College admissions consulting is becoming increasingly popular, and it's also an investment. Depending on the student, college admissions counseling can be extremely helpful—but so can doing college research on your own, whether with the help of websites or through your child talking to their friends or teachers. In this guide, we'll cover the basics of what college counselors do (and shouldn't do) as well as the types of families who benefit from college counselors.
Students that benefit from private college consulting
College counseling can benefit families who are concerned about managing the entire process of applying to college, but it's not for everyone. For students who know exactly where they want to apply, can write well about their experiences, and whose GPA and test scores are in the top 50% of their fellow applicants, might not benefit from having college admissions consulting.
Students that stonewall
If you have one-sided conversations with your child about college, you should consider hiring a college counselor for guidance. "Parents oftentimes feel overwhelmed by the college process, so instinctively they try and check in with their kids to assess where they are in their process", says Josefine Borrmann, the founder of Strive to Learn, "A lot of students will say they want to take care of it themselves—and that's great, but they need support through this process.” Occasionally that support has to come from a person who is not the parent because oftentimes they will listen to us in a way that is different.
By offloading those tough conversations to a professional, you don't have to engage in nagging conversations with your kid about their application, their essays, or rather anything else. "Parents really enjoy being able to sit back and watch as their child really becomes a self-sufficient adult".
Families that are concerned about college tuition
College admissions counselors do a lot more than just take the stress out of college applications. They help families find ways to cut the costs of college. Just this past year, each and every single one of our 2021 graduates was awarded 181K to go to their top choice colleges, which is 4x the national average in financial aid. How? Our focus is on college-student alignment. Colleges have money to give to the right student, so great college counselors help their students show how they, as applicants, will help the college reach its goals and mission statement.
Additionally, college consultants guide parents and students through filling out the FAFSA and the CSS profile, help students find scholarships to apply for, and can help with appeal letters to secure additional funding.
Students that are stressed about their college application
College counselors are also useful if your child is intimidated by the college search process. Some students simply don't know where—or even whether—to start looking at colleges, while others are overwhelmed by paperwork and deadlines. College counselors are familiar with how college applications work, so they can make sure your teen submits necessary documents on time and follows
If your student is nervous about college applications, college counselors can help them stand out as college applicants. This is especially true for students who need motivation, support, and accountability through the college application process. College counselors will provide helpful guidance to ensure that every piece of the college application—and trust us, there are many pieces– —as well as follow-up communication with all the colleges on your list are done in an effective way.
If your student is dragging their feet
If you're a high school student, then you might think that college counselors' only responsibility is to give advice and help students with their applications. However, college counselors don't just tell students what they need to do; they inspire them.
For students who seem reluctant about college, our process typically consists of finding ways to show students all of the amazing opportunities that exist in college. "I remember one of our students was super unenthusiastic about starting his college application journey in Junior year. The challenge was in showing him how colleges helped connect him to all of his outdoor interests, and how that could be incorporated into a broader educational plan" says Josefine.
What College Counselors Do (and shouldn't do)
A college application consultant is essentially a professional who has been extensively trained to help guide college-bound high school students through the college search, application, essay, and acceptance process. But where college admissions consultants really shine is in their one-to-one sessions.
The good ones should have ample experience and an exceptional grasp on the variety of college admissions requirements, but the best ones turn college admissions into a transformative experience. While this may seem silly, college admissions applications are oftentimes an overlooked opportunity for student growth because the best applications are ones where students are not only confident about what they want, but also have a solid understanding of who they are. The transformation comes from helping students grow as individuals—which has the nice side-effect of making their college applications stronger.
Our independent educational consultants find the right colleges for your kid by diving into what makes them tick: think learning style assessments, career aptitudes, college values, and personality traits. And a college admissions consultant typically helps students connect the dots between their own personal values to what makes them unique as applicants in their personal statement essay. This kind of storytelling and cohesive sense of identity has been proven by research to promote well-being and success not only in college but throughout their lifespan.
What College Counselors don't do
There are a few things that college counselors should not do, including but not limited to:
limit a student's college search to a list provided by the counselor
writing their essays for students
edit personal statements or essays without reading entire applications first
swing open doors for families with connections at certain colleges (though some college counselors might be able to provide more direction once your child reaches far up an applicant pool)
give out any kind of "inside information”
Good college counselors will also be very clear about how much they charge for their services, and they will work within ethical standards.
Although college counselors are experts, they can't (and shouldn't) guarantee college acceptance. It's possible for college counselors to help guide students through the college application process—but ultimately it comes down to how hard your child works on their college apps. While college counseling can be extremely helpful especially for students who need motivation or direction in applying to college—or even if they just want some guidance, structure, and support with their college research—it can't do the work for them.
What about High School Counselors?
While high school counselors are great at providing some introductory resources, they are often limited by time and large caseloads of students (sometimes it’s even a ratio of 500:1!), which means their guidance can only go so far for one individual student. . It is important for your student to consult their high school guidance counselor about what kind of classes they should be taking in high school, and to generally maintain a great relationship with that counselor. They have a wealth of knowledge about many different things, but they can only give so much of their time to helping students search for great-fit colleges. High school counselors do play a very important role in the process– they can be great people to ask for recommendations (hence maintaining that great relationship) and they are the ones who often have to send student transcripts to colleges. They are your allies in this process and that should not be underestimated! But, their ability to provide individual students with that guidance around building a great-fit college list is definitely limited.