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A Boost for the Privileged

"I can get your kid into an ivy," in our Oct. 22 issue, looked at how Michele Hernandez, one of the most expensive college consultants in America, helps students pitch themselves to elite schools. The article provoked passionate responses from parents, students, admissions officers, and others. Quite a few readers blamed parents for allowing themselves to fall prey to such high anxiety about admissions. Some students said they wished they could afford to hire Hernandez; others admired her entrepreneurship. But many were dismayed at how such high-cost consulting gives an edge to those who may need it least.

The parents are to blame. They are obsessed with brand-name colleges and do not have enough faith that their privileged offspring will get in on their own.

Screen name: Drago273

This is fantastic on Hernandez' part. She is putting pressure on schools to re-think their system, to look for better, more innovative ways to accept students.

Screen name: nothingnew

Class and economics aside, there's also the issue that this kind of advice discourages students from doing things they're interested in unless excelling is guaranteed. Sometimes you learn more from having to work at something you're not unusually good at.

Screen name: William C. Ledge

Parents who pay $40k to get a kid into a top school deserve to be fleeced by the likes of Hernandez.

Screen name: Mom O' Twins

Like it or not, what Michele appears to be doing is the job of high school counselors and parents. She's doing it with excellence and commitment. If high school counselors and parents emulated Hernandez, she would be out of business.

Screen name: Proud Dad

Children do not realize that much in our world is about systems and institutions. So to learn the ropes of the system is a fine idea. Face it: If Yale said your child could enter next year only if you pay an extra $10k, you'd pay it.

Screen name: study buddy

I am a former Ivy admissions officer and now a college admission consultant. Because ours is an unregulated business, the number of consultants has exploded. While there is a need for admission consultants to help families and students navigate this process, the business is fraught with the greedy taking advantage of others' hope and anxiety. $40k is astounding and sad. And that's why I label ours the snake-oil industry of the 21st century.

William Caskey

Barrington, R.I.

These "experts" are relying on parents and kids being intimidated by the application process. The truth is, students and parents can do their own research and market themselves creatively.

Screen name: christopherW

Hernandez is giving parents what they demand. Years after they graduate from school, her clients most likely will look back and wonder if the ordeal was really worthwhile.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles

The only thing a big-name school will do is open the first door out of college a little wider. After that, you still have to prove yourself.

Screen name: Columbia Kid

I'm one of the lucky kids who did attend the Application Boot Camp. I'm a sophomore at an Ivy League school, and if I had not met Mimi Doe [Hernandez' boot-camp business partner] and Michele Hernandez I wouldn't have gotten in.

Screen name: MC Well

As a high school senior, I find this appalling. If you can't get into a college of your choice without outside help, why do you deserve to go there?

Screen name: Joe

I wish I'd had the guidance of someone like Hernandez when I decided to go to college.

Screen name: NotIvy

I was accepted to Haverford for the low low price of their application fee.

Screen name: Jugi

Hernandez is correct that her services can pay off. But in realizing that colleges are looking for balanced classes, not balanced individuals, she guides her clients toward singular areas where they can excel. That is an excellent strategy but one that should be questioned by parents.

Screen name: Experienced

Admissions Officer

The skills that Michele's pupils hone are ones that will help them interview and network in order to rise to the peak of their professions later in life.

Screen name: Charles Langer

Give me a break! I'm a high school senior, but I would never dream of letting my parents hire such a person. Of course I'm anxious and stressed about applying and keeping up with school work, but so are all my friends and none of us are hiring coaches. This process is just one of the difficult parts of growing up.

Screen name: Sydney

My twin sons graduated from Dartmouth in 2002. In her book A Is for Admission, Ms. Hernandez advises never to write the college essay about summer volunteer work. You guessed it! That was the very topic of one of my sons' essays.

Arlene S. Gerwin

Boulder, Colo.

Have we begun to think of our kids as we do investments in the stock market, where we want high returns regardless of what a company actually produces?

Dennis Wong

Westport, Conn.

In comparing the military V-22 Osprey with the civilian BA609, you made a poor comparison--one that did not explain the civilian version's huge potential ("Selling CEOs on a troubled bird," What's Next, Oct. 22). Government agencies will use it for search-and-rescue operations, where time and flexibility are crucial. Corporate and private users will find it valuable for its convenience and privacy. The energy industry will use it to quickly reach offshore facilities in need of resupply, medical care, or emergency evacuation.

