As he tells it, Jamie Beaton found his way to Harvard after applying to 25 universities in the U.S. and U.K. But the New Zealander says he had no guidance on how to get into an elite college, and he had to find that path himself.

He sensed a business opportunity. 

So in 2013, at age 17, he and a partner gathered up some college friends and launched a new venture: a consulting service for international students seeking to attend elite American universities. Beaton’s employees would be tutors. They would help students craft college essays or mentor them through practice ACT and SAT tests. 

Beaton touts his company, Crimson Education, as a booming success. The company says it has raised $20 million from investors, has

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