Since last week the activities of three admissions directors have raised a storm of controversy in the admissions world. These directors serve or have served on an advisory board at a private admissions consultancy in Japan. The directors have positions at Wharton, UNC Kenan-Flagler, and Columbia Teacher's College. Wharton has since requested that the director resign both from the Japanese advisory board and from her own private undergraduate consulting business; she has done so.
Accepted fully endorses the position of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, which it co-founded last year and where I am currently president. The AIGAC blog post, "Admissions Director & Consultant– Simultaneously?" details how this arrangement violates AIGAC's Principles of Good Practice ("PGP") in two respects:
- AIGAC's PGP requires members to “Maintain independence of thought and action.” Accepting payment both from the school and from applicants and/or an admissions consultancy representing applicants compromises that independence. An AIGAC member, like Accepted, would not be allowed to participate in such an arrangement.
- One article quotes the Wharton director as saying that to avoid any conflict she arranged to receive from the consultancy a list of applicants to her school and intended to recuse herself from consideration of these applications. While her motives are commendable, the consultancy's release of client names would also violate AIGAC’s PGP. AIGAC members agree to “Maintain client confidentiality”; providing a list of client names (presumably without clients’ permission) to an associate director of admissions at the school to which the clients are applying once again is in violation of the PGP.
Several of the articles indicated that both IECA (an undergraduate admissions consultants' organization) and GMAC (the association of leading business schools) are scrambling to establish standards for their members and employees. Adoption of and adherence to AIGAC's PGP would have prevented the controversy and the appearance of impropriety in this case. I suggest that IECA, GMAC and the graduate schools consider adopting them.
Now to Accepted's practice: As a member of AIGAC, Accepted, unlike the consultancy that hired the admissions directors and the directors themselves, is bound by the terms of AIGAC's PGP. We, however, view AIGAC's PGP as our starting point in avoiding conflicts of interest.
Business requires a constant weighing of clashing interests and values. Accepted strives to serve applicants exclusively and to put its customers and clients' interests first, even when doing so means forgoing income or turning away an admissions director interested in moonlighting for us. We have taken both steps to preserve our independence. We will continue to do so in the future.