The path to US college acceptance, however, increasingly compels students to sacriﬁce their integrity. For the right price, unscrupulous college prep agencies offer ghostwritten essays in ﬂawless English, fake awards, manipulated transcripts and even whiz kids for hire who’ll pose as the applicant for SAT exams.
“Oh my God, they can do everything for you,” said Nok, 17-year-old Thai senior in her ﬁnal year at a private Bangkok high school. (She asked GlobalPost to alter her name for this article.) “They can take the SAT for you, no problem. Most students don’t really think it’s wrong.”
Among Asian high society, and particularly in China, parents’ obsession with sending their offspring to US colleges has given rise to a lucrative trade of application brokers. Depending the degree of assistance, families can expect to pay between $5,000 and $15,000.
“The parent says, ‘My kid needs this GPA but, frankly, his scores aren’t that strong.’ Then the unscrupulous agent says ‘Don’t worry. We’ll ﬁgure that out,’” said Tom Melcher, chairman of Zinch China and author of a Chinese-language book on choosing American colleges.
A 250-student survey by Zinch China, a Beijing wing of the California-based Zinch education consultancy, suggests college application fraud among Chinese students is extremely pervasive. According to the survey, roughly 90 percent of recommendation letters to foreign colleges are faked, 70 percent of college essays are ghostwritten and 50 percent of high school transcripts are falsiﬁed.
“For the right price,” Melcher said, “the agent will either fabricate it or work with the school to get a different transcript issued.” Admission into a top 10 or top 30 school, as deﬁned by the US News & World Report, can bring a $3,000 to $10,000 bonus for the agent, he said. The magazine, Melcher said, is commonly confused in China for an official government publication.
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