An ESL agent, also known as an educational agent, or an international education agent, is someone who brokers a relationship between prospective students and an institution, be it a university, college or privately run school.
Good agents will act as a trusted advisor for both parties, working with prospective students to find them an excellent school abroad, helping them with any necessary paper work and coaching them on what to expect.
Good agents work with excellent, accredited schools, ensuring that the experience they are providing is the best it can be for the students.
Bad agents don’t give a rat’s behind. They take money from students, making promises that will never come true. Ever heard of an agent who promised students they’d be driven to school every day in a limousine driven by a chauffeur? I have. And I can tell you that in Canada, I’ve never seen an international student arrive at school in a limo. Ever.
Bad agents don’t care that they’re telling lies or cheating students. And really, there’s nothing you can do to make them care.
What you can do, is spend your time finding a good agent.
But how? There are a number of ways.
Though you may find agents on line, it is more likely that you’ll find organizations that work with accredited agents. You may want to check out:
- FELCA (The Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations). They are an umbrella organization that will lead you to a variety of accreditation organizations in a number of different countries
- ALTO (Association of Language Travel Organizations)
- International Education Consultants Association. This organization works with students from Taiwan. Their website is not in English, but you can e-mail them in English at: firstname.lastname@example.org
My suggestion would be to target which areas of the world you’d like more students from, then approach the professional organizations in those countries that work with reputable agents.
There are probably more organizations out there than I have listed here. And of course, I have to say that I’m providing these links as information only, not endorsements. 😉 There are no guarantees that working with an accredited organization will find you a stellar agent, but it does increase your chances. The bottom line is that finding excellent agents to work with takes time. Do your homework.
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.