Should you hire a college admissions consultant?

I've had a slow month as seniors are (for the most part) done with the college admissions process and underclassmen are busy with exams and finishing up the year. But the first week of June I have at least four initial meetings with new clients coming on board. I'm still pretty new in the Educational Consultant business, but there are a lot of Independent Educational Consultants out there, with a lot of different approaches and price ranges. Should you consider hiring an admissions consultant? Who are they for?

First, let's be honest: most students do not need an admissions consultant. There are around 20 million college students in the U.S., and most of them got there without a consultant helping them. If you have or will soon graduate high school and you have access to the internet, then applying for college is something you can do. As much space as the press gives to universities with really low acceptance rates and students who apply to way too many schools, it's still completely normal to thoughtfully apply to only several schools and get accepted to at least one of them.

You may want to hire a consultant if you're overwhelmed. If you know what you're looking for but are still unsure of how to sift through all the options, then a professional can help you. If you only vaguely know what you're looking for, or don't even know where to begin at going through all your options, then a professional can help you. If you have absolutely no idea what you want, then a professional can really be a big help. Many admissions consultants come from a counseling and/or psychology background, and helping you figure out who you are, who you want to be, and how to get there is something they're very skilled at.

You may want to hire a college consultant if you're a first-generation college student. The primary place that students get motivation and information about college is their family. If you don't have that resource, then finding outside help can be especially useful. Unfortunately, first-generation students are the least likely to get outside help, the least likely to be afford outside help, the most likely to be at a school with too few resources, and the most likely to be undermatched. It may take a little extra work and being brave to ask an uncomfortable question, but many college admissions consultants do pro bono work, which means they do the work for free for people who can benefit from it but cannot afford it. 

You may want to hire a college consultant if your school counselors are overworked. I've never heard a parent complain about a school counselor being incompetent or lazy. But I hear weekly about school counselors who don't have the time or resources to do their job well. The American School Counseling Association recommends one guidance counselor for every 250 students. The 2017 average was 482. In the long run, we all need to advocate for better-funded schools and better support for counselors. In the short term, you may decide you want to hire a consultant to help fill in the gaps.

You may want to hire a consultant if you simply want an extra adult to help out with the process. I haven't yet dealt with a parent who is incapable of helping their student with the college search or getting their student to open up about their aspirations and limitations. But all of the students I've worked with--and their parents--have been happy to have me be an extra hand. A student (usually) graduates high school and applies to be a first-year college student once. Parents go through the process at most a few times. Consultants are constantly going though the process with their clients, so they can be really useful at making things more efficient and less painful.

You may want to hire a consultant if you're a wealthy parent whose child is honestly going to be fine, because they've had all the advantages you've provided for them over the years, but you just really want to make sure you leave no stone unturned to try to get the very very best for your kid. I understand: peer pressure and social status anxiety are just as real for adults as they are for teens. But Just. Say. No. 

The mother of one of the students I'm going to begin working with in June gave me the ideal directions when we talked and she decided to hire me. She said (and I'm probably not quoting exactly, but close): "We're happy if he goes to the local community college or an Ivy League School. We just want him to be at the right place where he can grow and thrive. We want you to help him figure out what that is and what his options are. We're not trying to get him into a particular school or a so-called good school. We want to find the right schools for him to grow up into a functioning adult." If you and your family can give the same directions to a college consultant, then you're probably doing a good thing.

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If you're in the Houston area, you can hire me to be your consultant. But not the first week of June--it's booked.