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Hired a College Consultant....your experience?

nidaconidaco 6 replies2 threads New Member
Hello everyone...so I hired a college consultant for my son who will be a freshman in HS this upcoming fall. Honestly, I decided to go this route because he will be attending a large urban HS where guidance counselors have about 250 or so students to work with for various issues besides college counseling. His sister went to a prep school where their counselors had about 20 students and solely worked on college applications, etc. My son had no interest in private schools and wanted to be with his friends at the public HS. The college counselor makes no promises about Ivy league acceptences, does not write essays, etc. which is fine with me. We are not looking for that. Just want someone to have a vested interest ( besides us) in our son and making sure he is on track to find a great school (not necessarily a "name" school) and is able to secure as much Merit aid as possible...basically biggest bang for our buck. Plus, he doesn't like being nagged by me.

Has anyone used a college consultant before? What did you think? What suggestions would you make? Would love any thoughts or insights.TIA
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Replies to: Hired a College Consultant....your experience?

  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5845 replies10 threads Senior Member
    I agree with @compmom . But if your counselor can help your kid figure out what excites him and how to pursue and articulate that in an authentic way, that could be a great help. Regular checkins to really get to know your kid, helping your child be aware of what makes them tick and how that's evolving -- that could really be valuable. In other words, if they are acting as a trusted advisor/coach who is helping your kid really discern who he is and making sure he stays true to that rather than as someone molding your kid into what they think xyz wants him to be, probably worth every dollar.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9372 replies501 threads Senior Member
    We used one on an irregular basis, paid by the hour as opposed to a package.

    I have mixed feelings. It was a so-so use of money, in our case. The main issue was that I was knew a lot by the time D applied. The private advisor was good for some things, especially when it came time to complete the Common App. She was also pretty knowledgeable about the various colleges D applied to, so that was useful. She gave D good tips about the interviewing process, which was good because D would not have listened to me. Other than that, she spend a lot of time telling us stuff we already knew, and her essay advice was frankly poor. D had very good results with her acceptances so I guess it wasn't a total waste of cash in the end. D applied to twelve schools. I wish the advisor had ensured that D was really interested in all those schools, because filling out apps is time-consuming and expensive.

    With my son this year, I had no need for a private advisor. I had time to devote to the process and I know even more than I did three years ago. We were much more streamlined and he applied to seven colleges. Even then, six would have been fine.

    I’d say if a parent wants the best results, they will help their child create a balanced list of schools. That, and filling out the Common App well are the two essentials. If a parent doesn’t have the time or inclination to do that, then getting a private advisor might be a good idea.
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  • toandfrotoandfro 21 replies0 threads Junior Member
    I rarely post as my kids are younger. DD attends one of those private high schools where everyone goes to college, and a good number attend prestigious ones. At schools like these the reality is most kids and their parents are thinking about college from day one of high school, if not earlier. I don't agree with it or like it, but that is the reality where we live.

    In that context I hired our consultant with the explicit request of helping our ambitious DD understand she can be successful without gunning for everything all the time. The consultant knows our school and its teachers well. To me she's really like a counselor who celebrates the highs, empathizes with the lows, and helps DD think about ways she can distinguish herself that are real, and teaches DD life skills. We haven't seen her many times (she charges by the hour), but have found her really valuable, regardless of outcome.

    One thing I do come on the side of is hiring someone local. For us there has been real value connecting with someone who really understands the schools, and the community, our child lives in.
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  • tkoparenttkoparent 204 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Freshman year seems awfully early. We used a consultant beginning in junior year, and it was a mixed bag. I'm sure it depends upon the individual, but in our case, the consultant was helpful in providing a preliminary sounding board and getting some first draft essays done, but not so helpful once we got further into the process. We also had an SAT tutor, and he was actually more helpful in many respects, as he was a recent college graduate and could communicate better with our S about interviewing and other aspects of the process. I also learned a lot on my own and, in the end, I think that was more important. I would not hire a consultant for my D21.
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  • melvin123melvin123 1565 replies20 threads Senior Member
    I hired someone to help with only the essays, but it didn't work out. Some of the lessons are more generally applicable so I'll share them.

    One issue is that I stepped out of the process altogether, thinking that I'd just delegate the whole thing. But I am not a hands off person and should have admitted that to myself earlier, and should have reviewed the parameters. Instead, my D and the counselor agreed on a time table for writing the essays, and it was a time table that I was not ok with because it started and ended too late; it had her doing a lot of work during my D's busy time at school and had her doing no work over the summer. Getting my D to move the schedule forward ended up causing a big fight between us because "the expert" said this schedule was fine. BTW, after the process was complete my D fully acknowledged that I was right, but I didn't care so much about being right as I cared about my D getting reasonable amounts of sleep and not fighting with my D. So, know yourself and know how much you want to participate in the process and make sure you and the counselor are on the same page about this.

    The other issue I had was that the counselor took my D's essays and practically rewrote them herself. Not cool. It totally took away my D's voice, wasn't authentic, and was flat. And I feel like that's cheating. At that point I fired the counselor and worked with my D myself by making comments about why something in the essay was unclear or unnecessary and then had my D rework her essays herself. I did not tell my D what to write or put words in her mouth. It is important that the essay come from her, in her voice. But I can tell you my D was very annoyed with me for making her do all the extra work and was embarrassed that I fired the counselor. Again, at the end of the process my D volunteered that her essays were much better and that she could really tell that this came from her, but I would have much rather avoided the fights in getting there. Also, I am not a good writer, but my D is, so this was really just getting her to focus. I guess the lesson here is make sure you hire someone who is on the same page as you about how they do their work. I didn't really ask too many questions before hiring this counselor because I didn't know too many and this counselor came with glowing recommendations. Well, just because your friends like how someone does a job doesn't mean you will, so you really need to get into the details. Turns out my friend's daughter isn't a particularly good writer and that family was just as happy to have the counselor rework their daughter's essays so extensively.

