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My Experience with a Personal College Consultant

12Artleye12Artleye 115 replies14 threads Junior Member
edited April 2012 in College Admissions
Hello everyone! I thought i would start this thread to help anyone who might be considering hiring a college consultant. If you are a senior, it is way to late, but anyone that is a junior or below could really benefit from this.

I'll start by giving you some background on my situation. I am a rising senior, but still don't know where i'm attending yet. I started my college search late spring/early summer, and i think i personally started later than i should have.

At the end of my Junior year, my parents hired me a personal college consultant. For those of you who don't know, these are people who help with the college process. They perfect your application, advise you on your studies and classes, aid in career and major choice, and research programs with you. In addition, some (including mine) handle the financial aid process as well.

I'll point out early that these services are NOT cheap. The average service is probably around 5K and in big cities w/ prestigious consulting firms, can go upwards of 20K. Mine was around 6K i believe. I'll also point out that for me, this was completely worth the money.

We began by doing research on no less than 75 universities. I got on tons of mailing lists and calling lists to show interest. With the research we narrowed down schools and we settled on a list of 10. She gave many recommendations and used connections to meet with people.

Next came the application project. She and her team filled out my common app so that it was perfect. She proofed every applications and helped/advised/proofed on dozens of essays. They kept track of deadlines and made sure that everything was done on time and that my school, as well as the college had everything they needed and that is was all flawless.

Because I started later, i did the next step a little late as it is usually the first step of her program. It involved me taking a few interest tests and surveys. We then and are still working on exploring majors and careers very critically, and reaching out to those in my chosen field to explore even further.

My college consultant has teamed up with a financial planning firm, so they deal w/ the financial aid process as well. For my case, they met with my parents and did a very in-depth look at our financials. They then determined our EFC and gave financial suggestions to lower it if possible. Because my families EFC is very high, that was the end of that process as we have been advised not to apply for any need-based aid. I can still apply for scholarships though, and i can send my applications and essays to her to be proofed and helped with.

Obviously it is also nice to have this planner because it is a source for reliable answers to any questions i might have. We have done a few mock interviews to prepare me for college interviews. She has provided me with lots of contacts in the admissions offices and told me what to do and when to do it. She helps me plan visits and trips, as well. And if you get in early enough, they will help you plan the best track in high school possible. In my case specifically, she acted as a mediator between me and my parents because my parents and I often fought very seriously about college and could not settle our differences. In the end, we decided that we would both listen to the consultant so that we would no longer have to argue with each other over colleges

I hope this helps anybody who is thinking about college consultants. Obviously, i highly recommend that if you haven't looked into one yet, you do. Ask around about their reputation and go talk to them.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them below
edited April 2012
39 replies
Post edited by 12Artleye on
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Replies to: My Experience with a Personal College Consultant

  • kathieh1kathieh1 646 replies12 threads Member
    I'm sure many will find your post interesting. Our daughter worked with a consultant too.. but the experience was a little different from yours, so I think I'll share a few examples so people can think about the range. We interviewed two different possible consultants -- one I think was similar to yours with a fixed fee, plan to do assessments, etc. We didn't feel we needed or wanted that level of help.

    We ended up choosing a consultant who works on an hourly basis - $150 per hour - and only needed to help with a few things. The main value I'd say was that my daughter was accountable to her rather than us about deadlines etc. It kept our parental stress level down while giving my daughter incentives to get things done in a timely way.. before the next meeting with her (which were every 3-4 weeks during Junior Spring/Summer and fall of Senior year). Definitely reduced the nagging.

    In contrast to your experience, ours did NOT fill out any forms or heavily edit essays. She felt this was completely inappropriate, and likely to hurt rather than help, and we agreed. It was her view that colleges don't like to see overly packaged kids with "perfect" essays, etc. unless they reflect the honest voice of the kid. She did lead my daughter in brainstorming a few essay and supplement ideas which was helpful and motivated her. My daughter is a good writer, but it's not her favorite thing to do. I'm aware from here and elsewhere that others disagree with this view about the appropriateness of heavy editing by adults. In the end, who really knows what admissions officers think or can "tell' about who wrote their own essays. For all I know you really DO need that level of polishing to get into a top school.. we're waiting on RD results now.. Daughter is accepted at two schools so far with good scholarships.

