The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Using Recruitment Agents

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Often times international students work with recruitment agents to help guide them through the university selection process in the United States. While agents can be helpful, there are some things to be cautious about. Learn more.

As the desire to recruit international students increase in the United States and many other countries, colleges and universities continue to discuss the use of international recruitment agents. In addition, as the demand for higher education outside one’s country grows, many potential students and parents continue to use agents to navigate the convoluted college admission process.

What are international agents? To sum up, agents are independent contractors that exist in most countries to help guide students and parents through the college selection process. They help recruit students to universities for a fee, which is usually a percentage of tuition. We will take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly about recruitment agents. This will serve as a guide as to whether using an agent is right for you.

The Good:

1. Agents speak your native language. This can be helpful when trying to learn about a school, especially if the school does not have anyone who does speak your native language.

2. Introduce you to unknown schools. There are nearly 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States alone. That is a lot of schools and a lot of choices. Agents can help find a school for you that maybe would be a great fit, but maybe you never heard of.

3. Established reputations. Some agencies are very reputable and have helped students tremendously. It is important to look for ones sponsored by the government or have been around for a long time.

The Bad:

  1. Agents are expensive. Often if you are willing to apply to the same institution yourself it is much cheaper.
  2. Agents sometimes work with certain institutions. This can be bad because sometimes they will pressure you to attend a certain institution without giving you all of your options. Of course, you may have a wonderful experience, but it is nice to know all of your options.

The Ugly:

  1. Sometimes they change students’ admission documents. Agents have sometimes manipulated student test scores, personal statements, and grades. Often an admitted student will be shocked about the level of difficulty once they arrive and start classes. This contributes to students possibly not being successful at their new institution or being forced to leave because of false admission documents. Absolutely do not work with any agency who is willing to commit fraud.
  2. Agents have been known to oversell the education experience. Such as the ability to transfer or be admitted into top schools. The fact is that they are consultants and not admission representatives.
  3. Agents sometimes have unclear monetary policies. This is especially important because sometimes there will be hidden fees of they do not offer refunds. No one wants to pay more money than expected or lose money.
  4. Sometimes they lie about their relationships with certain schools. It is important to verify an agents relationship with a school by either talking to a current student who used that agency or checking the school’s website for agent relationships.

As a higher education professional, I am not against using agents. I do believe the reputable ones provide an important service to both students and parents. However, I feel that when using any agency that it should be researched thoroughly. At the same time I have always favored a “do-it-yourself” approach by talking with people you know who have studied in the United States, emailing an institution’s’ admission department, and consulting with EducationUSA, which is a resources sponsored by the US government that offers information and events in an unbiased way about studying in the US.


Katherine Murrin international student voice magazineKatherine Murrin, ISV Magazine Ambassador

International Student Coordinator, Long Beach City College

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