us aadmission agents blackmail money

Agent: Pay $5000 or You Can’t Study in the U.S. – True Story

Raghuram Sukumar Admission 17 Comments

Have you wondered what U.S. Admission agents do to students or how they work? Here’s an experience shared by a student who went through the ordeal of an Agent in India.


I am currently on F1 visa in one of the Universities in the state of Minnesota.  I never knew a U.S. state called Minnesota existed before going to this agent.

I hired an agent to make the whole process, and she suggested me this state and university. (I don’t know the reason).

I started my IELTS training in that academy. That was good. But when the admission process, came along they started charging me more than it was discussed.

They took an application fee for 3 universities from me and applied only in one university.

I asked for payment and an application confirmation page of university several times, but they didn’t give it to me. I only received I-20 from this university, and they told me that if you want your I-20 then give us XYZ  amount. I was so confused at that time.  I paid the money and left that consultancy.

I did my whole interview process on my own. I arranged all documents and filled all the required forms online. Ultimately, I got a visa in the month of July end.

I was getting ready to fly to the U.S.

One day I got a call from that consultancy, and they asked me to pay $5000 right away if I want to study in this university.

I said I will not pay anything before I reached the school. I left that consultancy and still she was harassing me.

Then I came to know what they have done. They e-mailed the university from the mail id which they have created at the time of admission. And informed the university that I don’t want to take admission.

I came to know that, and I started communicating with the university directly from my personal mail id. They were also waiting for my email. I explained the whole scenario to them, and they confirmed that my admission will not be cancelled. At least, university folks understood me. Otherwise, consultancy guys would have ruined everything.

Today I’m here just because of my personal efforts and help from the university people.  This state is excellent with lots of opportunities, but before coming here, I had an awful time. I am recommending not to get help from any consultant.

 


That was a student’s experience with a U.S. Admission Agent. Let me throw some light on this process.

Let me throw some light on this process.

False Identity

When agents sign-up a student to provide admission services, they are essentially taking the student’s persona.

How do they do that?

By creating an email id, that resembles the student’s name. They would then apply for admission as if the student is submitting the application.

When the greedy agent comes into the picture, they started blackmailing this student for additional $5000. But, this student was smart enough to figure things out and take control. But, I wouldn’t have recommended a consultancy in the first place.

Selling the Dream

I’m noticing another trend with consultancy. The biggest reason someone wants to apply via agents is “where to apply and then comes who to apply”.

Universities provided by Agents fall into three categories

  • Dream (GRE > 310) – Schools A, B
  • Target (GRE about 300 to 305) – Schools M, N, O
  • Safe  (GRE less than 300) – Schools – X, Y, Z

Let’s say student have an academic profile that would get them admitted to “Safe.”

But, they would give schools in reverse order

  • Dream – Schools X, Y, Z
  • Target – Schools – M, N, O

Just because they are giving the schools in a specific bucket doesn’t mean a “real” safe schools will not become dream overnight. But, they are playing with the insecurities of the students’ and their parents. I bet, the schools they are mostly going to get admission from their commission based schools.

What Can Schools Do About This?

Universities are on the ignorant side when it comes to what happens on the ground in India. You can get sign-up contact with certified agents, but the reality is entirely different.

How can schools shield from such practices?

I’m not sure if that would be possible. If a student is approaching an agent and the agent is applying on behalf of a student with assumed identity, I don’t know how can schools shield from such practices.

Should Students Use Agents in First Place?

I have been stressing on the same issue for years now. For agents, you are “yet another business”. But, for you students, “you are running away from the challenge”.

Here’s a comment from a student Manoj Says “Yes, I  opting for an agent as I am not sure of the admission processes. So please guide how to write SOP, how to submit the application etc.”

If I forward a guide on how to select universities and how to write SOP, do I think everyone would stop going to consultants? No, it’s not going to happen.

In other words, the majority of students who are taking the Agency route,  are looking for a magic button. With a press of a button, they are expecting a list of universities that are low cost and with financial aid.

The student has to realize that a Ph.D. in Rocket Science is not required to apply for Higher Education to Study Abroad ( the USA or any other countries). Skills to apply for higher education can be acquired. Here’s a fantastic quote from the movie The Martian

“At some point, everything’s going to go South on you. You’re going to say, This is it. This is how I end. Now, you can either accept that, or you can get to work. You have to solve one problem, and then solve the next problem, and then solve the next problem, and if you solve enough problems, you get to go home.”

The Same logic applies to students when applying for higher admission. Just learn to solve problems like you did in your schools and college. You have to solve problems. From the birds eye view level, things will look complicated when applying for college admission in the U.S. You just have to walk on the ground, solve one problem at a time and learn.

Understanding the solving the problems is the key here. From the birds eye view level, things will look complicated when applying for college admission in the U.S. You just have to walk on the ground, solve one problem at a time and learn.

You have to step out your comfort zone, read, learn the process, understand, then read again, get clarity, then apply.

I’m not going to say, the process is simple, easy and straightforward.

You will have a learning curve.

That’s part of the Study Abroad process.

By the way, why do you want to study abroad?

Knowledge, Education, and maybe get a Job and earn money.