    Using our consultant did give us additional peace of mind to know she felt the schools my daughter identified were good fits also in her view. She gave my daughter a template to use for researching them on her own.

    As far as finances, she would have been able to help us - but we decided to do that on our own instead of paying her. She did remind us to get our profile in, etc.. and asked my daughter to find the deadlines etc.

    So if you think a counselor might help your family, just be aware there are different types and levels. I was very happy with what we did and the overall cost was under $2000.00 - I haven't added it up.
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  • 12Artleye12Artleye 115 replies14 threads Junior Member
    ^^Thankyou for your addition. I'm sure people will benefit from hearing a variety of experiences and viewpoints.

    Sent from my DROIDX using CC App
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  • born2dance94born2dance94 1610 replies36 threads Senior Member
    So someone else filled out most of your common app? In that case maybe your consultant ought to earn the acceptance if it comes.
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  • dfree124dfree124 - 3686 replies26 threads Senior Member
    I don't get it.... you paid 6k to have someone organize your stuff, edit your essays, and do mock interviews? I don't exactly value that at 6k.
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  • PancakedPancaked 3286 replies69 threads Senior Member
    Just to throw in my two cents, we hired a college counselor and had a terrible experience. We paid way too much for a service that was worth about $100.
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  • 12Artleye12Artleye 115 replies14 threads Junior Member
    Well to be honest, it's not worth that money for some people. In my case, i had know idea where i wanted to go, and i wasn't really sure what to major it. I'm not the strongest writer so the editing definitely helped. Also, the fact that all my applications where proofed gave me that peace of mind when submitting it. And as far as the common app, it's my information, just typed by someone else for my convenience. Convenience and peace of mind is certainly part of what you get for that price tag.
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  • SnowflakeVTSnowflakeVT 2458 replies36 threads Senior Member
    If 6K helped settle intense college related discussions between you and your parents, and it didn't send your parents into debt, I would consider it a success. Since the service did so much work for you, however, you have to make sure you are really owning this process. You don't want to get into a school that you are under-qualified to attend because your packaging made you look more stellar than you are, and you don't want to suddenly be thrown in with kids that are far more self sufficient than you. I think for many parents that read CC, they are expecting themselves to be the consultant, with possibly a little side help here or there like Kathieh1 used.

    Since you admit that your writing needs some help, make sure you take advantage of any writing programs or tutors that your school offers to help you improve your skills before all the big papers start coming at you in college.
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  • SikorskySikorsky 5745 replies106 threads Senior Member
    12Artleye, thanks for a really detailed and informative post. I particularly appreciate the way you've been able to say more or less, "This is what she did and what it cost. It was worth the price to my family and me. It might not be worth it to you."

    If you and your parents were really at odds over college (and I think I remember reading previously that you were), just having somebody to mediate must have been worth something!

    I do think that most of what the consultant did--apart, maybe, from mediating the disputes between you and the parents--most middle-class (or wealthier) families could do for themselves with some time, some determination, and a high-speed internet connection. But in the end, you're going to pay for the knowledge you get. The question is just, are you going to pay with money, or with time and effort?

    (It troubles me to think that the families that couldn't do this for themselves if they chose to are probably also the families that can't afford a pricey consultant. Another illustration of the basic principle that it's just plain better to have money than not to. It's not a perfect world, I guess. But I digress.)

    Thanks again for the highly informative post. I'm glad you're satisfied with the value for what your family paid, and I hope you'll end up someplace you like.
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  • susiewattssusiewatts 11 replies0 threads New Member
    I do not know of any private college counselors who actually have a team to fill out your Common Application. I know that this is unethical and something that is clearly stated in the organizations that private college counselors belong to. The job of a private college counselor is to assist students with choosing appropriate colleges, reviewing essays and applications, helping with college interviews and tours, providing information on financial aid and scholarships, and offering college counseling throughout the college admissions process. Many counselors are far more reasonable than the amount of money your family paid and most do everything they can to make their services affordable. They usually are very flexible with the fees and work with parents to make it work. As the parent of five children, I think private college counselors provide the attention and expertise that will benefit most students, but you need to make sure you are working with the right ones.
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  • 12Artleye12Artleye 115 replies14 threads Junior Member
    Let me clarify that when i say team, that means the consultant and 2 assistants/secretaries. To fill out a commonapp is simply ask my info (ss#, parents info, address, ect) and type it on the internet. I'm going to have to respectfully disagree that it is unethical. If sh/e is actually writing someone's essays, activities, short answers, that is definately unethical. But that is not the case. Its much more reviewing and proof reading. I hope that helps clear things up.

