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Hiring Admission Counselor

DiggityFDiggityF 1 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
I'd love to hear feedback from those who may have used an admissions counselor to work with their kid(s) on getting into college. We found a woman who is a member of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAD) and others. What she shared made a lot of sense about sort of holding our son's hand through the process to pick the right fit for the school (and perhaps we've been too bold in assumptions about his good grades).

She will also help with financial fit and looking at typical aid from each college as well as crafting an essay with a relevant topic and interview practice. It's $4600 if we go with the whole package. He's heading into his senior year so while we've visited dozens of colleges, we are a little late to sign up for this.

Bottom line: is is worth it? (We can opt for $250 per hour but that doesn't get us to the review of the college list.)

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Replies to: Hiring Admission Counselor

  • SybyllaSybylla 3562 replies40 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 7
    If you are up to paying $4600 for a hand holding, are you really going to get FA? Maybe you should do your own groundwork on how FA works first, this is the place to start.
    What are his stats, URM? Athlete? have you got any idea of your FAFSA EFC? Have you tried any NPCs at generous schools that your student might apply to? WHere are you located, do you have any complicated factors such as divorce, residency, citizenship, etc issues.
    Is there any particular reason tho think you cannot handle what most parents do every year, and is there any reason to think your student needs a list crafting for him? And he is a senior? This hasn't come up before now?
    edited August 7
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  • DiggityFDiggityF 1 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    Sybylla, we have been working on all of this for many months. His guidance counselor is not that helpful and as we tour more and more schools -- all in NY/New England where we live -- we went seeking advice if we were out of our league with the 'attractive' schools with high grad rates and low acceptance rates. His grades and SAT/ACT are excellent. He has good extracurricular too but not athletics to speak of. It's trying to get a real assessment of how he compares and a 'reality check.'

    I have gotten an EFC of $16K and done some net price calculators, which vary widely. Nothing really complicating things like divorce etc. We just want to get this right and not have to have him change schools. Is 5% of a college education worth spending now to get it right?
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  • Wje9164beWje9164be 1303 replies8 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think it depends on what kind of colleges your son is targeting. We paid for one on one ACT tutoring and she got a 36 on the ACT. Maybe D could have achieved the same thing without spending $3K but regardless, I'm happy with the outcome 5 years later. If you are applying to the very top liberal arts colleges or Ivy League schools and you have the discretionary income $4,600 is about the going rate for one on one admissions counseling. Very, very few public school guidance counselors are really equipped to help students get into top colleges. In the context of an education that might cost $280K, $4,600 is not a silly amount of money. We visited 20 colleges, did a ton of research and I ended up writing a book. The area where I feel an admissions consultant can be most helpful is in picking the right college and in reviewing essays and the overall application to help your son make the right choice. If he is instead applying primarily to state schools with fairly high admissions rates the argument is less compelling. Once you have a basic understanding of how financial aid works most of the information about merit aid and scholarships is readily available public domain information. One common problem many families have is that we simply do not know that much about many, many excellent colleges. There were a number of colleges that we only learned about in the course of research that many families simply would not be aware of
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  • helpingmom40helpingmom40 7 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    We are using one for DD, a rising senior, and have been working with them for over a year. She is an above average student (4.0 UW, all 5s on AP tests, 1460 SAT) looking at highly selective schools. Our cost is a bit less, $3600 range. I couldn’t be happier! I am a big planner and researcher but I didn’t want to be the nagging taskmaster and I wanted her to own her own search.

    The company has helped with compiling the list of schools to visit, a timeline, pre-FA analysis, and we have attended workshops for essay brainstorming and one for the Common App just yesterday. We have consistently been about 4-6 months ahead of where the school is during the planning process. Long story short, essay will be totally done before school starts, applications for 10 schools are on track to be completed mid-September, all schools have already been visited twice including interviews. They promise to help reviewing acceptances and FA offers to reassure DD she is making the right decision.
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  • sushirittosushiritto 3671 replies9 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 7
    FWIW, that's roughly the going rate +/- around here in my neck of the woods. And most of the top (names get bandied about) private college counselors and companies have full rosters and are not taking any more clients until their freshman clients become sophomores and seniors roll off to college. Many counselors require locking in their rosters freshman year of HS. Tough luck to sophomores and juniors.
    edited August 7
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  • Driverof3Driverof3 16 replies2 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited August 7
    We're using one for our daughter, who will be a senior this fall. We engaged her during D's junior year but our compressive package cost was more in line with what @helpingmom40 said, about $1000 less than your quote. The consultant has a Senior Package that's $2,800 that includes reviewing the list, essay feedback, and application help for up to 12 schools as well as other guidance. Your package seems a bit on the pricey side but it may just be regional differences or perhaps there's a bit more involved with financial aid application with your consultant. Edited to add that we most likely aren't applying for financial aid so ours won't really be offering any services in that area. But if she can help you navigate financial aid or get better offers or even find scholarships for your son then it seems like spread over the course of 4 years the cost of her services is worth it, especially knowing that he's found a school that he loves.