Your learning process starts not after you start your college, but the very moment you have a shadow of thought about studying abroad.

So, do what it takes to apply for admission to your own. If you still choose to work with an agent, then you carry the bulk of the load. Don’t blindly trust them. Make them earn your business.

 

Comments

  1. Dont go to a consultant for any thing related to your process of studies in USA. I say this from my own experience.

    Here’s some background about me:
    I came to US back in 2006 for my masters.

    I did every single thing related to my masters application on my own.

    This included:
    1) Preparing for GRE and TOEFL
    2) Shortlisting and applying for universities
    3) Creating my own letter of intent / SOP and letters of recommendation (as requested by my then professors in India)
    4) Handling the visa interview process

    Let me reiterate: I did every single step on my own, without paying a single rupee to any consultant or advisor. And back then, I didn’t even know any online resource like Happy Schools Blog (now Happy Schools)

    Many in India have this groupthink (its a genuine term, google for “groupthink”), which makes many people on the fence, also succumb to the pressure and pay for a service and buy peace of mind. In fact, I feel enraged when I offer free advice to relatives and friends, and yet they choose to go pay obnoxious amounts to a consultant, to land in a not so great university!

    It may look like I’m boasting that I did it on my own, but the point I’m trying to convey:
    It is possible for you to handle each of this step, on your own, as long as they have good skills to use internet, google and Happy Schools to help themselves, in addition to having some humility to ask those who have been through the process on their own and listen to them.

    If you ask for advice from those who used consultancy services, you’ll be instructed to go to so and so consultancy. They wont advice you to do it on your own.

    Here’s a valuable advice I got in the first month (from a grad student in my univ):
    It’s better to be in a bad position for a choice you made, than for a choice you let someone else make for you.

    The above advice was given when we the discussion revolved around selecting easy/tough courses. I went ahead and chose all the tough courses, learned a lot (though didn’t score all A grades) and I’m so glad I didn’t go for any of the “easy” courses.

    This advice, applies to a lot of choices I have had to make in life.

    I hope, those getting started with the process of preparing for studies overseas, will also apply it in their own life!

    1. Author

      I like what you have done with your email. I do that “all: the time 🙂

      [email protected] ( so, you can filter all income emails form happyschools with a label).

      WOW Nitin. I can see you are going to have a bright future.

      “It’s better to be in a bad position for a choice you made, than for a choice you let someone else make for you.”

      I have mentioned this couple of times. You can choose to take easy courses and graduate with 4.0 or take tough courses with graduate with 3.1

      Do you want to come on a show and share your experience. You should!

      1. Thanks Raghu 🙂

        I think there’s few other things I should mention about my experience:

        1) I scored much higher in GRE compared to my peers who put in 10 x more effort with their classes. (I probably had the lowest avg in my undergrad, so it was much more surprising that I could score higher)
        2) I pestered every cousin/friend I knew about the process, made use of Orkut communities (back in those days, Orkut was the Facebook, and every university would have an ISA community)
        3) In the hindsight, when I look at my SOP, I laugh at it. Probably I got into the university because it was so original (but very edantic)

        My peers in the US university I studied, I think could have gotten into much better universities, but many of them landed there through a consultant (after paying for coaching, applications, and visa consultation).

        Side effect of this process: I have never used any consultant/service for any visa/passport issues till now. Hoping to keep it this way!

        Good luck to all those doing this on their own.
        The rest who still choose to go through a consultancy, think again.

  2. I am amazed after reading this.Students are just running behind others word.Why can’t they do their own work.They are planning to study in other countries and not willing to search or inquire their own.This is really pathetic. How they can be so ignorant.Everything is clear in the universities website.and if not ,then ask to the counsellor. They reply within 2 3 business days.I only want to say ,Grow up guys!

    1. Author

      Unfortunately, there are thousands of students who depend on the agents and assume that’s the only way. Parents are here to blame as well.

  3. Yes, I totally agree this is 100% sure. Even the same thing happened to be back in 2010.

    They guys create a new email id on your name and communicate with the university people with that email. They wouldn’t give you the username and password of that email at all, when you ask they say that you would mess up the communication and it would create confusion with communication with univ guys if multiple people send emails.

    Impel Overseas was the agent, They collected 50,000 INR from me back in 2010 for applying for 5 univs and my score was decent enough in old format GRE when converted to new format its 302 GRE TOEFL-90 Acads 75%

    But those guys applied for just 3 univs as far as I know and never gave me any tracking numbers and I20’s of other 2 univ, which means they applied for only 3 of them
    which are 1 NYIT, 2 Oklahoma City Univ, 3 Wilmington Univ.

    I did want to go to these univs as I was having 2 job offers I joined one of them and gained 3 yrs of experience and again took GRE, TOEFL and got admission into Univ of Texas, Dallas for Spring 2014 and got a Full time after my Masters

    1. Author

      You did good. Universities don’t know about these practices and they just want to work with an agent for recruitment. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. Raghu, thank you for posting this story. I am saddened to hear such stories from students who, by no fault of their own, are stuck in situations like these. I’m so glad for this student that took the initiative to contact the university directly and saved themselves the hassle. I wanted to quick point out to your readers that there is absolutely no need for them to use an agent…EVER! If they are a serious student and are committed to putting in the required effort to find the right-fit university/program, there are easier ways to complete the process.

