Why should you hire a college consultant?
Summer break is a time when many high school students and their parents get to free themselves from educational responsibilities like homework, tests, and getting to school on time. While it is important to spend the summer with friends and family to decompress from the last nine months, it is equally important to spend some time thinking about the upcoming school year and what it means to your college plan.
Rising freshmen and sophomores should have the thought of college in their heads and a proactive plan to develop a well-rounded student resume. Rising juniors are at the point where college isn’t just a thought anymore, it’s a daily reality check letting you know that every class you take and grade you get could determine whether or not you get into the college of your choice. As for the rising seniors, it’s time to buckle down and really step up your college game if you have not already.
Believe it or not, college is something that families should think about as early as middle-school. The earlier you start the college planning process, the more confident you will be in your child’s progress and your own ability to pay for costs. No matter what stage your family is currently in, it’s always a good time to talk to someone about college.
Summer can be the best time to do this because students and parents typically have more time available and you’ll want to go into the upcoming school year with a solid strategy. Unfortunately, high school guidance counselors are not available over summer and are often overloaded with pending application deadlines once the school year begins.
Think about your child’s high school and how many students there are in his/her class. 200? 300? 400? This is likely the case for public schools. Let’s say conservatively that 50% of the students in the class will apply to college. That’s anywhere from 100 to 200 students that a small department of high school counselors (sometimes just 1 counselor) have to help with proper class scheduling, college resume building, personal statement and supplement review, and letters of recommendation. Not to mention regular questions about how to apply to college, standardized test prep, how to get financial aid and what schools to attend.
If your child attends a private school, those class sizes might be much smaller but the percentage of students applying to college will likely be near 100%. For what it’s worth, these counselors do a tremendous job and should be appreciated for their efforts. But the belief that every student who wants to go to college will get the personal attention from their high school counselor that they need to submit a compelling, authentic, and unique college application is not realistic.
When I say complete college application I mean one that includes all the necessary information, but also projects the student’s passions, efforts, and achievements to help the college admissions personnel choose them for acceptance. Part of that application includes an essay (personal statement) that allows students to show off their personality in 650 words. It’s a very important part of the application that takes a lot of time to brainstorm, write, and rewrite until it perfectly characterizes the student.
Next, there is knowing how to build the college list. Putting together a list of 20 or 30 schools to submit applications to is an artless and costly decision. If a student has particular interests and career aspirations, a list of 6 – 8 schools should suffice. You weren’t really going to visit 30 colleges were you??
Finally, counselors have no knowledge of how to optimize your financial aid and funding options and nor should they. Their job is to help students get into college, not help parents pay for it. Fun fact: Paying for college is like paying for an airline ticket, everybody doesn’t pay the same price to get to the same place.
So. Is it really necessary to pay for college help?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: No. Unless you have the time and resources to learn all about the different college applications, supplemental materials, personal statement criteria, financial aid application, positioning of assets, colleges that pay the highest financial aid awards, and how to pay for college without it hurting your financial goals or putting a hardship on your child for the rest of their life.
College consultants can help with:
Class and extracurricular advising
Creating a college list
Filling out the applications error-free
Writing an empowering application essay
Financial aid forms (FAFSA)
Predicting estimated family contribution (the amount you are expected to pay for college)
Putting together a college financial plan
Some things on this list take research, knowledge, and know-how, while others can certainly be done on your own but will probably take a lot of time. The important thing to remember here is to do your due diligence. Research college consultants in your area and find out exactly what you will get from them. Every family situation is unique, so guaranteeing results like acceptance into a particular college or tuition paid in full is not something that a good consultant will do. You can meet consultants at free local workshops around the country by visiting mylocalworkshop.org.
Written by: Chris Soden, MBA