To the Editor:

Katherine Cohen dispenses college counseling advice to students for an eye-popping two-year fee of $28, 995 (“Yale grad offers pricey admissions advice,” 11/01). Yet it sounds as though Cohen’s primary qualifications for this work are that she was once an “employee” of the Yale admissions office and now keeps up with what the kids are grooving on MTV and VH1.

A fee of $300 an hour is a stunning amount to charge for application review, especially when it is nearly impossible to measure the quality of that advice. That anyone is willing to pay that amount says a lot about how desperately competitive the college admissions process has become.

I was also an “employee” of the Yale admissions office — I spent two years as an assistant director of admissions. I have a Yale degree. Not only do I watch VH1, I’ve been known to watch the WB channel. Let me assure you, though, that I have nothing to tell 17-year olds about college applications that would be worth $300 an hour. Private college counselors may be helpful to a few kids out there, but on the whole, they’re simply taking advantage of the already disturbing pressure on American kids to get into the best possible college at any cost.

Putting aside the moral issues raised by private college counseling and the fact that it may compound existing problems of fair access to higher learning among different socioeconomic, racial, and regional groups, what sane person forks over nearly $30,000 to someone just because they have a Yale degree and used to be an “employee” of an Ivy League admissions office?

I have some free advice for high school students aspiring to attend a top college and parents considering private counselors to give their children an edge: caveat emptor.

Katherine Helzer ’95

November 1, 2001