What kinds of students should consider hiring an independent college counselor?
It’s the parents, not the students who will be doing the hiring. Most families should seek out third party experts for a “free” consultation well in advance of the senior year to know what the process is all about and if their family could benefit – and not just financially. What’s the value of getting an edge in admissions & being accepted to the college of your choice?
All the financial aid in the world is useless without that coveted admission ticket, because paying for college is the easy part; getting in is the tough part! After 33 years, I can categorically make that statement.
While many people have now heard terms such as “independent college counselor” or “educational consultant”, many remain unclear as to what services these individuals provide, and therefore cannot decide whether or not such a person can help, or even what kinds of students should consider seeking such services.
To explain: an independent counselor or consultant is just that. They do not work for a school or college. A competent consultant knows about college admissions based upon their educational and/or work background, and thereby can provide information about colleges to students who need advice and/or input from someone other than their parents or their friends. They can also help students whose school counselors are working with many other students and/or can provide additional information and research to help students find the “right fit” for them.
Students who are interested in “thinking outside the box” (I want to attend a small college with a self-design major in an urban setting), who need more direction for specific areas of interest (DI or DIII sports or transportation majors), or who have learning issues (I did not take a foreign language because of my dyslexia) can benefit greatly from the services of an independent consultant. Others who can benefit from these services include those who have difficulty coming up with ideas for their essay, those who need help staying on target to complete their applications, or those who need someone to help their parents understand the current marketplace.
If you do decide to hire an independent consultant, make sure you work with someone who understands your needs, who travels to colleges and can make appropriate recommendations, and who does not “do the work for you”–after all, it is called a “personal essay” for a reason!
Students who need extra help with the admission process, students who want one on one attention, students who have a school counselor with a high caseload who may not have time to help them navigate the process, or students who are the first to go to college (not including your parents- the process has changed quite a bit in 20 years).
All students benefit from the opportunity to seek a well-matched college setting through one-on-one conversations with an experienced admissions professional. However, certain types of students are particularly well-suited for outside support.
Here are some examples:
1.Specialists: Students with specific skills and interests benefit from tailored advice. Students planning to pursue fine arts majors (such as dance, music, or art) will typically need to take additional steps to earn college admission. Likewise, future engineers or architects benefit from nuanced expertise. Any student with a firm career plan is a “specialist” that gain much from targeted guidance.
2. Student athletes: The college application process for student-athletes is two-fold comprising both an academic and athletic evaluation. We have worked with students in each of the following sports: baseball, basketball, football, soccer, lacrosse, tennis, and track.
3. Transfers: Students that transfer high schools are well-suited to outside support. From transcript evaluation to letter of recommendation selection, our counselors help colleges put your story together with ease.
4. High-achievers: Students who seemingly “do everything well” should take the time to make a great choice for college. It’s important for high achieving students to evaluate their strengths and goals deliberately to find well-suited institutions. Students with stellar credentials need the most help preventing others from making up their minds for them.
5. First generation college students: Most first generation college students we have worked with have exceptional parental support for achieving educational goals. However, they sought College Guidance Coach for expertise to navigate the college admission landscape. As one mom put it, “It’s like the decision to hire a tax guy or wrestle through the paperwork yourself.”
6. Busy parents: In most families, both parents work full time. Finding time to manage the college process poses a challenge. See the “tax guy” comment above.
7. Under-motivated students: Families that seek support early in high school (freshman or sophomore year), often are more concerned with sparking academic motivation rather than securing college admission. We meet with freshmen and sophomores once per quarter (when grades come out) to set goals and discuss strategies for success related to time management, minimizing stress, and managing competing priorities.
An independent college counselor can be valuable to any student, whether he or she is shooting for the Ivy League, a state college or university, or a unique liberal arts or art school. A good counselor helps students build a broad, balanced list of colleges where they will thrive and assesses their chances of acceptance at each; their goal is to help clients get into the schools that are the best matches for their goals and needs. She or her will also provide expert guidance in crafting an exceptional essay and application that truly reflects the student’s “best self”, academically and personally. Counselors help students find their stories and tell them in compelling ways, and often uncover unique strengths and characteristics the student didn’t even know he or she had. Of course, counselors are also indispensable for addressing the many complexities and confusions that arise during the admissions process, and may help families maintain an even keel during the often stressful time by serving as an “intermediary” between parents and kids (who wants to spend senior year nagging and fighting over college applications?).
Unfortunately, given the funding cuts many high school counseling departments are struggling with, school-based counselors have less and less time to devote to college advising. Almost all kids and families can benefit from working with an experienced, professional college consultant. Organizations like the Higher Educational Consultants Association and the independent Educational Consultants Associations are great ways to find quality, reputable counselors, as are recommendations from other families.
