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Buy, Steal, or Cheat Your Way Into the Ivy League–Secrets Revealed!

Some folks are desperate.  And desperation is the mother of capitalistic invention.

A new online company peddles “verified” student applications to Ivy League institutions.  IvyAnalytics.com offers Ivy-aspirants the opportunity to put in a bit of data about themselves, then matches the student up to a set of applications to your preferred institution.  Allegedly, these “verified” applications resulted in acceptance.  All you pay is thirty bucks, and you have a guaranteed way into the Ivy League.

It was only a matter of time before Ivy League students started prostituting themselves by selling their successful applications. Or, it could be that the folks at IvyAnalytics have moles inside the Ivy admissions offices.  Can’t you just see them taking out their James Bond cameras (i.e., their cell phones) and copying off a few successful applications?

I can only hope that the Ivy admissions offices are onto this scheme, and that they are downloading these apps themselves to cross-check the essays and other bits in order to weed out the plagiarists and the cheaters.

The sad thing is that there are folks who are desperate enough to gain entry to these institutions that they resort to chicanery, and that businesses like IvyAnalytics prey upon that reckless panic.

If the purchasers of those applications were to think for a few minutes about the stupidity of paying 30 bucks for someone else’s application (or five apps for only $100!), perhaps they would realize that every other purchaser would be submitting the same essays, checking the same boxes on the applications, and thereby increasing the likelihood that their application will be tossed in the trash due its suspect nature.  After all, the admissions officer only would have to check the facts on the application against your Facebook profile to find that you are trying to lie your way into the Ivy League.

I’m going to write to a couple of the admissions deans at Ivy League institutions to see what they know about IvyAnalytics.com.  Perhaps they’ll let me reprint their responses here.

Mark Montgomery
Educational Consultant

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  1. Another great posting from Mark. I HATE how parents have been brainwashed into thinking that Ivy colleges are the ONLY guarantee of success. This is just another symptom of the Ivy Disease.

    As many studies have shown, it is the caliber of the student who gets into an Ivy that makes the difference, not the actual school. Someone accepted to an Ivy who goes to a state college (or not at all) will be just as successful as someone who finishes at an Ivy (and often more!).

    Thanks to Mark for exposing this latest con job regarding Ivies. If a student is accepted at one legitimately and goes, that’s fine. It’s the obsession I hate!

    Linda P. Taylor, RFC, CCPS
    http://www.LindaPTaylor.com

  2. Standardized answers naturally follow from standardized tests. Similarly, standardized college applications naturally follow standardized admissions criteria. Mark is exposing an extreme abuse, but it is worthwhile to see the bigger picture.

    I want to also point out that a large fraction of the college counseling business engage in this same sort of admissions gaming, just not as extreme. How to buff the college aspirant’s resume is nothing new. My impression (without any direct experience to back it up) is that Mark offers college matching rather than simply college admissions gaming — much to his credit. But beware everybody. It’s a slippery slope.

    — E. Gold
    Newly minted parent of HS Seniors

  3. Eric,

    Thanks for the insights, and for pointing out that I’m not in the business of putting lipstick on pigs. I help students make the momentous decisions they need to make in determining which sorts of colleges suit them best. I’m a matchmaker, primarily. I do, of course, help students with the application process so that they can present themselves in the best possible light, and to understand how they can effectively communicate with admissions offices. I don’t do “extreme makeovers.”

    The problems along the “slippery slope” develop when students and parents start thinking that there is only a small set of colleges that will provide them with happiness, success, and opportunity. They become desperate. They think only about the colleges, and not about the individual involved. They believe that one’s worth as a human is gauged by external measures of value: test scores, grades, and brand names. Maybe it’s because I was a religion major, but I just don’t believe that one’s value or worth is determined by the name on a college diploma.

    I’ll also go out on a limb and say that, for the most part, the admissions process cannot be “gamed” in the sense that some people may think. Of course, there are game-like aspects to the process, and my job is to help students and families understand both the rules and to play their cards to their best advantage. But at the end of the process, the kids with a pair of twos or three five-spots will have fewer college choices than the student with straight flushes and full houses. Consultants cannot change the way the cards are dealt. We can, however, help people play their hands intelligently. And as admissions officers at the elite institutions will admit (perhaps under the influence of alcohol), sometimes a kid with a pair of deuces is able to bluff to win the admissions game. But this sort of bluff-to-win is as rare in the admissions game as it is on the World Poker Tour. I believe that most admissions offices do a darned good job of separating the pigs with lipstick from those who are intrinsically beautiful.

