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With so many families turning to independent college admissions consultants to help them manage the college application process and maximize their chances at selective schools, the industry is growing rapidly. There may be dozens of private college coaches in your area, and more who you can work with online. So how do you know which is best for you?
Ultimately, it's important to find a college counselor who is reputable, successful, knowledgeable, and personable. Here are five things to consider as you do your research.
What kinds of schools have they helped students get admitted to over the last few years? Have they been successful at top schools? How do their admission rates compare to the overall admit rate at highly selective schools, and how recent are their results? The landscape changes constantly, so it's important to see that they're continuing to succeed.
Second, do your homework. Research the firm, the counselors, 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 counselor whose approach and results are aligned with your goals.
Lastly, what do third-party reviewers say? Check out their Google, Facebook, and Yelp reviews. Were past clients happy with their consultant? 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.
At the same time, you should also examine their experience as an admissions consultant! Do they do this full time? If the consults are working part-time, how well will they be able to provide you with timely responses, advice based on the most recent admissions trends, and the time and attention you need? Will they work with you on the entirety of your college preparation and application process, or will they only advise you and then send your essays elsewhere? Essentially, are they invested in college coaching as their career? Is your would-be consultant part of a firm that does continuous research and analysis of admissions trends?
You want to work with someone with a strong background in admissions consulting, so ask about their relevant experience, too. You should also make sure your potential consultant knows how to guide you through the whole process successfully. 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.
Additionally, do they have extensive experience in higher education? Is their educational background strong? Do they have the intellectual capacity to provide you with exemplary suggestions and feedback? Consultants who have degrees from top schools themselves not only know what it takes to gain admission, but can also help you understand what life is like there and how best to prepare.
A strong 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.
Finding the right personality fit between your family and your college consultant is essential for a successful admissions process. For that reason, most college consultants offer some kind of free initial consultation for you to get to know one another before moving forward. If you can meet in person, all the better, as doing so can be more effective when it comes to getting to know someone. 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.
Ultimately, you want a long-term relationship, not a transaction. Aim to find someone who is personally going to be there for you and your child. Working with someone with whom you're comfortable will be an immense help. Do they respond to your emails quickly? Do they seem invested in your success? Do they help students identify their strengths and ameliorate their weaknesses?
Finally, be wary of flat-rate packages, as counselors operating under that system have no incentive to put in the effort to make sure every aspect of your process is perfected.
The best admissions consultants don't just recommend schools based solely on your grades; they get to know you so they can figure out how to enhance and present your unique story. When finding a consultant, ask whether they provide holistic, personalized attention to every applicant.
Additionally, be sure to ask if they will be sending you to different people for different things. Try not to be misguided by a firm that offers specialized people who can edit your essays but who know little about what admissions committees are seeking in application essays. It is critical that the best applications have a clear, unified strategy. A single advisor who knows you well will be best able to improve your complete profile and ensure that you present a strong, coherent story in your applications.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, find out about the process. A college consultant who is organized and responsive is crucial to crafting a successful application. Ask about the process: how does it work? How will you know what to do and when? Can the consultant address your family's unique needs? How often will they respond to questions? How do they stay current in the admissions world? Getting a clear answer to such questions will ensure you're in capable hands.