Many families are using independent college consultants to help with college planning. What do they offer that I cant do myself?
All one needs to do now is to pick up any newspaper or magazine to read that colleges are more competitive than ever before, with record numbers of students applying. Families are recognizing that admission is no longer a certainty, even with stellar grades and test scores. Many students are all looking at the same 20 to 30 colleges, even though there are over a thousand to choose from. Our students from the northwest tend to restrict their college search even further, not wanting to leave the west coast and hoping for a spot in the sun. Students are feeling overwhelmed with the rat race, feeling pressured to excel not only academically but on the sports field, in the arts, and in the myriad of volunteer or travel experiences they pile on to curry favor with admission officers.
A well thought-out strategy can take much of the stress and frenzy out of this process. Ideally college planning is a process that begins as early as freshman year when a student is planning the academic track she will follow. Students at this time should start giving serious thought to the passions they will pursue throughout high school. A college consultant can help students develop their talents and strengths in a timely fashion. Many consultants like to begin working with students as early as freshman or sophomore year to discuss course selection, internship or job opportunities, and volunteer projects or summer programs that draw on a students interests, strengths, or future aspirations. A good college consultant will take the time to get to know students and their families early on in order to suggest opportunities in line with the students unique attributes.
However, the most important job of a consultant is to help a student develop an appropriate list of schools. This list should include schools in which the student is likely to gain acceptance (so-called safety schools) in addition to mid-range and reach schools. All of these schools not just the reach schools should be selected with an eye to the students needs and preferences, but all too often, students fail to select safety schoolsh that they would be truly happy to attend. A consultant has the resources, expertise and time to research schools all over the country that would provide a student the academic, extracurricular and social environment he needs to flourish. I know of no other group that goes to bed reading the Fiske Guide to Colleges. A good consultant visits many colleges throughout the year and meets with admission officers from around the country learning about all types of schools for all types of students. It is from such experiences that a consultant can make recommendations tailored to a students strengths and goals. Most families simply do not have the time for the research and travel this requires.
As families find themselves facing a $160,000 college bill, they are wise to confer with an expert to ensure that their money is well spent and that their student will find academic success and happiness without having to transfer or to spend more than four years to graduate.
Finally, many families complain that the college admissions process is a huge stressor for the entire family throughout the last two years of high school. When the family should be enjoying its last few years under one roof, this process breeds more than its fair share of tension and nagging. Be it procrastination, parent-child tension, or simply a lack of inspiration as to what to say on those darn essays, families are seeking outside assistance to manage this process. College consultants have the know-how to help students develop and edit an essay that highlights their unique strengths and attributes and distinguishes them from competitors with similar grades and scores. They also can help students develop a resume that can be used to aid teachers and counselors in recommendations, inform interviewers, or enhance the application itself. Consultants can also help with mock interviews, as many students have difficulty taking mock interviews with family members seriously. Lastly, a consultant can help a student develop an organizational system that will enable her to meet the many deadlines of the college admissions process.