Independent Admissions Consultants vs Overseas Education Counselors

With the growing popularity of abroad education, the competition of getting into the dream universities has become competitive. This has also led to the mushrooming of study abroad counselors and independent admission consultants in India.

These days, more often than not, study abroad aspirants avail themselves of the services of either an independent college admission counselor or a traditional overseas education consultant (or counselor). In fact, many students (and parents) are also approaching admission counselors for admissions at top liberal arts colleges in India. So, what are the differences, and which one you should opt for? Let’s dive in deeper.

Independent Admission Consultants

Independent admission consultants (counselors) charge students (applicants) a fee and work in students’ best interest to place him/her in their best-fit university based on their individual abilities, profiles, and career goals.

Independent counselor has no agreements with colleges; does not get a commission from the university or college on student enrolment.

Advantages of Working with an Independent Admission Consultant

More often than not, independent admission consultants are alumni of elite universities and/or former admission officers at top universities. Additionally, some of them hold stellar professional job profiles (often international work-ex).

They know the admission process and study-abroad journey in and out as they possess first-hand experience. Besides, their mentoring also helps you with your overall career roadmap and job opportunities abroad.

It’s extremely advantageous to work with independent admission consultants if you are eying top elite universities that are super-competitive to get into (e.g. Ivy League or Top 25 US Universities, Oxbridge, TU9, ETH Zurich, etc.).

Additionally, working with independent admission consultants can also help you to bag generous scholarships (25 – 100% tuition fees) from a top 100/250 world-ranked university. That usually gives you a healthy ROI on the money you spend on application reviews (independent admissions consulting services).

Disadvantages of Working with Independent Admission Consultants

Like anything in the world, there are always pros and cons.

The first thing that deters applicants to work with independent admission consultants is the consulting fees.

Besides, independent admission consultants work as application specialists. As a standard process, they will not help you with education loans, visa filling, flight booking, arranging student accommodation, etc.

They provide useful external perspectives (quite often from the angle of an admission officer). They work with you to present the application in a better way and improve your admission chances.

Too Many Players Out There… And Exaggeration!!!

In the past few years, independent admission consultants have sprung up like tea stalls at every street corner. A few of them might claim to be alumni of top universities and/or claim to place candidates in top elite schools.

Don’t get dazzled by the shiny claims on their websites – 99.99% acceptance, 100% scholarships.

Check and verify if the team uses some non-transparent techniques to manipulate that number, such as selecting only applicants with stellar profiles, high SAT/GRE/GMAT scores, or forcing applicants to apply only easy (or not so competitive) schools to maintain a high success rate.

Previous Track Record and Domain Expertise

Another thing to check is if the admission consultant has worked with similar applicants in the past. Someone having a great success rate in MBA Finance or Liberal Arts might not be the right person to work on applications for MS Computer Science, Biomedical Engineering, Architecture, or MS Business Analytics.

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Consulting Rates of Independent Admission Consultants

Below is the average range for end-to-end application guidance (college list, profile building, planning for standardized tests, essay brainstorming, essay/SoP review & editing, recommendation guidance, mentoring with the overall admission process, interview prep)

  • Undergraduate: INR 80,000 – 4 Lacs (for 8 – 15 college applications)
  • MBA: INR 70,000 – 1.5 Lacs (for 1 b-school application)
  • Masters (MS): INR 8,000 – 40,000 (for 1 application review/assistance)

ROI Matters

Now, suppose you sign up with an independent college admission counselor for INR 3 Lacs and you get admitted to a top-tier college with a scholarship or financial aid of $15,000 per year (~ total INR 40 Lacs over 4 years). Then that’s a great ROI.

Similarly, if spending INR 30,000 – 40,000 on MS applications can help you to get a scholarship of INR 10 – 15 Lacs or helps you to get into a competitive program with nominal fees (e.g. Germany, Norway, or Switzerland), then again it’s a good ROI.

Traditional Study Abroad Counselors (Overseas Education Consultants)

Most of them claim to not charge any fees to the students. However, there might be a nominal charge (say Rs. 2,000 – 5,000 for end-to-end guidance for multiple applications).

Usually, they have tie-ups with universities/colleges and receive a referral fee or commission once you accept the offer of attending one of their partner universities.

Advantages of Working with Study Abroad Counselors

It helps if your counselor (or the overseas education agency) has got a solid portfolio of partner universities – say, tie-up with 40+ UK universities (including a few Russell Group members), 100+ US universities (including a few top state universities), 20+ Australian universities, etc. In such cases, the chances are higher of getting into a good university.

The study-abroad process is a long journey with multiple roadblocks. The entire process can take 6 – 20 months. You might do the application yourself (even if it’s a top selective university). But, if you prefer not to tackle everything yourself and wish to have a helping hand who can help you with getting a bank loan, visa application, post-departure formalities, etc., you can definitely work with a study abroad counselor.

Another advantage could be getting an application-fee waiver. If you are applying to 5 – 10 US or Canadian universities, you could easily shell out anything around INR 40,000 to 1 Lac on application fees only. Working with study abroad agencies could help you save that amount when you apply to their partner universities.

Top overseas education companies who have been in the industry for 10 – 20 years (or more) would have sent other students as well. So, their network could also help you to settle down once you arrive at your destination country (or the university campus).

It could be advantageous if you work with small boutique firms (not huge agencies that cater to 2,000 – 10,000 students in a year) and provides personalized career and college admission guidance to the students.

Disadvantages of Working with Traditional Overseas Education Consultancies

The biggest disadvantage is the commission-based contract (agreement) that leads to biased guidance.

