Have you used a private admission consultant, if so what is your experience?

Returning to topic after the (hopefully soon removed) commercial break, actually @Coloradomama , neuroscience, and close cousins, are not as new a major as you’d think. While agreed, the field is burgeoning, its precursor, biopsychology was a major for decades.

The username was the obvious tip.

The least expensive is DIY.

But this thread seems to trend to getting a perceived edge.

I think there is plenty of potential left, but the real issue is that ppl in the know ain’t talkin. This is a weakness inherent to any public forum and shows the limits of CC. Ironically, that’s why private counselors exist: access to information that ppl won’t give away for free on the Internet.

As it relates to the topic of this thread…

“Have you used a private admission consultant, if so what is your experience?”

If we’ve deviated off topic at all, it happened because there a relevant point arose, i.e., applying STEM at the advice of a private counselor who might have the background to realize that there are some schools (some, not all) where this could be an advantage (the “experience” part). No one has implied that a student should PRETEND to be interested in STEM to gain an advantage in the admissions process (although it does happen), but at 17 years old there are plenty of students that don’t know exactly what they want to study or be when they grow up, so if a student has an interest in a STEM subject area, it might behoove them to indicate this interest on their application.

Just like all colleges are not equal, neither are all private counselors. Some are helpful and “worth it”, and some are not. Depends on some combination of what they are able to offer their client offset by how much they charge.

@lookingforward I think everyone knows DIY is the least expensive. But, no pun intended with it being tax day, it’s also less expensive to do your own taxes, but many people pay someone to do that because they have more knowledge in the area. It’s cheaper to change your own oil in your car, clean your own house, mow your own lawn. Everyone has to decide for themselves what is worth it and the opportunity cost involved in making decisions on what to spend money on. Sometimes paying a small fee to someone who has more expertise in an area will more than pay for itself, i.e., knowing what schools give a lot of merit aid, or knowing about a new tax law that might entitle someone to more of a refund. It’s kind of like buying a vowel on the Wheel of Fortune.

As with anything else, it just comes down to everyone’s personal needs and wants.

Not sure what the purpose of the “…(hopefully soon removed) commercial break…” were @jym626 but there are more polite ways to get your point across. Most people on these threads have good intentions and try to help each other out…if you feel like a thread has deviated off topic or worse, that someone is trying to use these dialogs for personal financial gain, there is a more respectful way to handle it and not set a negative tone. And in defense of myself and the other private counselors that might use CC, we are typically on the boards because of our passion for the subject matter and to learn new things ourselves to help our clients…many of whom we don’t even charge for our services because we also do a lot of pro bono work.

You may have missed a deleted overnight post from someone including the name of her consulting business and then just saying she wanted to point out that there are less expensive options. My post and another’s refer to that.

“it might behoove them to indicate this interest on their application.”

Show, not just tell.

I’m not opposed to private counselors. What I object to is the limitless promises some of the heaviest self promoters put forth and the claims they make to have insider experience. In some cases, the “expert” names bandied about have been out of the actual adcom environment for quite some time.

…if they were ever truly in it, in positions of responsibility and decision-making.


Eh, what exactly is a small fee? Asking for a friend…
To continue your tax preparer analogy, you can get help from Jackson-Hewitt inside a Walmart, or you can pay millions of dollars to a white-shoe law firm with expertise in the relevant areas of the Code*. All depends on your needs and situation, your ability and willingness to pay. The same goes for private counselors. People were blanching early in this thread at fees of 5-10K. Then 25K was thrown out as some sort of possible upper limit. This is just getting started. A little searching will show there are counselors charging a million bucks. And that’s before you get into the Chinese and Korean markets. You can be pretty sure that the people paying these fees are not looking for “oil change” advice on merit scholarships or whether to major in STEM. Different market, different concerns.

As to why these markets exist, imagine how many people have $100 million or more, and would part with less than 1% of their net worth to improve DC’s chances, however marginally. This quantity also drives “the number” required by development offices to buy your way in. In fact, one potential area where a high-dollar counselor could perhaps provide advice is in figuring out a proper philanthropy strategy.

  • I should clarify that I don't believe the differences in expertise between cheap and expensive college counselors are anything like the differences between Walmart tax preparation and the white-shoe law firm, even though the price disparity for services rendered may be similar.

@keiekei we are totally on the same page…I will private message you about my understanding of fees.

I said way back that I think the really ridiculously priced ones are not worth it…

@lookingforward I did miss a post, so thanks for pointing that out.

