I will start it off with one...
When I was applying to top universities during my senior year of high school, I sought out any resources I could find on the internet to improve my chances of success. I was quickly surprised at the amount of quality free material available to college applicants. In particular, www.collegeconfidential.com
had an excellent highly-trafficked forum where applicants could ask each other for advice, compare their credentials, and rejoice or commiserate when colleges made their final decisions. CollegeConfidential's forums contain a whopping 11,844,361 posts over 991,086 topics.
One noteworthy aspect of this forum was that participation frequently continued beyond the application process. There was a strong “community feel,” and freshmen and sophomores at elite universities frequently came back to help high school seniors with their applications and expectations.
Unfortunately, the free college application consulting available in online forums like CollegeConfidential can be widely variable, and the anonymity provided by the internet makes it difficult to separate signal from noise. There is a growing trend toward high-dollar college admissions consultants that can cost upward of hundreds of dollars per hour, or several thousands of dollars for an "admissions package."
There is a market for aspiring college students that lies between these two extremes: admissions advice and consulting directly from students who were recently accepted to top universities. Increasingly, consumers are preferring to rely on their peers rather than a central authority for recommendations and advice. The internet has only magnified this. TripAdvisor is a great example of this phenomenon; most consumers would rather read a review from Frommer's opposed to a single review from a stranger. However, when you collect fifteen reviews from users who have visibly built credibility and are likely to be unbiased, the scales turn and users strongly prefer the aggregate advice to the (likely outdated and fluffy) Frommer's review.
I would start with a premium forum with 10 subforums each dedicated to one of the top 10 universities. Facebook makes it incredibly easy to find internet-savvy recent attendees of these schools; mass contact them and offer a salary per-quality-post. These freshman and sophomores' won't require high salaries (many are doing it for free on CollegeConfidential + they are college students) yet they have a successful recent admissions experience, which is very valuable to parents and students in the admissions process. Incentive fast, solid responses with a pay-scale that rewards the first X responses to customers' questions on a diminishing scale. Customers can post as many questions as they would like, non-customers could view a teaser like the top 3 posts in any forum.
From there, the idea is very scalable. Expand beyond the top 10 universities, offer services besides a forum; essay or application review, 1-on-1 Skype-style consulting, webinars, marketing to colleges, whatever. Students frequently blog concurrently about their admissions experience. Turn it into a social network for college applications and their parents.
Harvard alone received 35,000 applications at $75/each during the 2011 admissions cycle. The average student applying to top universities applies to several schools and has a significant time and monetary investment in the application process. Aspiring poker players were quick to pay for a service like CardRunners because it provided a path to increased future earnings. I see a mid-market college consulting business as providing a similar service. For a small investment, students and parents will receive advice that could alter their entire life's earning potential.
cliffs; College admissions consulting is a massive industry with a large gap in quality between free and paid services that can be filled with highly skilled yet cheap labor.