Hiring a college counselor isn’t a necessity, but a knowedgable, supportive guide can definitely smooth the road on what can be a rocky, uncertain journey toward higher education.
Those who do not feel they are getting sufficient access to the guidance counselor at their school may want to consider an outside counselor. That being said, anyone considering an independent counselor should recognize that colleges generally will not communicate with them and do not consider any recommendations they may offer. However, the large number of students for which a school counselor may be responsible can often be problematic and as a result a student may not get the help and attention they need. Consequently, if a student is looking for someone to help them develop or winnow a college list, go over some essays, or help them identify the best way to proceed, an independent counselor can be of help.
– Most American high schools have guidance counselors, but this is not always the best option. If you are interested in going to a non American school then an independent counselor would probably know more than a regular high school one. Vice versa, an international student wishing to come to American colleges should hire one, as they will know more about the application process than a local counselor who doesn’t deal with students who want to leave the country as much.
– If you have special needs in any way that would make your college experience different from anyone else’s, be it physical, mental, religious, dietary, etc, an independent counselor can better help you research which school would be right for you than a high school counselor with several charges and who may not know what schools have the most Halal options for muslim students.
Here is my video response to the question.
A top college consultant will visit between 25- 30 campuses each year and attend yearly educational conferences. They are attuned to changes in the field and can provide a “reality” check when it comes to creating college lists. Their focus is not on your getting accepted to the most selective schools, but to the one that offers the “best fit” for you where you will be more likely to thrive and be successful. A consultant works both with “ivy-bound” students as well as those that be academically challenged. They can ensure that no deadlines would be missed and all testing would be completed in a timely fashion. They can offer you an objective read on your applications essays and can serve, when necessary, as a buffer between you and your parents. To ensure that you would be working with a competent and ethical college consultant- check if they are members of IECA, HECA or NACAC.
the ability of working with the independent college counselor is one of the greatest challenges for Chinese students. for me personally, I have two completed different experiences in working with American born students and Chinese born students.
from the parents point of view, they roles of controling the process is the key. their willingless to work closely with the counselor will determain the outcome in many cases.
I don’t believe the matter has anything to do with the student’s academic ability or determination as long as they are committed to college. what matter the most is the parents who are in the position to hire the counselor must be open minded and respect the counselor’s best interests for the student.
I must laugh out loud at this question because to me, as an independent educational consultant, the answer is clear: any student that wishes to establish the proper college match should engage the services of an educational consultant. Recent published data revealed that just under half of students at America’s top liberal arts colleges worked with a consultant! But not just any charlatan claiming to be a college “coach”. I recommend using IECAonline.com to search for consultants who have been vetted, educated, trained, and who must abide by principles of ethical practice. IECA has been called the “gold standard” for educational consultants. Also, visit aicep.org for approximately 200 consultants worldwide that have earned the distinction of Certified Educational Planner having passed an extensive approximately 4-6 hour exam (I know, I took it and passed!) to demonstrate professional knowledge and commitment to continuing education.
The college selection and admission process is vastly different now from what it was when your parents were students. The good news is that our children have incredible opportunities and choices, but the process has become complicated and competitive. Most students and families can benefit from the assistance of an experienced consultant who can clarify their options and provide insight into the right college for the student. Many students need more individualized attention than their high school counselor can give them. The college search, selection, and application process requires organization and a sound strategy, and a consultant can help the student “own” the process.
Many students should consider getting information and advice from an IEC. College is a major life event and investment, and the college selection and admission process has become increasingly complicated. While most institutional counselors are competent, they may not have the time, resources, or expertise that an IEC has to offer his or her students.
Selection of, and admission to, a college that is the best match and fit for the student is most important for retention, graduation and enjoyment. The easiest way to save money on college is to enroll at one college, stay there, and graduate on time. This is often the result for students who hire IECs.
Ultimately, students who are applying multiple highly selective colleges, students who are interested in learning about a multitude of colleges, students who want to pay as little as possible for college, and students who want personal attention from a thoughtful professional when planning for and going through the admission and decision making process.
Independent consultants can take a lot of stress out of the application process. These professionals not only tour campuses on a regular basis, they can dedicate their time to just your college search. Hiring a counselor may help you recoup the cost in the long run, as they can help determine “fit” and suggest schools you may never have considered. An IEC has an arsenal of resources at their disposal, time tested strategies for negotiating the search process, and they love working with teens. When you consider the cost of higher education, this is a small price to pay to “get it right”.
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The sources for school statistics and data is the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum. Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. The information on this site is for informational and research purposes only and is not an assurance of financial aid.