There is a new website started by a group of Ivy League graduates from China called TimeDifference (www.ShiCha.com or www.TimeDiff.cn). Basically, what they do is crowdsourcing Chinese students abroad who have experience in applying for schools outside of China to help students who are in China now and want to do further study abroad. Domestic students who want to go abroad (the clients) will have questions about how to prepare for GRE, TOEFL, ILSE tests; how to write CV and personal statement; how to find the proper schools to apply and how to communicate with professors; and all other questions regarding the application processes. They can go to this website and put a task there, also offer an amount of payment. All students abroad (the consultants) can go there to compete for the task and earn the payment. Every consultant has a profile on the website. Along the way, the consultants can accumulate credits for providing high quality services to the clients. So if their credits are high, they will likely get more tasks in the future. I’ve noticed that many major studying-abroad consulting companies have also put their profiles there.
I think this might be a good idea, but I have two deep doubts:
(1) This TimeDiff company has started to recruit consultants from abroad promising minimum $15/hour payment in the recruitment advertisement earlier this year. Out of curiosity, I applied and passed the interview. After they have recruited the consultants, they announced that there will be no payment from the company to the consultants, all payment will come from the clients, and the consultants have to compete for it. They also require 10 hours free service before the consultants can compete for payment. This was the time when we realized we were getting exploited and we got pissed off and organized a discussion group on QQ, and also sent letters to the company to complain. There was no result for the protest, and the company still insisted there will be no payment from the company. After that, many consultants simply left, some still hang in there wanting to earn some money. They might also get some other new consultants via other venues. Even if this website is a very good idea, the company doesn’t have a very ethical practice.
(2) There are many many other online discussion forums where students abroad offer information and share experience to domestic students for free. How well this website will be doing for charging a fee for this kind of information? It definitely offers more services (e.g., the consultant may help edit the CV and PS of the clients, while those free forums usually only offer guidelines and information) and personalized one-on-one interaction between consultant and client. However, does these really help that much?