Ethics in University Admissions

Ethics in University Admissions

By Ms. Jana-Lynn Caines, University Counselor at STS

Given the extensive news coverage regarding the college admissions scandal in the United States, many are questioning ethics in the university admission process. In Canada, we are fortunate to have excellent universities that are much more accessible than their American counterparts; however, that does not completely insulate us from the inherent pressures that can accompany choosing an educational path.

At STS, our focus for university planning is that students come to understand who they are as learners and what they value in choosing a higher education path. We encourage students and families to make decisions based on what is the best fit for the individual learner. We evaluate the success of our university counselling program by individualization, not by the competitiveness or ranking of the institutions chosen. We also ask families to engage in a process of research so that they can make realistic decisions about applications, especially within the United States.

We understand that some students have dreams to attend highly selective US colleges, and that can create a lot of pressure and anxiety. While we trust in the integrity of our STS community members, the reality of US admissions can create a situation in which families can be taken advantage of by unscrupulous or under-qualified private consultants.However, there are many ethical and highly professional educational consultants, who can be of great assistance to families who are looking for more intensive support than can be offered in schools.

Here are some tips on choosing a consultant:

  • Locate your consultant through an accrediting body that has high standards for professional membership. Two such organizations are the Independent Educational Consultants Association ( and the Higher Education Consultants Association (, which both have membership directories.
  • Be wary of promises and guarantees that are too good to be true. The consultant’s role is to help create a plan to make the application as strong as possible, while still being true to the applicant’s attributes and skills.
  • Ask your potential consultant if they will collaborate with the high school counsellor. If they will not, or if they ask you to keep the arrangement a secret from the school, this is a red flag. Counsellors and consultants have differing and complimentary roles in the US application process. Working together is in the best interest of the student.

The best thing you can do as a parent of a child considering US colleges is to help your son or daughter to make realistic choices from the start, and to manage their expectations regarding the likely outcome of their applications. Help them to understand that a rejection is not about their inherent worth as a student, but about the systemic limitations of supply-and-demand. Engaging in an ethical and well-researched process will allow students and parents to feel more at peace with the outcomes.