Imitation is the best form of flattery

Image courtesy:  Jacob Lund, Royalty-free stock photo ID: 1025801848, Shutterstock.

By Rajkamal Rao

Finally, KD Academy, the well-known test preparatory company has done it.  They announced on July 16, 2018 that they are offering college counseling programs eerily similar to our own.  There's never any royalty on a business idea - so we have no complaints.  In fact, we welcome the competition and we can prove to you that for quality, value and commitment, this is not even a contest.


We have been trying to partner with KD for over eight months now.  In October 2017, I called Ashley McCarrick, KD's Vice President, Marketing & Client Development, in their corporate office explaining how our innovative seminars for parents and children were changing the college education space.  On Nov 9, I got this email response from Ms. McCarrick:

Hello Mr. Rao,

Thank you for reaching out about your parent seminars. Although we don’t feel that it is the right fit for us at this time, we will certainly keep you in mind as we evaluate our need for consultants.  Thanks again for thinking of us!

Not wanting to take a semi-no for an answer, I decided to press higher.  On April 5, 2018 I spoke to David Dillard, KD's president, after a presentation they had at a school promoting their summer PSAT academy.  Mr. Dillard said that he did not exactly understand what it is that we were doing and urged me to write to him an email detailing my proposal for partnership, handing me his business card.

On April 11, I wrote to him a message highlighting the different ways we are innovating in this space and why partnering with us would be a win-win.

I never heard from KD but learned two months later that KD was launching into its college counseling business this summer.  Oscar Wilde had it right:  Imitation is definitely the best form of flattery.


You're probably thinking that the above doesn't prove anything.  But I present some additional interesting facts.
  1. The company has been in business for nearly 25 years and says it has helped over 60,000 students on college admissions tests.  During all of this time, they never even once thought of getting into the college counseling space?  

  2. The test preparation industry is under onslaught because of the changing nature of testing.  The College Board, in a nod to the ACT, completely redesigned the SAT test in 2016 to make the SAT essay optional.  This hurt test preparation companies nationwide because preparing students for SAT essays was often a bread and butter piece of their business model.

  3. After the SAT redesign, elite institutions continued to insist on the essay, although it was optional, giving some breathing room to companies like KD to sell their services.  But now, many premier schools, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Caltech, Brown, Duke and the University of Michigan have announced that they will be dropping the SAT/ACT essay altogether. 

  4. The University of Chicago went ahead another step.  It was the first ultra selective college to go "test-optional", meaning that students no longer need to submit any SAT/ACT test scores.  

  5. For the first time in its history, the College Board teamed up with an external provider two years ago - with the world-class non-profit Khan Academy - as its official partner for test preparation.  This was a body blow to the test preparation industry.  Because how can you compete with free?  [Check out our post on how to prepare for the SAT/ACT]

  6. Also, all practice questions on the Khan Academy site are official questions, so you can practice with confidence knowing that you are better prepared on test day.  For the test preparation companies, getting official questions has always been the critical success factor in their business models.  KD Academy's record here raises questions.  In 2008, NBC News reported that the College Board filed a federal lawsuit in Dallas accusing KD of improperly obtaining PSAT material through copyright infringement.  KD later settled the case by paying a $1 million fine.

  7. So KD, like all test preparation companies, had to do something else to protect its franchise.  And it got into the college counseling market.  But the services offered are so eerily identical to our own that it is amusing, to say the least!  The bulleted list of services is almost a verbatim copy of the topics we cover during our parent seminars.  


But we have nothing to fear.  Their introductory rate is $450/hour if you choose their program where you pay by the hour for just the specific help you need.  Our corresponding fees are nearly 75% less expensive!

With us, you pay by the drink.  You come to us for 3 hours, receive the benefit of our advice, and choose not to come back for a year if you so wish, in fact never again.  For your short engagement, we will give you a copy of our flagship presentation so you don't even have to do future research on your own.  If you're a do-it-yourself kind of person, all you need is our deck.  And our website and Facebook page are a wealth of information, all free - so it will make it even more easy for you.  After all, we often post updates several times a week.

Our motto is simple:  Hire us when you must so that you will never ever have buyer's remorse.  And even after you hire us for a session, we're so confident about the value that you get that if you're not happy with the services you received, you don't pay us.  The counseling is on us.

With them, you have to buy a block of services.  Their 10th grade pricing is a flat rate of $6,000 where you commit to them for 24 hours of counseling at $250/hour.  Most families will find their services completely overpriced.

We work hard to win your trust.  We are extremely responsive often getting back to you in a matter of minutes.  Our workday begins at 7 AM and ends at 11 PM.  We're open weekends and holidays.  We counsel by Skype.  We make house calls and discuss your child's situation in the comfort of your living room at no extra charge.  Our essay review process is among the best - after all, the lead reviewer is an international weekly columnist for India's second largest financial newspaper!


We are grateful for the trust our clients place in us.  Thank you!

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