Richard J. Millman



Jack and Suzy Welch's weekly column has always offered solid advice. However, I was disappointed in "Define yourself--or others will" (Opinion, Oct. 22). The Welches used one very long example on why it is important that others know what you stand for and why you have to make tough calls as a leader. They used the entire answer to state their distaste for a decision President George W. Bush recently made when he vetoed a budget increase for a proposal for a State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Brenda Kane


The "ultimate indignity" indeed! ("The weakling dollar," The Business Week, Oct. 8). After years of U.S. economic mismanagement, the U.S. currency has finally fallen to where it belongs, including against the Canadian dollar. With extremely positive Canadian economic performance over the past several years, it is surprising that the Canadian dollar hadn't been closer to the U.S. dollar sooner.

Ken Nowlan




Before health insurance for everyone can be mandated, we will have to deal with insurance companies refusing coverage for preexisting conditions ("Bad medicine for health care," Ideas, Oct. 15). Some people have been turned down by every carrier they applied to. Unless insurers can be required to cover even those with preexisting conditions, this policy will not work.

Elizabeth Cunningham


In his Oct. 15 Outside Shot ("Bad medicine for health care"), Glen Whitman fails to note that health-care-access reform has already succeeded in reducing the number of uninsured by 30% in Massachusetts.

Whitman offers no results or proof that stripped-down coverage will be more attractive to those who either cannot afford insurance or who choose not to buy it now.

Massachusetts is leading the way, and states like California and Pennsylvania are poised to follow.

Philip Edmundson




In the state of New York, if you buy an individual policy, the state makes sure you get wonderful coverage. The only problem with this wonderful coverage: Almost nobody can afford it. It would cost a family of three about $28,000 per year for HMO coverage and about $38,000 for more flexible coverage (point of service). So anybody making $43,000 to $200,000 is out of luck. To think, the home state of "Hillary health care."

Doug Wilder


Mr. Whitman criticizes the notion of an individual mandate for health insurance by citing an Urban Institute Study statistic that "less than 3%" of expenditures are uncompensated. Whitman should be skeptical of that claim. After all, over 16% of Americans don't have health insurance. Conservatives like Whitman never admit that the alternatives they present have no reasonable chance of achieving universal coverage. The idea that removing government mandates would allow insurance to become widely affordable is not realistic. Even if "catastrophic coverage" did become more affordable, how would low- income Americans afford to pay off high deductibles? Americans deserve the same universal coverage that all other developed nations now enjoy. If conservatives disagree with Senator Clinton's approach to this goal, they should devise some realistic alternatives.

Daniel Stone


"That Sinking Feeling" (News & Insights, Oct. 15) focuses on the large national builders and the coastal markets that are particularly at risk.

Have you considered looking at the rest of the country? I would be curious to know how the national housing market looks if you took Florida, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Southern California out of the mix.

In Omaha, the inventory of unsold homes has built considerably over the past 18 months, and the market has all but stopped.

Kim R. McGuire




U.S. businesses and investors should embrace solar in all of its forms ("Solar's day in the sun," Special Report, Oct. 15).

California has just embarked on a historic program to build 3,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaic systems on a million rooftops, cutting prices in half and creating a self-sufficient market by 2017.

Just this month, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law another landmark bill to create a mainstream market for solar water-heating technologies.

And this past summer, the House of Representatives passed a Renewable Electricity Standards bill that, if adopted by the Senate and signed into law by President Bush, would further drive demand for large solar power plants in our desert regions.

There is more than enough demand to drive a robust market for all forms of solar power. Only the sky is the limit.

Bernadette Del Chiaro




I read the letter from the former Kinko's employee with surprise ("Kinko's is one private equity deal that shouldn't be copied," Readers Report, Oct. 8).

I was running a Clayton, Dubilier & Rice portfolio company during the same time period and found the CD&R team, particularly Donald Gogel, who served on our board, to be of tremendous value.

The team members were there when they were needed, giving advice and wise counsel from a business, marketing, and operational perspective. CD&R parachuted teams into those companies only when they were critically needed. Gogel and his team pushed us to excel and to execute flawlessly.

I don't think you can ask for anything more from your owner.

Steve Fadem


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