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How to Choose the Best College Admissions Consultant

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With so many families hiring independent college admissions consultants to help with their high school student’s college preparation and application process, the industry is growing rapidly. You may be wondering whether you should hire a college admissions consultant, and if so, how best to find the right fit? It is a crowded space, but there is a great deal of differential in what different college advisors offer and the value they provide you.

Firstly, what is a college consultant?

A college admissions consultant can serve to be a valuable resource to high school students as they navigate the college admissions process. A successful college consultant will provide a student with the individualized, and personalized guidance necessary to become a competitive applicant within an increasingly competitive admissions landscape. There are many facets to college preparation and college applications, and a college consultant is there to help students and families with every component along the way. This support and assistance can include the creation of a personalized plan for how a student can prepare for college during high school. This includes helping students plan their extracurricular activities, summer plans and internships, and helping them to determine an academic area of interest. Then, a college consultant can also help develop an appropriate college list, determine where a student should apply early, and provide advice on every detail of the college application and college essay process. A good college admissions counselor has the specific expertise, field knowledge and resources to best understand how to approach the college application process in a way that helps students for the highest level of success.

Benefits of a successful college admissions consultant

  • Hiring a college consultant should provide you with a reassuring level of transparency to the entire college admissions process. A top college consultant has the experience, resources, and commitment to guide a student in achieving success through this process and attaining their college admission goals. A top college consultant will provide you with a plan for exactly what your child needs to do during high school to get into their dream schools.
  • A highly experienced college admissions consultant can help reduce the stress around the college admissions process for both students and their families. College consultants are dedicated to making the college application process and experience feel smooth and manageable. There can be an inherent degree of intimidation when approaching your child’s college admissions process, so why not let a seasoned professional help ease the various stresses that can come with it?
  • Top college admissions consultants should provide you with a recommendation for applying early decision or early action to specific colleges. In an increasingly competitive college admissions landscape, understanding this information is more pivotal than ever before for admission success. It is clear that students who pursue early applications can have a major advantage over students who apply for regular admission. This is because at many schools early decision admissions rates are higher than regular decision admission rates.
  • There is nothing more personable and curated than the hands-on guidance that a college consultant can provide a student during their college essay and college application process. Experienced admissions consultants will support the individualized success of your particular child in a way that will naturally leverage their strengths and admission outcomes.
  • It’s important to note that aside from supporting students through the college application process, college admissions consultants play a greater role in helping students better understand the types of schools that align best with their interests as well as assisting students in exploring their own unearthed academic interests.

When to start working with a college admissions consultant?

When you decide to begin working a college admissions consultant is largely dependent on the particular needs and desires of your family as well as your budget. Ideally, a college admissions consultant is able to make the most impact when a student signs on either at the end of 8th grade or at the beginning of 9th or 10thgrades. Much of the preparation required for successful college preparations involves how the student is spending their first three years of high school, as they are applying at the beginning of senior year. A top admissions counselor can ensure that, from day one, a high school student is effectively using their time and isset up for success when it comes to their college goals.

A top college consultant will provide advice on extracurricular activities, summer planning, and an underlying academic plan that will shape the student’s academic narrative. While younger students may not require intensive help, it’s very beneficial to have a guiding plan in place that will make their future college applications much stronger. Starting with an admissions consultant too late in a student’s high school career can be limiting since there is often not enough time to develop their interests and leadership in ways that make them competitive candidates. That said, there is no “wrong” time to begin working with a college admissions consultant—there are countless items to consider each year of high school and throughout the application process. Working with a college counselor at any point during high school will always serve to be extremely valuable. 

So how do you choose the best college admissions consultant for you?

Ultimately, it’s important to find a college counselor (which is also called a college consultant) who is reputable, successful, knowledgeable, and personable. Here are eight things to consider as you do your research.

  1. Does the college admissions consulting firm meet the needs of your family?

First, do your homework. Research the firm, the admissions consultants, their history of advising, and their results. A reputable firm will be open and transparent about its experience, strategy, and vision, with no gimmicks or overpromises. Make sure you find a college consultant whose approach and results are aligned with your goals for your family.

In particular, make sure that the college admissions consultant can meet your child wherever they are in the college admissions process. In this highly-competitive college admissions landscape, what does the consultant work on with your child during freshman, sophomore and junior years? Helping to build students’ resumes is the most valuable way that a college consultant can help a student. What specifically will they do to help students reach their college admissions goals?

Finally, what do third-party reviewers say? Check out their Google, Facebook, and Yelp reviews. Were past clients happy with the college consulting firm? Did they find the process less stressful and more enjoyable? The college admissions process is a journey; you should feel supported and heard throughout the entire process.

  1. Do the college consultants at the firm have a background in student advising?

Once you’ve found a college admissions consulting firm that’s a good match for your family, you’ll want to learn more about the experience and background of the individual college admissions consultant who will work with your child. In particular, make sure that your college consultant has deep experience guiding and connecting with students. Students need to accomplish a lot in high school to build an outstanding college profile and college applications and essays, and you will want someone who can form a strong relationship with your child and coach them to achieve their best.

Importantly, do the consultants have strong backgrounds in admissions and student advising? You want to work with a college admissions counselor who has a strong background in admissions consulting, not just admissions offices, so be sure to review their relevant experience. Many former admissions officers and admissions committees have little experience working with students, understanding the methods for guiding students to achieve their goals and the empathy needed to help support them. What matters most in a college counselor is experience with student guidance, a strong academic background, and the ability to communicate effectively and thoughtfully with each student.