    Sent from my DROIDX using CC App
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  • MidwestParentof4MidwestParentof4 15 replies0 threads New Member
    Wow! Thank you for your honesty. I find it shocking that college counselors would do all that and that parents would pay for it. Yes, I helped my children with their college applications by proofing essays and giving them my credit card to pay for the applications. But beyond that it was their job to do!
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  • DrGoogleDrGoogle 11022 replies24 threads Senior Member
    Thanks for the info. I personally wouldn't use one, money is not an issue, but I think the process of applying for college is bonding time for D2 and I. I respect her wishes and researches schools and programs for her. As for help on essays, I will ask D1 to look over for advice but it still D2's writing. Administrative stuff I can do. So as others have said it can be done, not too overwhelming, and I know her best so I definitely would not designate this process to anyone.
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  • gradeegradee 121 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Admissions consultants are pretty common for MBA admissions, so I'm not surprised to hear about your experiences OP. When using admissions consultants, just be sure your voice and authenticity are not lost in your essays. Also, keep in mind that you may raise some flags to the adcoms if your essays are beautifully written, but your SAT Writing score is comparatively low- they may suspect that your admissions essays were overly polished/written by another person.
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  • Unknown2012Unknown2012 4 replies1 threads New Member
    This was very interesting. Thank you!
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  • crazedcrazed 1884 replies90 threads Senior Member
    They certainly charge a lot to fill out your common app. I expect it is something you could do yourself on a Sunday afternoon. It's not very hard or time consuming.

    College search.. also not very hard, just something you need to do. I think most people on this forum could have made a nice list for you for free.

    Curious where you ended up applying.
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  • 12Artleye12Artleye 115 replies14 threads Junior Member
    It is a lot to charge. I said that early on. It's expensive. If what you stated was all she has done for me, i would completely agree that it was a waste of money. However, as i've previously tried to establish, for my situation, it was a lot more than that. And i'm continuing to gain from it. As far as where i applied....UMD, U. Miami, NYU, USC, GWU, PSU, Pitt, Northeaster, Fordham, Tampa. I have yet to be rejected anywhere. Many people go to consultants to get into top colleges. Although i didn't apply to any "top schools", some of these are reaches for my credentials and i believe that because of my consultant, i have a better chance of being accepted to my reach schools, and a better chance of receiving scholarship money from the competitive and safety schools.
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  • sunbitesunbite 86 replies1 threads Junior Member
    OP, a balanced student's perspective, thank you. I also work as a private college counselor and agree that yours behaved in a professional, ethical manner. If a family can benefit from a 3rd party "mediator/editor" advising on a potentially 200+ K investment, then more power to them. I hope you get into reach & match schools, with some merit $$ to sweeten the pot!
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  • mspearlmspearl 1217 replies16 threads Senior Member
    Made sure everything was flawless? That made me chuckle. Aren't 17 and 18 year olds kids who might make an error here or there? I am glad it worked for you but it wouldn't be for me or my kids. My D had some minor errors on her common app...I tell people it gave it charm. ;)

    So far my D has gotten into every school with really good scholarships and pretty stunning results with her essay feedback.
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  • crazedcrazed 1884 replies90 threads Senior Member
    Agree mspearl.

    Son applied to 15 schools (reaches, mathes, safties) and was accepted to all. I was his college advisor- LOL!

    12Artleye- just curious as to the stats you are applying with- UWGPA, AP's taken, SAT scores. Your list is a pretty popular one with Northeast kids. Glad you are getting those acceptance letters!!
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  • 12Artleye12Artleye 115 replies14 threads Junior Member
    @Crazed - I've never calculated my GPA to a 4.0 scale, but it's somewhere just south of a 95. I don't have any AP's due to some scheduling problems and a school that only offers a couple AP courses. I do have a bunch of honors classes though. SATs i think where super-scored around a 1950. I have 3 credits on a secondary transcript from the Washington School of World Studies though. My EC's are very extensive and pending injury, i'll be graduating with 12 varsity letters and some district championships/state qualifings.

    Also judging by your experience on this site, and previous post, you seem quite qualified to do your sons college advising. Wasn't quite the case for me. 15 for 15 is extremely impressive!
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