Wealth and Privilege: How Money Can Buy You Admission to Top-Tier Schools

In the high-stakes world of elite college admissions, a new luxury offering has emerged — round-the-clock tutoring and comprehensive consulting services for the ultra-rich.

The goal? Securing a spot at some of the nation’s most prestigious educational institutions.

Firms like New York-based Command Education are taking college admissions support to unprecedented heights. With a staggering $750,000 starting fee, they offer a range of services designed to give students a competitive edge in the race for admission to top-tier schools.

Command Education’s offerings include comprehensive packages tailored towards seventh-grade students and above. The price tag for such services is substantial, exceedingly twice the cost of tuition at some of the country’s highest-ranked institutions, including Yale and Harvard.

Wealth And Privilege In Elite College Admissions

In a comprehensive study conducted by Raj Chetty and David J. Deming of Harvard University and John N. Friedman of Brown University, the researchers underscore the significant role that wealth plays in elite college admissions. 

They found that children from the wealthiest 1% of American families are more than twice as likely to gain admission to top-tier private colleges compared to middle-class students with comparable SAT scores.

The researchers identified three key factors driving this high-income admissions advantage at private colleges: preferences for children of alumni, the weight placed on non-academic credentials — which tend to be stronger for students applying from affluent private high schools, and recruitment of athletes who often come from higher-income families.

Chetty, Deming and Friedman’s research provides a firm statistical foundation for the observation that admission programs at these prestigious institutions are perpetuating economic disparities. The findings reveal a system where wealth plays a key role in securing educational opportunities, thereby affecting socioeconomic mobility across generations.

A Range of Services

From a program specifically designed to enhance college applications to a year-round, tailored program for high school students, the services offered are extensive.

They aim to help students gain valuable experiences in areas like extracurricular activities, testing, internships, and community service, all designed to set them apart from their peers.

Harvard’s acceptance rate stands at a mere 3 percent, and wealthy parents have long been prepared to invest significant resources to increase their children’s chances of admission. One individual who has capitalized on this trend is Christopher Rim, the 28-year-old founder of Command Education.

An Unconventional Approach

The approach goes beyond traditional tutoring or test preparation. Each student’s journey is meticulously planned and crafted to highlight their unique strengths and passions, thereby enhancing their college applications.

Despite the high price tag, Rim’s services are in high demand, underscoring the lengths to which wealthy families are willing to go in the pursuit of elite college admissions. As the competition continues to intensify, the role of wealth in college admissions is likely to remain a significant factor.

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Debates Over The Value Proposition

While these ultra-luxury college counseling services are increasing in number, opinions vary on whether they justify the substantial cost. 

According to the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), independent educational consultants offer a wide range of services to assist students and families in the college admissions process. 

These services can include personalized counseling, strategic extracurricular planning and guidance on summer internships.

Given the level of personalization and the variety of services available, costs can vary considerably from one consultant to another.

Is It Fair And Just?

As wealth continues to play a significant part in elite college admissions, the demand for such luxurious and comprehensive services is likely to increase. However, the debate over its value and fairness is bound to intensify.


This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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