We all know that China puts the U.S. to shame economically. But for some weird reason, Chinese parents want their kids to study at our brand-name universities.
As most of you know, this is not so easily accomplished. Even perfect students here find that Ivy admissions are a crapshoot. But the Chinese have managed to figure out exactly how to win the game. For fees starting at $15k, you can hire ThinkTank Learning and they will fill out your app, write your essay, help you come up with stand-out extracurriculars, tutor you until you get a 2250+ on the SAT and even bribe your high school teachers to change some of your grades.
And, best of all, according to the New York Times, you no longer have to live in China to benefit from these services. Six centers have now opened in northern California, with more to come.
ThinkTank, which netted $7 million last year, said they were "able to distill the college admissions process into an exact science." Founder Steven Ma compared his methods to genetic engineering. "We make unnatural stuff happen," he said. "There’s a system built by colleges designed to pick out future stars and we are here to crack that system."
Although these "aggressive practices have been condemned by many American colleges," companies such as ThinkTank – and there are many others in China – are booming.
"Students, whose parents often pay tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, are molded by ThinkTank into well-rounded, socially conscious overachievers through a regimen often beginning as early as the year before entering high school," said Mr. Ma, a former investment banker.
Because of the poor English skills of ThinkTank clients, this can be a challenge. “We really have to hold their hand…including deliberately leaving spelling errors in their essays so they look authentic…and building extracurricular activities from the ground up."
"ThinkTank has founded Model United Nations groups, built a Web site (sic) for a Shanghai student’s photography project to get news media coverage and helped another obtain funding to build a hydroelectric generator."
No, I did not make this up. I found it in the NY Times.
A bit incredulous that a company would brag to the press about their unethical practices, I checked out ThinkTank's dense, unstylish website, which looks as if it were designed by the guys who leave carpet cleaning flyers on your windshield. You would think ThinkTank would be somewhat embarrassed (or potentially litigious) about the questionable methods discussed in the article, but instead, they proudly have displayed a link to the Times piece. They even have lists of SAT scores and photos of their smiling clients holding up their big envelopes from Stanford and Harvard.
I have put in a call to ThinkTank to inquire about a position as a spelling error consultant. Nobody is more adept than I at writing essays with a typo here or there. For a massive fee, I would even be willing share my vast knowlege about authentic teen mistakes, including "definately" and "existance." But so far, I have not heard back.
Meanwhile, for the sake of our economy, let's hope that lots of these ThinkTank kids fraudulently get into Harvard. Then, the first time they write an essay on their own, they will probably not include enough spelling errors to satisfy their professors, giving the competitive edge to the American kids who have beaten the system.