    Thanks again for reading my blog, Eric, and I appreciate the conversation.

  4. Hi, Linda.

    You are absolutely right to point out the research that demonstrates that success in life is measured by skills, talents, and abilities–not by the name on one’s diploma. Having just attended my 25th Dartmouth reunion, I can point to plenty of examples of folks with Ivy League diplomas who are stay-at-home dads (while their public-university-graduate-wives pull down the big money for the family), or who have been laid off from Fortune 500 companies, or who are high school teachers, or who are building log cabins in the Maine woods. For every Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner or Dr. Seuss or Broadway producer and director Jerry Zaks there is a small-time dairy farmer in Wisconsin.

    Success in life is not measured by some external yardstick. Success in life can only be measured by something internal. Call it divine. Call it spiritual. While I’m proud of my Dartmouth diploma, I don’t conflate that diploma with the value of my soul.

  5. Hi Mark,
    Very interesting and enjoyable to read you, as always.
    As a purveyor of lipstick, I have done a bit of introspection on this question. It is questionable if either of my children would be national merit scholars if I had not become involved. I demanded from my daughter that she practice math tests, and I analyzed with my son an essay every morning throughout the summer. Without a doubt, I wanted them to have the label. I rationalized my actions by saying that practice is always beneficial.
    I went further: I encouraged them to take a large number of AP courses, which I think is a good thing. But I also taught them how to prepare for the AP tests through the use of test booklets and by providing tutoring.
    Now I am in the somewhat unusual, and certainly awkward, position of accepting that my kids look better on paper than they probably are. Thankfully my son is quite happy to continue at our local public university that he knows and likes, and my daughter has concluded that $50k a year is not worth it anywhere. They have saved me from my own presumption.
    The system *can* be gamed. Parents will do well to look in a mirror and examine their own motivations before subjecting their children to choices that may cause harm in the form of debt and academic failure, if not worse.

  6. Hello, Eric,

    I love the story, as well as its self-effacing tone. But I’ll take issue with one statement: you say that your kids “look better on paper than they probably are.” Not sure what you mean by that. Perhaps you meant to put this the other way around? Seems to me that your kids are terrific. And so are you.

    Your pushing maybe didn’t land them in the Ivies, but they simply weren’t all that interested for a variety of perfectly good reasons. However, your pushing did help them to become well-prepared, intellectually capable young people. That preparation will mean more to them as they grow older than any old piece of vellum with a bunch of Latin on it.

    They may not recognize that fact now. And perhaps you’re not so sure right now, either. But I’d bet dollars to donuts that in time they’ll find they appreciate your nudges–and even a few of the shoves.

  7. I have never been enamored of the Ivy schools, and my machinations have nothing to do with gaining admittance to any one of them for my children. This is not to say that I doubt they are top caliber, very demanding schools.
    The point I meant to make was that my actions *could* have pushed my children into the Ivy_as_goal trap.
    By way of presumption, I pushed my kids to be at the top. Not to be happy with an ‘A’ or a ‘5’, but to view them as minimum targets. To view national merit scholar as laudable, but not proof of excellence. My kids know that less than an ‘A’ is proof of inadequacy, while an ‘A’ leaves the question open.
    My intent was to avoid at any cost the trap of NCLB’s march to mediocrity, but perverse irony that it is, my kids have internalized success at standardized tests as important. Curiousity, self-discipline, and intense engagement in areas of interest are not tested in standardized testing, and in fact are victims of it’s omnipresence. I fear I have failed my kids in promoting these latter aspects of what education really is.
    My larger point, that I have no doubt completely obscured by now, is that the standardized march to an Ivy school is no less self-defeating than viewing an ‘A’ or a high SAT score as the be-all of educational success. Maximizing self-awareness and critical thinking is the worthwhile goal.
    I find this is easier said than done.

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