As the college application process has gotten more competitive, more complicated, and more uncertain for many students, independent college counselors help by providing families with individualized guidance and support with regard to any and all aspects of students’ college planning. College counselors can advise students on high school course selection, extracurricular activities, creating their list of schools, organizing their applications, evaluating their chances of admission for particular universities and programs, planning and revising their essays, navigating scholarship and financial aid applications, and managing the dozens of deadlines that come with a long school list.
The decision to hire an independent admissions consultant shouldn’t be made lightly, as the expense can be significant depending on the services included, but for many students, the benefits of working with an experienced admissions guide are worth it. Here are some types of students who may find working with a college counselor to be especially valuable.
Students Targeting Elite Institutions
If your top choices’ admission rates are all single-digit percentages, consider finding a college counselor with a track record of helping students get accepted into the most selective colleges and universities. Schools like Stanford, MIT and the Ivies are extremely difficult to get into; many students with perfect GPAs and test scores are denied admission to them every year. These schools get huge numbers of extremely qualified applicants, so they can be picky, and in many cases, they are looking for applications that wow them by telling an amazing story or highlighting unique experiences. A college counselor can help you craft an application optimized to connect with admissions officers at these very selective schools.
Students Who Want to Maximize Their Financial Aid
College counselors intimately know the landscape of higher education, and they know where students’ strong test scores and grades can earn them automatic scholarship money. If you are hoping to graduate with as little educational debt as possible, or you are planning to attend graduate school in the future and would like to save as much as possible for your later studies, hiring a college counselor for your undergraduate admissions could well be worth the investment. In addition to sharing information about the merit-based financial aid that universities and colleges offer, college counselors can also draw your attention to scholarships from other organizations and foundations that might be a great fit for you.
Students who are competitive athletes may find a significant benefit to working with a college counselor who specializes in athletes, as athletic recruitment adds another layer of complexity and uncertainty to what was already a very complex college search and admissions process. A college counselor who is familiar with the world of athletic recruiting can offer advice and strategic guidance through all stages of the process, from helping students skillfully communicate with coaches and recruiters to developing their athletic resumes and profiles, as well as optimizing the academic elements of their applications.
Artists and Performers
Students seeking admission to conservatories or other specialized creative programs focusing on intensive training in the arts are choosing a less-common educational path and may value the advice and feedback of an experienced college counselor. For students who are targeting competitive programs in studio or performance art, theater, filmmaking, dance, or musical performance and composition, their test scores and transcripts will only count for so much. A college counselor can help such students evaluate and curate creative portfolios that highlight their unique artistic skills and perspectives and will comprise the most crucial element in their applications.
For many parents, helping their oldest child through the college search and application process is an eye-opening experience. The world of college admissions has changed dramatically in the last twenty to thirty years, and the learning curve can be steep. Many parents seek out a college counselor for their oldest child to help bring them up to speed on the current admissions landscape. Younger siblings will benefit from that gained experience as well.
As the college application process continues to evolve each year, families should consider if working with an independent counselor is right for their needs. If you are interested in learning more about what an independent college counselor can offer your college search and application process, a great place to start is the Independent Educational Consultants Association, a not-for-profit national professional organization.