Any counselor that promises a client a top tier school isn’t worth hiring. No one can promise that. Instead, a good counselor should be able to help the hell-bent on Ivy student and their parents that there are lots and lots of great options that are not Ivy or the like and convince them to give up a little on the “prestige” factor so that they can more objectively search for the right school. There are lots of great ones out there. My own daughter is currently turning down an Ivy (not Cornell) for a less “elite” school…

We used a very private consultant for our elder daughter and it was a very helpful. This lovely woman works as a college counselor for a catholic girls high school during the school year and in the summer does consulting. She is very affordable (she charged us $100 for a two hour consult plus follow up emails). She was able to direct our daughter to the schools that would offer merit aid and how much aid would be offered ($100K from each of the 5 schools she applied to). I’ve heard from other parents in our area that most consultants are quite expensive ($1250 or more). Our daughter chose an out of state school that offered her a generous scholarship but after a year she transferred to the UW where she is not only much happier, academically challenged, has a highly sought after internship and is writing for two news outlets.

“DIY can achieve a lot and there seems to be consensus on CC that DIY is preferred over hiring private consultants, but how do you actually get honest assessment and good advice without consultants?”

We went the DIY route. I asked some older moms who had great kids that landed good scholarships at good schools for guidance. They told me they read the book “Admission Matters.” For someone who was clueless about the current college landscape when the time drew close for our kid to apply, “Admission Matters” was a helpful crash course. It helped demystify the process. I didn’t rely entirely on it, of course, but it did cover a lot from how to select colleges to how to apply to how to navigate financial aid. I made sure to get the latest edition because things change from year to year. We ended up with good results for our kids.

@collegemomjam - there was a blatant ad in the post above my comment in #234 that is now gone. You apparently missed it and therefore misinterpreted my comment, responding with your retort. @lookingforward saw the blatant ad (complete with email address/link to their website) and her response indicates so. Advertising is not allowed on cc. Given the blatant tr0lling for clients that the advertiser was doing, my post was extremely polite! And it wasnt to you. I was returning to topic and responding to your neuroscience comment.

@jym626 thanks, yes I apparently missed the post that was deleted! Now it all makes sense!!! Thanks for clarifying.

@dragonmom3 What did your kids think about UCB and Vanderbilt? Mine needs to chose between the two.

@AS2017 Money aside, Vandy wins hands down.
Campus, surrounding city, class size, career services, balance of work and fun…
Our experience is that UCB for undergrad is vastly over-rated.
Many people disagree, but a good number of those have never even set foot on the campus…

@AS2017 I don’t know much about either school, but isn’t one pretty liberal and the other pretty conservative? They both have fabulous reputations and so much to offer, but it might come down to “fit”. Academically, I don’t think you could go wrong with either one.

I’m not a Cal alumnus, but many of my friends and relatives are. All loved it. One of them is currently a sophomore and loves it as well. He plays a D1 sport and we’re on the campus all the time during his season. And we have dinner out after his games. World class restaurants. I also have another relative who graduated Columbia and lived in NY for many years, but bought a home and moved his family to Berkeley. His wife, a native NY’er, love Berkeley. A wonderful campus built in to the hills, but not without its faults.

I have not been to Vandy, but hear it’s wonderful too. Being from CA, the whole Southern feel might be a turnoff for some as I understand it.

Vanderbilt may be “less liberal” but is certainly not conservative.
Maybe a little more civilized, though.
Milo spoke on campus, for example, to and there was no blood or tear gas-just a few chanting protesters.
My niece claims there were plenty of tears on election night, and conservatives in general lay low.

For my kids, the change in perspective they gained from the out of region experience was well worth any initial discomfort-weather as well as culture related.
Most kids and families tend to stick with the familiar.
It really depends on the individual.

We hired someone to work with my D on her common app essay, and paid about $1000. When we finally saw the essay – parents weren’t allowed to until the student and consultant thought it was done – it was clear that the help had been worth it. The essay passed the backpack test (if someone found a backpack on the street with this essay in it and no name attached, would they know who wrote it) in spades; I don’t think another kid on the planet could have written it, it was so specific to her. Some magic was worked in helping my D to summon those thoughts and connections and get them on paper.

@hs2015 that sounds great. I think some essay people are fabulous, for exactly the reasons you mention. But some are not…I know of one girl that hired an essay person that cost about $300 per hour and the parents were NOT happy because the essay didn’t sound like her at the end. And, not sure if this is a coincidence or not, but she changed her essay mid-application cycle and did better with the old essay than the new (as best as we could compare apples to apples). So definitely do your research and ask around. Save the name of your essay person because he/she sounds wonderful.

Just to give more details, the essay was on why she wanted to be a biomedical engineering major. The new essay was just very dry and had too much “science” in it. So it was probably well thought out and logical, but it just wasn’t interesting. The first essay was much more personal and less technical, for what it’s worth.

Ha-ha, I worked with a PhD candidate this year whose essays were “too dry”, and I tried to get him to loosen up a bit. His revision had a bit more personality it in, but was definitely still his voice. :slight_smile: