How College Admissions Assistance Works

You might find College Admissions Assistance services handy, but the convenience will cost you.
You might find College Admissions Assistance services handy, but the convenience will cost you.
Christine Balderas/Photodisc/Getty Images

After receiving your introductory letter, you might find yourself wondering if College Admissions Assistance's program really works. The company's Web site claims that of the CAA participants surveyed from the high school graduating class of 2009, 98 percent of them were accepted by one of their top two college choices, and 90 percent plan to pursue a CAA-recommended career. The site also indicates that average financial aid award offers were more than $22,241 and that 95 percent of students said they would recommend CAA to friends.

So how exactly does CAA work? The company provides unlimited coaching via e-mail and phone. Coaches are available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Central Time. Through this service, you can get answers to questions about study and test-taking skills, career coaching and college selection. You can ask for assistance on preparing for the SAT, ACT or PSAT. You can also request feedback on application and essay reviews, financial aid applications and award letters, and more.

CAA claims that its coaches are experts in the college planning field. The company also indicates that before coaches are hired, every candidate is screened and subjected to a thorough background check. Each coach has at least a bachelor's degree, so you know that they've been through the college process themselves.

In short, on the surface, CAA seems like a perfect solution for students who are overwhelmed or fearful of missing out on once-in-a-lifetime education opportunities. But in some cases, CAA's legitimate services have been overshadowed by its marketing tactics.

Here are the basics: CAA hopes you'll be intrigued by the letter you received from the company enough to attend the free seminar to find out more details. If you go, you'll listen to a speaker who outlines the challenges of college admissions. After the program is over, a CAA representative will offer to sign you up for the service, which costs around $2,000.

If you're not taken aback by sticker shock, you might be by the sales tactics. Some attendees say CAA uses high-pressure sales pitches that push people to commit to the service on the spot.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Fort Worth, Texas, reports the same -- it gives CAA a rating of C-, mostly for complaints about CAA's marketing practices. Since the BBB's file for the company opened in October 2007, it has logged many grievances regarding CAA [source: Better Business Bureau].