to remember is that there are no simple solutions and admissions officers know when students “fake it” through paid writers. Be yourself!

Looking for more advice on college admissions? Come to one of our upcoming seminars! Or, know what you need to do on your college applications and would like extra help? No worries! Check out B2A’s College Admissions Services (CAS)! Our professional admissions counselors and essay specialists can help you refine and focus your college applications and essays in an honest yet insightful manner.

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