Many parents and students want to know if they should hire a college counselor or advisor to help them through the admissions process. College is quite the investment, after all! Experienced college counselors know the ins and outs of the admissions process, including what colleges are looking for and what it takes to be successful. But, given the lack of industry regulation, many advisors come to the industry only having experience as high school guidance counselors (which, even among the best guidance counselors, isn’t as relevant as experience in the decision-maker’s chair), while others have no experience at all. Even worse, some make unrealistic promises. An ethical college advisor won’t help you cheat the system or promise an Ivy League acceptance. Instead, he or she will coach your student on how to highlight achievements, help navigate the complex and often confusing process of applying to college, and provide tailored advice based on your student’s strengths and weaknesses. Just like a college education, a college counselor is an investment.
Choosing the right higher education consultant can be a challenge itself, so here are some helpful tips to consider as you begin your search.
Are they a member of any professional organizations?
Membership to organizations like the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) shows a commitment to the ethical service and high standards of the industry.
What kind of experience do the advisors have?
Anybody can claim that they know what admissions officers are looking for, but the truth is that just because someone got into a certain college doesn’t mean they understand why they were accepted. Look for advisors who have a background in admissions at the university level, preferably those who have made admissions decisions.
If multiple consultants are available, do you have a say in which one will work with your child?
Just as it’s important to find the right fit colleges for your child, it’s also important to find the right fit
college consultant. This person will be working hand-in-hand with your family throughout the process, so pairing your child with someone they can connect with and trust will result in a much better experience.
Is college consulting their full-time job?
Having a “side hustle” is great, but when it comes to the often overwhelming and involved admissions process, you want to be sure you’re getting your advisor’s full attention and support. This doesn’t mean they should be available 24/7, but it does mean they shouldn’t be splitting their focus between their clients and their primary career.
Do they have references with whom you can speak?
If you want to get a feel for what it’s going to be like to work with your consultant, ask to speak to one of their former families. This gives you an opportunity to get more details about the experience from a third party source.
Do they have any statistics around their results?
Look for things like what percentage of their students receive acceptances and how many are accepted to a top choice school. Ask to see the latest list of acceptances, as well as lists from the last few years, if available.
Are the services they’re offering ethical?
RUN—don’t walk—from any consultant who claims they guarantee specific outcomes, as these promises are not legal or ethical. Similarly, admissions officers have a pretty good idea when an essay is written by someone other than the applicant. If they suspect the essays are not your student's work, you can guarantee they won't be offering an acceptance letter.
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