1) My role is to help make an inherently stressful process less stressful in the following ways:
- By helping the student take ownership of the process and helping them outline a step-by-step plan to be proactive in meeting their deadlines (and I take some of that nagging role away from the parents, as they are often more receptive to the same instructions or suggestions coming from me rather than their parents)
- By working as a facilitator between parents and students, because no matter how good the relationship is between a parent and his/her child, tension and tempers can be in full-swing as the application deadlines approach or if the goals of the parents and the child are not aligned
Working to find schools that are not only a good academic fit, but also a good match for the social and emotional needs of the student. There is no one perfect school for any student. Different schools will meet their needs in different ways, so it's my job to help them figure out how to weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision. I also make sure the family, if necessary, includes at least one "financial safety school" where they could happily go if the financial aid offers aren't what they need.
- I help with interviewing skills if appropriate.
- If they require special accommodations for a physical or learning disability, I help them research the options at potential schools.
3) What percentage work with a consultant? I honestly don't know a percentage. I think it varies greatly by geographic location and socioeconomic status. Obviously it is going to be more prevalent in towns or cities where families have the means to hire someone, but that being said, most private consultants, myself included, do pro-bono or sliding-scale fees and offer free seminars in their communities. I run at least two library seminars per year, giving parents and students an outline of the college process and answering several of their questions. Also, the fees for consultants vary greatly and it is unfortunate that consultants are maligned by some people for charging for their services. We are providing extensive one-on-one assistance to these families and like all in the workforce, we should be compensated for what we do. If people took the time to see how many hours we are actually spending doing research for our clients, answering their questions, reviewing their essays, etc., they would see it's really not that much per hour. There are some exceptions, but most of us are not being paid anywhere close to the tens of thousands of dollars we are "accused" of charging for our services. And I have just as many students in the B-/C range as the super-high achievers. The common thread is the goal of finding a place where the student will thrive!
4) What must a student do to make the most of his/her consultant? It is important for the student to be open and honest with their consultant. I do several exercises in the first meeting to get to know the student and their parents. I emphasize that the more I know, the more I can help them to find a good fit and keep them on target with their deadlines, etc. They must also realize that they are building a relationship with me, so they need to be responsible and respectful in that relationship, whether that means meeting my deadlines or keeping appointments. I emphasize to my students that I will be your biggest supporter, but I will also keep you honest and on-task.
5) What types of credentials should a consultant have? I have a BS in Human Development and Family Studies and an MA in Applied Psychology with a concentration in Counselor Education and am certified as a School Counselor in NY and NJ. I worked in public schools for several years before I became a consultant. That being said, people come to this field from a variety of backgrounds. The UCLA Extension program has a wonderful certificate program and many have come to the field that way. Others come from admissions or become interested in the field through their experiences with their own kids' college processes. The key thing is to make sure that your consultant has some sort of training in the field. Membership in professional counseling associations, which have stringent guidelines for membership, is also very important.
Here are some misconceptions that could merit further discussion...
- That the only "good" schools are the 30 that everyone from your high school is applying to.
- That how selective a school is defines the quality of the education you will receive once there. In reality there are many schools that accept a very high percentage of their applicants and then do a phenomenal job of helping them all take charge of their own education and ultimately exceed their original academic and personal expectations.
- That big schools are more fun
- That small schools are boring
Independent College Search Consultant
We focus on
Providing families with the knowledge to be able to find the best path to allow their children to attend college.
Providing professional college advisors with the knowledge to best serve those families that come to them for service.
Advocating for families and advisors with the United States government to improve the accessibility of college for families.