When it comes to enrolling in a language course abroad there are basically two ways to go. Firstly, you can enroll directly with the school. Secondly, you can use the services of a language travel agent. In this article we look at exactly what agents do and consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of using them to advise you and handle your enrollment.What are Education Agents?Education agents or study abroad consultants play an important role as an intermediary between schools and students.Here is an example of how it works. An English language school in America cannot be on the ground in Poland marketing their school and meeting prospective students. However, they do still want to enroll Polish students into their language programs. It is too expensive to open an office in the country so they need to find a representative (agent) to promote their school for them. This works well as the agent will also be able to speak to the prospective students in Polish if their English level is still poor.Agents operate all around the world and they usually represent numerous language schools and other educational institutions at the same time. For the services that agents provide, they are rewarded with commissions when a student enrolls in a school via their agency.At the basic level agents will market a school, distribute brochures, give prospective students information and facilitate enrollments. Some agents add additional value by offering students assistance with travel arrangements and visa applications.Agency CommissionsIf you decide to enroll through an agency then you must be aware that agents are earning a commission from your booking. Commissions can be quite substantial. It is fairly standard for commission to be 20% or 25% of the total tuition fee amount for a language school booking. For some courses the commission rate can go as high as 30% although this is less common. In my opinion it is often the less desirable schools that offer higher commission rates.Bear in mind that commission is usually paid only on tuition fees and not other costs such as administration and accommodation fees.Remember that you should pay the same amount whether you enroll directly with the school or through an agent. Typically a school would make more money if you enroll with them directly rather than via an agent. This is because they would not have to pay an agent a commission on your booking.Dangers of the Commission SystemAs a prospective student you must be aware that agents may not necessarily recommend the best schools to you. While many agents operate ethically and keep the student’s interests in mind, not all are honest and reliable.It is generally seen as good business practice for agents to seek out the best option for students as an agency may get referrals from their friends at a later date. However some agents can be a bit short-sighted when it comes to money. There are agents out there who will recommend an inferior school to you just so they can make an extra 5% or 10% commission.Other Warnings about AgentsThere are a few other important things to be aware of when it comes to dealing with agents.Don’t fall for additional fees. Agents are already making a substantial commission on a language school booking and they should not be charging additional, separate application fees. In some cases such as university or high school placements that involve lower commissions and more work on the agent’s part an extra fee can be justified. However, most language school bookings are relatively straight forward and the commission is excellent. Make sure that you see an original price list from the school and don’t let the agent trick you into paying additional charges.Agencies in some countries have been known to take tuition fees from students and then close shop and disappear. There is no reason why you should have to pay tuition fees directly to the agent for them to forward on to the school. Instead, you might consider doing an international bank transfer directly to the schools bank account. Your agent would then invoice the school at a later date for their commission. Most reliable agencies will not have a problem with this.Become an Agent and Enroll Yourself?A few smart students that I knew had the idea to start their own agency and then get a commission on their own booking. The commission would have been substantial as there were two of them studying for a year. However, this is difficult as there are some criteria that you have to meet before you can qualify to get an agency agreement to represent a school. Depending on the school you may need to prove that you have a registered business, an office address and a website. Some schools these days also ask for references from other schools (they like to see that you have had a successful track record in placing students at other schools).Choosing a Reliable AgentStandards vary enormously when it comes to agencies. Some are well established and reliable while others may be newcomers to the market with no reputation at all.If you do decide to enroll through an agent you may want to find out if there is an agents association in your country. Felca.org is the website for the international education agents association. From this website you can find agency associations in many different countries.Associations require their members to conform to a high standard of ethics and in some countries agents even have to pay a bond. However, while association membership does count for something it is not really all that important. Some good agents feel that associations charge them a whole lot in fees and that they get very little in return. Ethical standards are hard to enforce and just because an agency is a member it doesn’t mean that they always put student interests above the profit motive.