In December 2009, a rejection letter from Columbia University found its way to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. It was addressed to Lu Jingyu, a top student and member of her school’s student government. As she read the disheartening words, Ms. Lu immediately began to panic. Where had she gone wrong? How could she fix this?
For answers, she turned to ThinkTank Learning, a college admission consulting company from California that had recently opened an office in Shenzhen, which is next door to Hong Kong.
“I wanted American professionals to look at my application and shed some new light on how I could make it better,” she said.
The price was steep: 100,000 renminbi, or $15,000. But it came with a 100 percent money-back guarantee — if Ms. Lu was rejected from the nine selective U.S. universities to which she applied, her family would get a full refund.