Almost all the top elite universities do not get into any agreements with agents or consultants for recruiting students. Quite often, a single consultant will not have a huge portfolio of universities in a single country.

Hence, students’ interests take a back seat, and overseas education counselors/agencies focus on recruiting students for their partner university even if the applicant deserves a better-ranked or better-fit university.

If it’s a consultancy having tie-ups with only low-ranked universities, it’s better to avoid such agencies/agents.

Also, the majority of agencies don’t always help with scholarships (partial or full) as scholarships are not in universities’ interest and the scholarship amount might reduce the commission rate. Keep in mind that Early-Bird Discount or 10% Tuition Fee Scholarships are not always too profitable.

Independent Admissions Consultants vs Overseas Education Counselors

There is no right or wrong.

It all depends on your career aspirations, list of dream/target universities, and budget.

In general, spending 0.5 – 1.5% of your total budget (fees and living expenses) on application review services is not a bad idea at all. However, if you work with an experienced, transparent, and ethical study abroad consultant, you can easily save a few thousand or a couple of Lacs rupees.

Not every independent admission consultant can help you to get into Ivy League or Cambridge/Oxford. At the same time, an independent admission counselor will always help you to get into the best possible university.

Similarly, study abroad consultancies can help you to reach abroad without too many hassles. But, the majority of consultants/agents will prioritize the commission over the applicant’s career. However, there are many consultants who work on a commission-based model do put their students’ interests first.

Top Independent Admission Consultants and Study Abroad Agencies in India

Below is a list for reference and is not an exhaustive list at all. This list has been made after referring to the profiles/credentials of consultants, reviews of previous applicants (in the public domain), type of admits, and interaction through our network.

Top Independent College (UG) Admission Consultancies in India

  • Viral Doshi Associates
  • EdBrand (Arjun Seth)
  • The Red Pen
  • ReachIvy
  • Admissions Gateway
  • Karan Gupta Consulting
  • Inomi (Richa Saklani)
  • Collegepond
  • IvyAspire
  • UnivAdmitHelp

Top MBA Admissions Consultants in India

  • Admissions Gateway (Rajdeep Chimni)
  • MBA Crystal Ball
  • GyanOne Universal (Rishabh Gupta)
  • ReachIvy
  • Crack The MBA (Nupur Gupta)
  • Llewellyn Desouza
  • CrackVerbal
  • AdmitSquare
  • Experts’ Global
  • Vikram Shah Consulting
  • MBA4India
  • General Education (GenEd) MBA
  • Strategy4GMAT
  • Management Masters
  • Vibranture
  • Dream School Admit
  • The Red Pen
  • Pythagurus
  • Global College Info
  • August Academy
  • Applicant-x

Top MS Admission Consultancies in India

  • Scholar Strategy (Nistha Tripathi)
  • Yocket*
  • MBA Crystal Ball
  • ReachIvy
  • The Red Pen
  • Education & You (Priyamvada Agarwal)
  • SOP Edits (Amaneesh Kaur)
  • Global College Info
  • GREedge

Top Overseas Education Consultancies in India

  • The Chopras
  • Manya Education Group
  • Edwise
  • Global Reach
  • IDP Global
  • Krishna Consultants
  • Canam Consultants
  • SIEC Education
  • AECC Global

*Yocket is a platform where you can opt for a Basic or Premium Masters Admission Counselling package. As per reviews and our research, the process is pretty transparent.

How Does Stoodnt Work? is an online platform where you can have the best of both worlds – a network of top independent college admission counselors (in India & abroad) and study abroad counselors (boutique & big agencies).

Stoodnt initially started as a platform with a team of independent admission counselors. However, we realized that not everyone needs end-to-end guidance for elite colleges.

At present, on our platform, we have 280+ verified career counselors, independent admission consultants, and study abroad counselors. Among those, 30+ counselors are also available for 1-on-1 sessions (30/60 minutes).

The panel includes admission consultants who happen to be alumni of top universities like Harvard, Stanford, Penn, Cambridge, Esade, ESMT Berlin, ISB, IIM, IIT, UIUC, Colgate University, Savannah College, LSE, NYU, NYC, UT Austin, UC Berkeley, and study abroad counselors from Manya, Let’s Talk by Sunita Bose, etc.

The 1-on-1 sessions are very popular. Apart from quick doubt-clearing, it also provides you an opportunity to speak with the consultant/counselor first. So, you can decide if you are signing up with the right person.

About Me:

At Stoodnt, I work as an independent counselor. Know more about my background, areas of expertise, feedback from previous candidates, etc.

During my Masters admissions (in the UK), I worked with Sunita Bose, who leads a boutique study abroad consultancy. 

At that time, my knowledge (and budget for application services) was pretty limited. Apart from application assistance, I also needed guidance with visa application, accommodation, etc.

When I arrived at Heathrow (back in 2008), she was there to receive me and made sure I got to the university campus safely. She was around for the initial 2 weeks and also visited the next summer.

Now, I can be biased as she was my counselor. Right?

But, the fact that she has helped other students to get into non-portfolio universities like (Oxford, KTH Sweden, Toronto, NYU, etc.) and has got tie-ups with all UK universities (except 4 – Oxford, Cambridge, UCL & Imperial), is a testimony to her credibility and transparency.

Related Articles:

Career Guidance, Employment & Study Abroad Counselling in India: Problems and Solutions

Questions to Ask Your Study Abroad Counselor

Why Work with an Independent College Admission Counselor

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