    1. Contact the university directly. There is someone in the office of international admissions that is dedicated to helping you with the process.

    2. Contact the USIEF offices in India. They are a Dept. of State sponsored organization whose mandate is to promote US education and thus, will help students through the entire process.

    3. Here’s my shameless plug: Contact our office in India and my staff will help you with the entire process free of cost. Check us out http://www.ikcblr.com and contact us at [email protected]

    Good luck
    Girish Ballolla
    CEO
    Gen Next Education, Inc,

    1. Author

      Thanks Girish. I was going to ask you read this article. But, you already commented.

      Girish and I have know since 2012 and he represents universities (Local Office in India) and he’s not an agent. At some point I have to do an interview with you. If you need any help with schools, you should reach out to him or can meet him in person when he’s on India Calling trip with U.S. Schools. He’s based out of Minnesota ( the same state this is listed in the above experience).

  5. My experience with MailITP was very nice. I gave them some of the Universities I wanted to apply and asked them to apply to some safe ones as well. The overall package was good. I did feel it was a lot of work from my side. It is like hiring a lawyer for green card and providing all the information to build up a case.

  6. Agents are fraud. Stop going to agents. Stop wasting your parents money.

    Do your own research. Spend some time reading about the schools. Spend some time in forums.

    If you cannot do this, you are unfit for anything in life.

  7. Yes, I agree that most of the agents usually want to send the students to the Universities that t hey represent. But at the same time the students intending to studying in US are not ignorant. The good students already knows what he/she want to study and also about the credibility of the University. However, the kind of students that generally goes to the agents are those who are not sure or confident of applying themselves and getting admission/visa.

    Many of the agents particularly in the northern parts of India are misguiding the students by luring them to study in USA without doing IELTS. Students should realize that, though some Universities do offer admission without IELTS/ToEFL, still they should be able to communicate well in English. Otherwise no point in applying for Study Visa to US, rather to any country.

    There’s nothing wrong in taking Agent’s assistance in applying for admission. But its students liability to check the credibility of the Agent. The student must look for the following before giving any money to the agents:-
    – Since how long the agent is working in this field
    – How many visas they have received
    – Is the agent approved the Government of the state where applying
    – Is the company registered with the Government of India
    – Is the agent a member of any Association
    – Has the agent himself traveled to US and visited the Universities.

    Generally if the agent is not making any false promises or commitments, is most likely to be a genuine agent.

    1. Author

      Jasbir – Criteria you have listed is not going to stop agents using false identity to apply for admission. There are certifying agencies for Agents, but if they send random “student” inspectors to validate the practices.

      I have meet agents and they are good people to talk to and it’s a business model they have created to survive. Students should do their home work. If you choose to work with an agent, then make sure they work for your interests.

  8. Good article. We see some of the same things with students using agents. Another unfortunate circumstance we see all too often is that the agents will use the same SOP for all students, and get fake LOR’s and submit these on behalf of the students. Agents send 5-7 student application packets in the same envelope to cut down on their shipping costs, and when our staff begins to process the documents they find that all the materials are identical. Even though the student may not even be aware that it’s being done, they will get denied for submitting fraudulent documents. I can’t stress enough that there is no need to use an agency; like Nitin and others have said – use the internet, Google, social media. Most US universities have all the info you need to apply on their websites. Other universities (like mine!) have webinars hosted by current students and admissions staff who are happy to guide you in the process. It is always better to deal directly with the university, so you are 100% sure of what is being said and done on your behalf.

    1. Author

      Thanks Dr. Wolf (UT Tyler). Agents sending multiple application in same packet is news to me. I would have expected documents to look similar.

      Students and Agents should know better. Universities save the SOP, LOR in a database that’s used to check for plagiarism by other universities.

  9. Thank you, Raghu. I’d like to reiterate that there is no service that a consultancy provides that we don’t offer FREE at The University of Texas at Tyler. We have staff that will work with you individually to answer all of your questions, and the process is extremely straightforward – we’ll walk you through every step. Although consultants may be well intentioned, they add an extra, unnecessary layer to the process, and we’ve noticed that many of our incidences of plagiarism originate through the consultancies. We’ve had students that would have been admitted and awarded scholarships be rejected because of what a consultant submitted on their behalf.

  10. Personally i like minnesota and UofM thats a good college and wonderful plave to luve except for snow. Dear student i feel really sorry for what all you had to go through before coming to US. However, to trust what you are saying and also to avoid this scenario for any other student why dont you provide full details of the consultancy, place, person tou dealt with.

    Potentially everyone in business is for makin money… However not at the expense of a student with high aspirations.

    Consulting companies are definitely doing more good than harm. A student can choose any country and university but for consulting companies its their lively hood. So you need to choosewisely. You should not opt for some companies who do not haveproper infrastructure curriculum standards and faculty. We cant always find fault with consulting companies. Even few students they just want afmission. They dont have proper paperwork.. Etc.

    Good luck.

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