Are private College Consultants worth using?

Hi, all. Does anyone have an opinion on whether private college consultants are a helpful service? We are looking at colleges for my S22 and D22, twins. We have some financial situations which motivated us to look into hiring a college financial consultant. I contacted one that was recommended to me. We are trying to decide whether to just hire them for the financial part, or also for two other services which are appealing–Career and Academic Assessment, and Admissions Management. We can use all the help we can get as we are newbies. I enjoy researching colleges to help my kids find one that is the right fit, but my kids are not that plugged into the process yet. The company works directly with the students, as well as the parents, through zoom at this point, so I’m hoping that would get my kids more invested in the process, instead of me nagging them.
The company has a College Planning portal online to help manage all the different steps of the process and comparison tools, etc They help with analyzing your personality, strengths and weaknesses; ascertaining your interests, desired majors, preferences for campus, etc. and then compiling a list of best colleges and programs for you. They help with “marketing yourself:” to the chosen colleges, and comprehensive essay assistance. For the financial piece, they help with maximizing your financial aid eligibility, completing and filing all FAFSA and CSS paperwork, finding appropriate scholarships, matching your financial needs with the right colleges, comparing merit aid, etc. They continue to help throughout all 4 years of college as needed, for re-filing FAFSA, career guidance, etc. My question to anyone who has gone through the whole college application process is whether these services would likely be helpful, or is the college process easily handled without expert help.

Hi Tiptoetulips,

We used a private college consultant because my daughter goes to a big overcrowded public school which provides zero help with college counseling. Our consultant doesnt offer the ‘financial’ part of the services you are talking about. She only helps out with college selection and provides feed backs on the essays.

Since we have been hands off on our kid’s education, we need someone to provide us with some direction and hence decided to go with a private consultant even though it was quite expensive.

I would suggest you interview at-least 5 consultants and make sure you (and your kids) are very comfortable with them before you sign the contract with them. Get enough references and talk to the references if possible.

Good Luck!

For all 4 years. No, not at all. Ask questions here and you will have good information. You can’t mold a designer student. We had 2 totally different students accepted to totally 2 different types of school. Are finances are different due to owning 2 companies/self employed.

Read as much as you can here and the web. Go from there. None of this is that hard once you get the hang of it.

That would be my starting point. Nobody can get your kid into a college. Your child can only do that.

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As with any profession, there are good, bad, and excellent practitioners.

Since you have received a recommendation from a trusted source and since you are unfamiliar with the process, it may just be a matter of affordability and personalities and philosophies.

@Knowsstuff The company we would be using does not focus on molding your child into a designer student or getting you into your dream school or the Ivy Leagues. It focuses on finding the right fit college for you and helping you through the process. That’s one thing I really like about it. Still, we would like help with getting into those “right fit” colleges.

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@norcalfre It’s good to hear from someone who has used a consultant and doesn’t regret it. Our public high school also does not offer much either, compared to private schools. The company we found is so far the only one in our area I’ve found that offers the financial component. It’s because one of the owners used to work as a financial consultant. It’s making it hard for me to interview other consultants because the financial part is the most important piece we want help with, at this point.

My kid went to BS and the CC at the school played this role. She was worth tuition! A good one can help you find schools that are fits and has seen hundreds, perhaps thousands (since many previously worked in admissions) of applications so has a practiced eye as to how the finished app hangs together.

Kids may open up more to a CC about their preferences. In our case, the CC was also the voice of wisdom when we parents weren’t sure or were misguided. DS really wanted us out of the process and really valued her experience. It also depends on what resources you have at your school, etc.

But this is an industry where anyone can hang out a shingle so you do want to choose carefully. There are probably a lot who can’t do more than a parent with a lot of time and energy for research. But in our experience, a really good one (in our case, on the school’s staff) can be very helpful.

First off… Like the Tiny Tim Reference… Lol.

For some families this might be the right approach but what I see this with parents that want to be hands off. I just don’t know how others makes decisions without learning about the process. You can Google month by month agendas for what to do. It’s out there. What you “might” want to do is after you find one have a consult. Maybe a consult once a year or twice a year till senior year is what you want? If you read about fafsa or css and can’t get it down then again a 2 hour consult might be all you need. Others will pay a large amount of money to be hand’s off. First decide what exactly you need I guess is what I am saying. Again, many here will answer your questions for free. I would start there and see what you really need.

I’m a big fan of private college consultants if the below is followed:

  1. one on one personal attention.

  2. they come highly recommended by families you know and you respect their opinion.

  3. the consultant charges by the hour and you can use them on an hourly basis as needed.

  4. you are looking to get into highly competitive colleges and/or looking for great financial aid.

We used D20’s private consultant starting her sophomore year and she had great insights into D’s college targets and how to use her background and ECs in the most effective way.

Being “packaged” is very helpful and the college consultants can help tailor your resume, ECs and essays for maximum effect.

Note: the student is 95% of whether or not they get into college but the good counselors can be that 5% that gets you over the edge.

There are a lot of mediocre consultants who are not worth the money but the great ones are worth their weight in gold.