Finally, does the college consultant have extensive experience and expertise in higher education? Is their personal educational background strong? Do they have the intellectual capacity to provide your child with exemplary suggestions and feedback? Do they have experience teaching writing and presentation skills? College consultants who have degrees from top schools themselves not only know what it takes to gain admission, but can also help your child understand what life is like there and how best to prepare. Additionally, college consultants who also have experience advising and teaching at top-ranked schools will be able to best guide students to develop and present themselves in the ways that top-tier colleges care about most.

  1. Is the firm completely on top of the latest trends in college admissions?

Then, make sure this is your consultant’s full-time job. Many college consulting firms offer consultants who provide these services only on a part-time basis after, they are done with their day jobs. You want an admissions expert who is immersed in this work and who are part of a firm that provides the constant learning and training needed to stay up to date. Additionally, only a full-time consultant can provide you with timely responses, advice based on the most recent admissions trends, and the time and attention you need.

Then, make sure this firm is prepared to address every new trend in college admissions. Most former admissions officers are not up to date if they are only working as a part-time advisor.

Does the company have a research arm that analyzes the college admissions landscape and helps them to integrate best practices into the company’s work in real time? Although working with an exceptional advisor is of paramount importance, a full-time research team indicates that a college consulting firm is able to give you exceptional, current advice, as the college admissions landscape is changing so rapidly.

  1. Can your college consultant help you with the whole college application process?

By working with a college coach with a strong background in college admissions consulting, you will ensure that you are relying on someone who knows how to guide your family through the whole process successfully—not just writing the application. What matters most in a college coach is experience with coaching students, a strong academic background, the ability to communicate effectively and thoughtfully with each student, and a clear strategic vision. When choosing a college admissions consultant, consider:

Will your consultant help your child plan all of their extracurriculars during high school? Will they help your child with their summer plans, will they help them develop leadership skills, and will they help them develop interests they weren’t even previously aware of? Also, can they help your student with their applications and essays when the time comes?

A top college consultant understands the numerous ways in which an applicant can become more competitive in the admissions process: developing a unique strategy, building a leadership profile, understanding what schools would be best for the student, and being able to help develop a student’s story and essays for the application process.

  1. Has the firm had success at the types of colleges you want for your child?

What kinds of schools have the college consultants helped students get admitted to over the last few years? How does the college consulting firm’s admission rates compare to the overall national admission rates at highly selective schools, and how recent are their results? Are they consistently substantially overperforming the average admission rates at top colleges?

Depending on your goals, you may also want to ask: have students who have worked with this firm been successful at Ivy League and other top-tier schools, and/or at schools with specialized programs that interest your child? Can the college consulting firm help students with different learning needs, art and film school preparation and applications, athletic recruiting and BS/MD applications? The landscape changes constantly, so it’s important to see continued success, even as college admissions rates are decreasing.

  1. Can your college consultant provide personalized strategic advice?

The best admissions consultants don’t just recommend colleges based solely on grades and scores; they get to know each individual student so they can figure out how to enhance and present their unique story. When finding a college advisor, ask whether they provide holistic, personalized attention to every applicant.

It’s important to find someone who will help you and your child with every part of the college preparation and application process, whether choosing high school courses, planning summers, selecting the right extracurricular activities, or planning and writing exceptional college essays. Essentially, is your counselor invested in college coaching as their career? Can they provide expert, personalized advice to your family as you navigate this journey? Can they provide you and your student with the emotional support needed as part of this challenging process?

Additionally, be sure to ask if they will be sending you to different people for different parts of the process, which can hinder the creation of a strong application. You want to be able to work with one person throughout the process who can get to know you in a very in-depth manner. A single college consultant who knows you well can best improve your child’s complete profile and ensure that they present a strong, coherent story in their applications.

  1. Can you meet your college consultant before you begin working with them?

Finding the right personality fit between your family and your college counselor is essential for a successful admissions process. For that reason, most college consultants offer a free initial consultation for you to get to know one another before moving forward. Ultimately, you will want to work with someone who has significant expertise, who can provide emotional support during the process, and who will know exactly when to push your child and when to be more nurturing. This gentle balance is the hallmark of the best college admissions consultants.

Ultimately, you want a long-term relationship, not a transaction. The college admissions process can be extremely stressful for student and their parents, and an exceptional college advisor will alleviate anxiety for both you and your child along the way. Aim to find someone with whom you and your child feel comfortable, because it will be an immense help. Do they respond to your emails quickly? Do they seem invested in your child’s success?

Finally, be wary of flat-rate packages, as college counselors operating under that system have no incentive to put in the effort to make sure every aspect of your process is perfected. At Spark Admissions, we believe that cost transparency and flexible package options are key to our ability to curate our college consulting services to fit your exact needs.

  1. Does your prospective-college consultant have a clear process and a proven methodology?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, find out about the process. A college consultant who is organized and responsive is crucial to crafting a successful preparation and application strategy. When you meet your potential consultant, ask about their process and methodology: how does it work? How will you know what to do and when? Can the consultant address your family’s unique needs? How do they evaluate students and evaluate what they need to accomplish relative to their college admissions goals and what their dream college expects? How quickly will they respond to questions? How do they stay current in the admissions world? Clear answers to such questions will ensure you’re in capable hands.

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do in choosing a college consultant is to find someone who knows how to guide your child through the whole college application process successfully, and who is invested in seeing them succeed as a student, person, and college applicant. As the nation’s top college admissions consulting firm, Spark Admissions is committed to providing college counseling built on empathy and the highest level of expertise. Our college consultants are full-time, highly experienced college admissions consultants with a great depth of experience. We have more than a decade of experience developing relationships with our students that not only impact their college careers but equally inspire them in their life skills and greater life interests. We understand how inherently stressful and intimidating the college preparation and application process can be – that’s why we’re here. If you’d like to find out more about our methodology or discuss available consulting packages, reach out to us here to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our premier college consultants. We look forward to helping support your child and family’s college journey!

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