    We've been happy so far. We had done most of the research ourselves and developed our own list but she reviewed the list and gave feedback about each school that offered a different perspective. She also helped us stop looking for other schools when D had found 9 or 10 that she liked and had developed a good list. Otherwise I'd probably continue to research schools; I think it's fun! But it was time for D move on to other things and the consultant is keeping her on track. The main reason we decided to spend the money was exactly what @helpingmom40 said: I didn't want to be the nagging taskmaster.

    The counselor will have weekly checkins by text or email and biweekly in-person meetings scheduled, plus D can meet with her more often or email her with questions in between meetings if she wants. I like that someone else will keep her on schedule and give feedback about the essays as well as interview help. D is also preparing arts supplements so she'll review those. Our D isn't in a traditional school so doesn't have a GC, and she's aiming for some selective and highly selective LACs, so I was willing to spend the money to have someone else assist with the process. I believe we could do all of this ourselves but the resources she's providing, the benefits of saving time, and having an objective person offering feedback will hopefully be worth the money.

    The only thing I'd add is to check whether this person or company has good reviews in your community or if anyone you know (or who they know) has used the service. Ours was recommended by a friend of a friend, and several other acquaintances have used her. She also lives in our community, so it helps that she has a sense of what other students in our area are doing and where they are going because we don't have Naviance or a GC to give us that perspective.
    edited August 7
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  • mom2andmom2and 2792 replies19 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    The reality is that no counselor is going to really change the less than 10% admission rate at top schools. There is so much information online now that allows you to really get a good sense of a student's chances. Does your school have naviance? That is very helpful. Does your son have an english teacher he can get to help edit the essay? Is he motivated to do his applications.? I personally did not spend $4600 on a college coach but that did mean I did a lot of research.
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  • PepperJoPepperJo 281 replies10 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited August 7
    Google Sara Harberson/Application Nation. Closest thing to a private counseling service for $69 a month. Seriously.
    edited August 7
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  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 1207 replies24 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    IMO, you are late in the game to pay lots of money for a private counselor. I would do the hourly option and maybe spend 3 or 4 hours with her to help with essays and target colleges. We started using a private counselor the summer before junior year and it helped D20 with developing the appropriate ECs and best class schedule for junior and senior years to be able to effectively "package her".

    In addition, the counselor helped with testing D for both the ACT and SAT to see which one she would likely do better on and then we spent money on an ACT tutor. She went from 26 on practice tests, to 32 and will take it one more time this Sept. The good private counselors (recommended by friends and family who have used her services with great results) are definitely worth the money IMHO. Lastly, D's HS counselors do not have the skill set or time to devote to 400 graduating seniors each year and you kinda get what you pay for (which is free advice).

    Again, in your situation with a rising senior, I personally would not spend 4K. It's wasted money. Do the hourly and maybe spend 1K total. Good luck!
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 3680 replies16 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I love spending other people's money. But if your son doesn't have the grades and Sat /Act scores it could all be for not.
    No one can get your child into any school (forget the news reports of USC). Only your kid can. You will only hear about the students she helped get into X school but not the students that she didn't.
    If I am spending money it would be for the Sat /Act scores for a tutor.
    I bet if you state your kids relevant information the people here would get 90% of the schools for your list.
    A good friend of ours is a high school counselor but also does college counseling at a very ritzy high school with very wealthy parents targeting very selective schools on the side. She met with my son who is at a known engineering college and my daughter at a small Lac. Nothing she told us was earth shattering but we did a lot of the research before hand. She did do a read of their essays and only made some basic suggestions.
    Her suggestions of schools were almost identical to our lists for both of them. She did have some insight of some schools but more like "don't get your hope up for X schools."
    If he had good grades he can most likely craft an essay. We did use our friend to help select the topic but it only confirmed what he thought to use anyway.
    Most applications are very basic and if you look at the essay topics you will see a pattern in the questions.
    So.. Maybe have her or someone do a read through of the essay with a short discussion on how to frame it.
    Maybe look at one college app online or the common application so you can see what it entails and decide if your son really needs that much hand holding. Maybe she can be helpful in answering some questions as they arise.
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  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 1207 replies24 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    “No one can get your child into any school. Only your kid can.”

