The luxury gap – a different approach to the university open day circuit

Paul Greatrix takes a look at a different approach to the university open day circuit.
This article is more than 2 years old

A core piece of advice to university applicants is that they should definitely visit the campuses they are interested in before confirming their preferences. In the UK, that can be a bit challenging, especially if they are interested in Aberdeen, Plymouth and Swansea but it is nevertheless reasonably do-able. In the US, this kind of visit turns into a much longer road trips, sometimes combined with vacations, which take an awful lot longer.

But the great news for US applicants is that a new luxury service is now available which includes a personal admissions advisor and, wait for it, a private jet. According to the New York Times the service can cost up to $60,000 (about £47,000) but the “benefits can outweigh the cost” given the personal advice, the reduction in stress levels and the efficiency of travel.

The company providing this lovely service claims its package (it offers a similar package to wealthy alumni heading to reunion events) is cheaper than booking flights, hotels and a personal counsellor separately.

So who are these lovely people offering this service and why?

We can help them maximise their time, see the place, meet the admissions team and get a feel for the environment,” said James Henderson, president of commercial operations at XOJet. Clients save time at the airport by parking in front of the terminal, skipping any security lines and walking straight out to the plane. “You can literally be wheels up in 15 minutes,” he said.

For Mandarin Oriental, the partnership made sense.
“We saw families checking into our hotels on college tours, and we were serving them on a one-off basis,” said Jan D. Goessing, executive vice president for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group in the Americas. “That drove us to connect the dots and say there’s a need. We can facilitate and provide a comprehensive one-stop shop, so to speak, in regards to college search.”

Splendid. But there are others in the market too. Magellan Jets has a college tour offer which includes 10 hours of flight time for just $57,000 and they work with a college advisory firm which will provide an admissions expert for the trip at an additional fee:

This gets them to two to three colleges in a day, and in three to four days, they can look at all these colleges around the country,” said Joshua Hebert, the chief executive of Magellan Jets.
En route, students will be given briefing books on each college, which include information like the name of the admissions representative covering their high school and tips on whom to meet and where to go on campus.
On their return to the plane, Magellan provides notebooks from each college so students can write down their thoughts. The company then binds their notes in a book at the end of the trip.

The article says this approach “is worth it to people who have more money than free time”. They need quite a lot more money I would suggest.

There are more benefits though for splashing the cash as these services also provide ad hoc networking:

Mr Hebert of Magellan said that if a student was interested in a particular university, the company would make an introduction to one of its members who is an alumni.
“They’re always happy to help,” he said of the alumni. And a recommendation from alumni wealthy enough to fly privately certainly won’t hurt a student’s prospects.

But there’s more. What if you need some help in moving in? Want to go to a football game? These guys can help with that too:

Megan Wolf, chief operating officer at Flexjet, said the company had recently helped a family move its youngest child into Columbia.
“They had a lot of luggage,” she said. “And six family members came along.”
When they landed in New York, after the short flight from Detroit, Flexjet arranged for a moving company to meet them and transport the student’s college essentials to the dorm.
And Wheels Up, another private jet company, can fly college alumni to Notre Dame or Penn State for football games faster that some people’s morning commute.
For wealthy families, nothing is too expensive to get their children into the best school.
“This seemed natural to us, since we already serve this demographic,” Ms. Doe said. “Why not maximise the time they have? How do you make the most of that visit? Cut to the chase.”

Will we see this kind of personal service for the extremely wealthy applying to UK universities?

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