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Do Private School Students Need an Independent College Counselor?

Private school students going up and down a school staircase.

One of the primary arguments for hiring a private college coach or admissions consultant is that public school guidance counselors are too overworked to give each student personalized attention in the college admissions process. Many students report only having a few minutes in the whole of their junior year to speak with their counselor about their college aspirations, and for many that conversation is their first and only meeting with the counselor.

However, students who attend independent schools generally have a very different experience. Many private schools have an entire college counseling staff, separate from academic advisors and psychological services. These counselors are not pulled in eight different directions, like a public guidance counselor, nor do they have to address the needs of so many students. As such, it stands to reason that you might wonder: why do private school families hire outside consultants?

Here are some of the advantages to hiring a private college counselor, even if you attend a private or independent school with a designated college counseling office:

Having an Additional Teammate

The first thing to know is that independent counselors do not act in opposition to your college counselor, no matter which kind of school you attend. Your counselors, teachers, and advisors are all part of a team that will help you get the most out of high school, find the best fit school for you, and submit a compelling application.

Essentially, an independent counselor is another teammate who can bring additional experience, advice, and perspective to this important decision. As someone with extensive knowledge about different colleges and majors, they can help you learn more about schools, find your passions, and chart a course for success.

Starting Earlier

When it comes to college admissions, time is the best friend you have. However, many college counseling offices at private schools prioritize seniors, which means you may not get to talk to your counselor about making a college list until relatively late in the game. That can leave you with less time to visit schools and decide where to apply.

Working with an independent counselor ensures that you can start talking about making a list and learning about schools much earlier in the process. That way, once it comes time to create a list with your private school counselor, you’ll be much more prepared.

Developing Your Resume

Your private school college counselor will meet you where you are, but it’s not normally part of their job to help you improve yourself and your qualifications. If you have strong feelings about which schools you’d like to eventually include on your list, it’s important to think about what types of extracurricular activities you can do to increase your chances of admission at your dream schools.

Working with a college coach can help you develop your resume and become a stronger applicant. Using their past experience in this area, they’ll recommend specific activities, projects, internships, and more to help you truly stand out from the pack.

Planning Your Summers

Colleges care a lot about what you do with your summers, so it’s crucial to use them well. Your independent school’s college counseling office will be able to recommend some programs, but they probably won’t be able to give you personalized assistance with the applications to those programs, some of which are quite extensive!

It can also be helpful to have someone sort through the options with you, especially if you have a complicated schedule, and to help you stay on top of deadlines. In short, private counselors can do much more than make suggestions for the summer; they can actively help you get into the best programs, internships, or summer classes for you.

Making a Testing Plan

Standardized testing is a big part of applying to college, particularly for very selective schools. Unlike your independent school counselor, a college admissions counselor can develop a personalized testing plan for you based on your unique goals.

A private college consultant can help you decide if the SAT or ACT is better for you, navigate the subject test requirements, choose the best test dates, connect you with experienced tutors, and help you understand what your scores mean at different schools. In short, if you have any questions at all about standardized tests, a private counselor can be a huge help.

Improving All Your Essays

As you likely know by now, applying to college involves writing a lot of essays. Your private school counselor may review your main personal statement, but probably not until the fall, and by then you’ll have a million other things to do. When it comes to writing essays, you want to start early and get feedback early so that you’re not scrambling in the fall.

Working with an independent college advisor means you’ll have someone helping you with all your essays, from the personal statement to the school-specific essays, over the summer. With their extensive knowledge of what individual schools are seeking in applicants, they’ll ensure that every essay is perfect and allow you to concentrate on your classes and extracurriculars in the fall.

Asking Quick Questions

Finally, sometimes you just have a question. What’s the weather like in Ann Arbor in the winter? When is this summer program application due? Should I apply for physics or math? Why is the Common App glitching? Where do I send my scores?

Private school counselors have smaller caseloads than public guidance counselors, but still not as small as those of a private consultant. Having someone you can contact with small questions, knowing you’ll get an immediate reply, makes everything less stressful—as does knowing that you’re getting that answer from someone who’s done this a hundred times!

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, an independent college consultant serves a different purpose than a college counseling office at a private high school. While your high school counselor can help you understand how you stack up against other students in your high school, a private college advisor can work with you to strengthen your profile, get a head start on your list, create a strong testing plan, and plan out your summers.

A successful application requires a team: students, families, school counselors, teachers, coaches, and more. And even students at private schools find that they benefit from the additional expertise and guidance provided by bringing a private college consultant onto that team.

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