25
MAR
2015

Know what to expect when hiring an agent to help with your U.S. college applications.

Students interested in studying in the U.S. who come from other countries may not be able to visit campuses, or even know where to begin when it comes to finding and applying to colleges in the States.

Professional agents, however, can help international students seeking admission to schools in the U.S. They charge a fee for their services, which can include a variety of parts of the process including facilitating applications, helping to prepare visa documents, arranging being picked up at the airport and more. Some countries, like China, even license agents. Students and parents usually have an idea about what they’ll get when employing an agent, but there are a few common misconceptions about how working with an agent will benefit a student.

Myth 1: With the agent’s help, I can go to the top universities that I want: It is possible that agents might help students realize they can apply for higher-ranking universities and colleges than they might have expected. However, a good agent will not allow students to blindly follow rank.
He or she will first learn more about you and your interests then suggest the institutions he or she thinks could fit you better. They should also be experts in providing detailed information about the institutions that you are interested in, including location, academic strengths, safety issues, scholarships and fellowships.
Recruitment agents are consultants, not life decision makers, and frequent communication should go between agents, students and parents.

Myth 2: After I sign on with an agent, all I have to do is wait for an admission letter. Remember that you are the main character of the application. This is about your life and you should take the leading role in the process.
Agents will ask for many application documents such as a personal statement, resume, transcripts and recommendation letters. If you are not familiar with these documents, they might have good samples.
A good agent will sort these documents, send them out in the most effective way and keep you updated. A really good one will even provide a detailed schedule and a spreadsheet of listed documents. He or she might able to provide feedback from the admissions office as well.
It will ultimately work better for you if you carefully prepare these documents and provide them in a timely manner. Meanwhile, learn a bit about the major and the university you are going to, rather than throw everything to the agent.
If there is a weak part in your application, what you really need to do is to sit down with the agent and discuss an honest and reasonable solution. Never, never provide false or misleading information.

Myth 3: I should be able to contact my agent at any time. International students might be very earnest to learn about the status of their college applications and be tempted to bombard their agent with phone calls, emails and or other messages.
Keep in mind that these people are professionals and have a life. Refrain from the desire of hearing from them whenever you want.

Myth 4: My agent cannot provide more help once I am admitted. Once you receive the admission letter via the help of the agent, you will need to consider more things like visa applications, tuition deposit and housing accommodations, to name a few. Most agents can also help with the above issues.
Sometimes their follow-up service also includes English classes and airport pick-up in the U.S. You can also ask your agent if he or she can introduce classmates or alumni to you. You will be able to adjust to the new environment faster with someone you know before arrival.
On the other hand, typically the contract between you and the agent ends after a certain period. So after a year or two, if you need more help from the agent, you should sign a new one with him or her, or another agent, rather than keep going back and asking for more.