We used one for D20 and it was the best decision we ever made. Things are so different than when we applied as students and we needed some guidance. Our high school sent kids to the same handful of schools every year and our D just wanted “more”. The company we used sounds like it offers a similar service to the one recommended to you - personality assessment, career assessment, essay planning and assistance, financial aid review and a mix of individual meetings, webinars, and group workshops - but the biggest help was setting the timeline! It wasn’t me nagging to work on essays or ask teachers for recommendations or submit applications. They helped craft a list of schools based on her interests and abilities and made additional suggestions or modifications based on feedback after visits. It made a stressful and intimidating process go much smoother than trying to go it alone and we were all very pleased with the final outcome in terms of attending the right school at the right price.


Just another angle on this. I had a S17 who I did not even consider hiring a private counselor. My D21 was a different story. We generally have a good relationship but she is stubborn and we often but heads. She is very accomplished and intelligent but quiet. She has some anxiety and loses confidence in certain situations. I hired a counselor to help her feel supported through the processes and to make sure someone else was pushing her to stay on task and get the work done on time. We paid for 10 hours and it was worth every Penny! The CC helped my D21 move confidently through the process, keep her on track with her CA, did mock interviews and interview prep and suggested schools that she never would have looked at on her own. She helped her edit the essays. She also educated and supported me as my daughter married her college list and chose ED/EA schools.

We chose this CC after talking with 3 who were recommended. I suggest making sure they are certified educational consultants. There is a national certifying body. And I agree make sure you pay by the hour- ours required a commitment to a certain number of sessions but was much less costly then the others that had one set fee.

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Many years ago, we briefly retained a certified educational consultant for prep school & boarding school consideration. Had all the credentials & more. Very expensive. Very well known nationally. Was not worth our time or money. Like him personally. And he was & is hired by many prep schools as a consultant with respect to running private schools.

Not a fan of certifications. Prefer someone who is passionate about college consulting such as the adult posters on CC. Not that certifications are bad, just not necessary & not necessarily an indication of quality.

But, it really depends upon what one needs, wants, and expects from a professional college consultant that matters.

I hate–absolutely hate–polished essays. Too sterile, too fake, too manufactured.

We didn’t use a CC for S18 nor are we using one for S21, but I will say this feels like a part time job. It’s a lot of work and there are a lot of nuances to these applications.

We are not using one, BUT…our private school has very in-depth and one-on-one college counseling that starts early in HS. Many of the counselors have experience in admissions’ offices. They each have a few dozen kids or less. So–all of the things mentioned above we have. Plus the school does group college-app sessions for the kids during the school year and in the summer, with a variety of college deans and AOs who come, and even do mock interviews. If we did not have any of this, we would likely consider hiring someone.

Yep, we are not using one either, but it has taken hours of my time for a couple of months now. We get no help/guidance from our large public, underfunded school. If I did not have that time, I would definitely have hired a consultant.

I feel sorry for my daughter’s friends who do not have consultants and whose parents are hands-off. They are flailing.

For my eldest, I hired a private college consultant for several hour long sessions, maybe 4-5 total. I interviewed several and most wanted to charge for very expensive packages, which we didn’t need. We already knew quite a lot when we started, mostly because I spent a lot of time on this website.

My D used to be very shy. I wanted someone who could help her with college interviews, and that was useful. The consultant actually knew quite a bit about the two final colleges my daughter had to choose between, and in fact encouraged my daughter to apply to both. They had a whole hour long session devoted to the activities section of the app, and that was money well spent. I guess I don’t regret spending the money, but I also am not convinced we needed it.

Our counselor also provided no assistance with any financial aspects and in fact was clear that she wasn’t able to do that. She gave useful tidbits of info about merit aid. I recommend The Financial Aid Handbook, which was very useful. I would be sure to ask how much they can help with that aspect.

With my son, we needed no outside help. I knew how to guide him through this process. A private counselor would have been a total waste of money for him.

The OP’s counselor sounds more like a financial advisor than a normal college counselor. I wonder how helpful that type of advice is? The forms is not that difficult. For some schools (UChicago?) it may be possible to make yourself look poorer for financial aid, but you have to first get into the school. That move could hurt if you actually go somewhere else.

The main benefit of hiring a college counselor is having a knowledgeable person with whom to speak about your specific situation.

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@Publisher to be clear - her essay was not ‘polished’ it was 100 percent her but it was great to have someone proof read not only the essays but also her CA and other apps as well as help her work through the process of her essay topic. We have very little help at our public high school for that.
My point of my comments was it is situational- some kids and families benefit while others are fine on their own. Would have been a waste of money for my other child as he literally wrote his essay in 15 minutes and had a very clear path he was taking for college and was easier for me to give advice to. While certified she was not one of the ‘name’ people who charge thousands for their service.

@whyboydanny: My comment regarding polished essays was not directed to you; it was just a general statement in the context of this thread.

I dislike polished essays because I feel that I am being lied to; I feel uncertain as to who is communicating with me. In short, highly polished essays often take away the writer’s voice.

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