    One last comment, the other day I was in the grocery store and I overheard a woman talking on a cel phone. It was clear she was a private counselor advising a parent of a HS kid. She was recommending that the kid spend his summer working on one of 3 stem competitions. But just the way she was talking led me to think that she gives the same advice to every parent of a kid who wants to study stem. You really want a counselor who does not give blanket advice but instead takes the time to really get to know your kid and his/her likes/dislikes. And then gives you personalized ideas of things your kid can do to help develop their interest. I think so much of this is about the kids being authentic to themselves and developing their own interests, not being a lemming and rushing out to do what everyone else is doing and checking the greatest number of boxes.
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  • nidaconidaco 6 replies2 threads New Member
    I just wanted to thank you all for your honesty and opinions. I will post back how the experience goes over the next four years.
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  • sgopal2sgopal2 3523 replies49 threads Senior Member
    Yes I went through this recently with son, who graduated from Prep school May 2018. The prep school had fancy college counsellors who were all former admissions officers at Ivies/top colleges. The prep school counsellor provided guidance, reviewed essays, helped with college lists, etc.

    But we decided to hire several outside consultants on our own. Mainly to get another opinion, and also because my son needed more hand holding with the essays. It was expensive, but worth it. The essay help person was the best value. PM if you want names.
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  • compmomcompmom 10823 replies77 threads Senior Member
    Tutoring for essays should absolutely be "non-directive." And that sometimes takes training, or at the very least, insight. The best essays are likable, authentic and can be about ordinary things. I think a tutor needs to know enough to steer the kids away from their ambitions to cure cancer, and otherwise just be a sounding board.

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  • melvin123melvin123 1565 replies20 threads Senior Member
    One thing I think a local consultant could be helpful in is to alert the student to different summer and other opportunities that help the student decide what they like. I’m not necessarily talking about those very expensive programs run at various colleges that target HS Juniors. There are all sorts of programs, but if you aren’t in the know, you could miss out on some great experiences.
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 4420 replies18 threads Senior Member
    It hard to tell people no if they find value in something like this. Hindsight it might or been worth it just to keep the peace a bit and us not going a bit nuts when my son finished and pushed the send button like up to the time to do it....

    A good friend of ours is a high school college counselor but does this on the side professionally. She met with our kids over lunch in 10 th and 11 th grade and was always avaliable for questions. In 10th grade it was talking about certain colleges and narrowing down the lists. Gave pointers when visiting and taking to professors on visits or head of departments kind of thing. Discussing type of school and fit to look for.

    11th grade summer was discussing essays and how to approach them. She read through my kids first drafts and helped picked between two essays for my son. It was very obvious to us which one and extremely obvious to her also, so that actually helped keep us out of it. (we were correct though 😉). She offered some grammar corrections but never attempted to change the voicing or idea of the essay. Like us doing a read through before pushing the button...

    As far as colleges to go see and apply to for both kids it's was just obvious but since she goes on tours of colleges yearly she gave some insight that was helpful.

    For my daughter applying to Lacs the advice was "They want you more then you want them, so relax."

    For my son engineering choices "you have flip of a coin chance at all your choices, write a great essay".



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  • compmomcompmom 10823 replies77 threads Senior Member
    edited May 24
    So @peach0v0, did you do activities throughout high school in order to get into college, or would you have done them anyway without the consultant or the admissions factor? And did that "dream" of getting in increase your stress or in any way impact your high school experience, or did it enhance it?
    edited May 24
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 38752 replies2126 threads Super Moderator
    I'm not sure our consultant for our oldest was worth the cost, but he did tell us about Susquehanna, where our youngest landed. We wouldn't have known about the school, toherwise.
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  • peach0v0peach0v0 89 replies1 threads Junior Member
    edited May 24
    @compmom Both, really. The reason I went to a consultant was because I knew I wanted to get into a good college, but I didn't know exactly how. My consultant recommended me to apply to summer leadership opportunities I did not know of, and I met some of my best friends there. My extracurricular experiences also led me to my decision of what to major in. Yes, they did look good on college apps, but I think of activities as more of a way to develop your passions. To answer your question, (yes) I would have participated in leadership positions in my school clubs anyways because learning how to be an effective leader benefits you for life. For me, my main worry was disappointing my parents, friends, and other people who had high expectations for me if I didn't get into a good enough college in their eyes. I live in NC so I felt that I had a pretty good chance of getting into our state school UNC Chapel Hill, so I wasn't too stressed by my "dream." I actually think it was more of a positive factor in my high school experience because it gave me a clear goal to work towards. I wasn't lost. My "dream" motivated me to attempt things I normally would not have tried, and I do not regret any of it. I would rather spend four difficult but enriching years growing as a person than waste the same four years by relaxing now and not thinking about the future.
    edited May 24
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  • compmomcompmom 10823 replies77 threads Senior Member
    I am always interested in external versus internal motivators. Sounds like you had a healthy mix of both :)
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  • angelofdarksideangelfromdarksideangelofdarksideangelfromdarkside 16 replies5 threads Junior Member
    How did you find a college counselor?
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