    Yes and no. Of course you need to have the grades and test scores but a lot of kids have those. What I believe that great private counselors possess is invaluable insight into certain colleges and tailor each individual applicants to show case their strengths. I know “packaging” is not a word most like to hear but I have seen it work well. No one on CC has a student’s full high school transcript and has actually interviewed and met with the applicant over multiple sessions nor do they know the local high school curriculum, faculty and college applications successes at that specific high school. With all do respect, CC does not have that insight and will not do better than a real private college counselor that does this for a living 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. With that said, buyer beware when choosing a reputable college counselor as some are much better than others.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5487 replies10 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    DS attended a BS that had excellent college counseling, so we paid for ours as part of tuition. She was really helpful on so many fronts. It helped DS to have someone who wasn't a parent to talk through preferences, someone who had read thousands of essays to send him back to the drawing board to come up with something else, someone who could connect him with current students so he could visit schools overnight if they didn't offer that to prospective students, and someone who understood who he was as a student and a person in the context of his peers.

    She put some great schools on his list, and she knew people in all the admissions offices so understood what those schools were prioritizing (i.e., test policy changed with goal of xyz...) It helped my son to not have his well-meaning (but out of date and not in this world) parents involved, and it also helped our marriage to not be debating his strategy when frankly, neither us knew for sure.

    Who knows if he would have had the same results without her help. If you feel like you need help with the process and that this person can help, it could be worthwhile. There is a ton of information out there, but little of it comes with the insight someone who has seen thousands of apps and who knows the admissions offices has. I don't see an issue with doing it at this point -- your kid made his choices authentically up to this point and the CC can help him translate that into a good option for the next 4 years.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9017 replies489 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 8
    For my D, we used an hourly private advisor who charged $250. Think we spent about $1k total. Most others charged in the $5k range for a full package. I’m still not sure it was the best use of money and wish I’d simply paid for assistance in helping my D complete the common app. For my S, we used myself, because I knew so much by then that I didn’t need help beyond posting here on CC.

    I would not pay for the full package at this stage. Pay for a few sessions as needed. Try reading this old chestnut from CC, which has helped a lot of people. It’s just as relevant now, because acceptance rates keep getting lower: https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/1878059-truthful-advice-about-getting-into-top-colleges-for-your-average-excellent-student-p1.html
    edited August 8
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6619 replies39 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    If FA is a big part of what you need for college, I wouldn't waste $4600K on a private counselor. I'm also in the camp that you are way late to the game to be paying for full services. If you want outside help, hire her by the hour. The common app already opened and your student should already be working on the essay.
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 3680 replies16 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    @Lindagaf. Excellent! It's amazing what you learn when you go through this process.
    The one piece of advice that my college counsler friend gave us that was worth its weight in gold was to have safeties to your safeties. She is seeing kids not getting into their matches for almost the first time, in the last 3 years.
    I am not disagreeing with someone if they think it's worth hiring someone. For us, hiring an ACT tutor made more sense. I just think educating yourself first makes more sense to me. Our friend was willing to help our kids and be more involved with essays, the applications etc because we knew her. She's very sweet. Both my kids rejected this except for our one meeting at lunch and one read through of the essay since they didn't feel the worth of it. It actually made them feel uncomfortable and both are very capable. We just reread the applications "before" they hit the sent button. Yes, little mistakes do happen no matter how many times they told us the application was perfect.
    Yes, having to deal with us and not someone else was most likely more stressful then it needed to be. I advise my friends with kids going through the process now, not to make the mistakes we did
    Then.... We went out with really good friends a few weeks ago. They are in the process. The mother tells us she thinks her daughter will get into John Hopkins and it will be a good fit for her. The daughter has the credentials and she's lovely . So I asked my friend, "well once your daughter pulls the miracle, how are you going to pay for it?" She replies "she will get scholarships"
    We gave her our friends number right away... Lol I rattled off some stats and information about the school and she was like "Oh".
    For us a very detailed spreadsheet was extremely helpful.
    .
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  • gpo613gpo613 311 replies21 postsRegistered User Member
    If you or your child have your heart set on getting into a top 10 or top 20 school then it might be worth it. A counselor can help 'package' your child's application to get the best results.

    Other than that I don't think $4600 is worth it. My D who will be a freshman in a week is looking into some j-term or summer abroad programs. $4600 would be handy to help pay for that.

    Remember there is tons of information for free on the net.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 28768 replies56 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Personally, I think private college Admissions counselors are going to be de rigueur for those who can scrape up the money. Just as test prep is these days. For parents who don’t know much about college admissions and want their kids to spread a wide Net, taking in all the info is like taking a sip from a fire hose. High school counselors are often spread too thin and have other things more pressing to do. At a public school I know, there are 400 kids assigned to each GC and they are responsible for things other than college admissions.

    Also things change so quickly these days that one has to stay on top of it all. Kids who have their Senior year activities with hormones all a-popping, stressed out, and having to get those apps out, certainly can do with a cooler head, paid college counselor focused on the process
    So, yes, if you can afford it, it’s nice to have.

    But as with service you hire to do something for you, it’s ultimately YOUR ( you and your plural for parents and student) responsibly to know what’s going on. Don’t expect that counselor regardless of what the fee is, to be the be all end all , in tagging all of the bases. You and your kid know certain things-about your finances, preferences, how the high school works better than any outsider is likely to know. They miss things too. They should be s supplement to the research you are doing, not taking place of it.
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  • gpo613gpo613 311 replies21 postsRegistered User Member
    One more thing I would add. Starting with a counselor the Summer before senior year is almost too late. At that point said person can help present your student in the best light, but making major strides toward getting into certain colleges aren't going to happen. The counselor won't be able to turn back the clock and change the classes the student took for 3 years to ones that would be better. You might get one last shot at upping the ACT or SAT score. The counselor can't steer you the best ECs and make sure the student gets a leadership position.

    The work for college starts freshman year especially if you want to get into an elite school. And sometimes even before that. Counselors coming in late to the game can't make miracles happen. They can guide you in the process and sometimes be a go between you and the student. Let's face it we all enjoy telling teenagers to do stuff, not.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33094 replies358 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    With an EFC of 16k, assuming you did it correctly and are not self employed, 4600 is a big chunk of your income.

    Kids don't need to start in freshman year, for an elite. (Good grades, sure, but the harder work comes later.) Sometimes, I think folks miss the easier parts and make this so burdensome in their minds that they think they need expensive support. And over the years, I've decided that "expensive" or whom else they "helped" doesn't necessarily mean that counselor knows the ins and outs.

    Imo, a good counselor helps id reasonable targets (which may not be those "dream" colleges,) which should be early in the process, once scores are in and a kid has settled into ECs, to let the ideas sink in and the kid and family have a look. They don't over-promise success with tippy top admits, do offer strategy and essay *feedback,* NOT crafting. And the family needs to understand the targets, too, what they want.
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  • helpingmom40helpingmom40 7 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    One other thought I had when reading some of the replies is it is about the high school your child is attending. Our DD is comfortably in the top 10% of her class but when her school publishes the list of colleges being attended by graduating seniors, we are underwhelmed. Not to sound snobby or anything but her goals are a bit loftier than a state school or mediocre local private college and it seems that our guidance department does a great job of funneling kids to the same 8-10 schools every year. In our area are a ton of private high schools and other top schools that send students to much better colleges and we felt our daughter deserved the chance to go to a better school too. If the GC is busy with too many students or students with disciplinary issues, or family issues, they just don’t have the time to help students who don’t need “help”. We feel hiring a private counselor was in her best interest because they knew how to identify schools where merit aid would be available and she would have the kind of experience she was looking for.

    As a side note, we have a list of 10 schools she will be applying to and according to Naviance, maybe 6 students have applied to any of them in the last 10 years from her high school. If you are looking for anything other than what EVERYONE does, it is comforting to have someone with knowledge and experience helping you to navigate the journey.
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