Inner workings of the Prep School College Advising Office

@Happytimes2001 I can also understand international students wanting tailored guidance for their situation. And if they have the money, why not? I guess?

Now you have me wondering what the matriculation list would look like without outside consultants. I figured that the top students get in to top schools regardless. You only need one acceptance, so the multiple acceptances wouldn’t show up on the matriculation list.

The other pay to play angle is test prep. This year anyway there are fewer kids taking the class than I thought there would be. Like only half the class, and most are the top students. Everything going test optional makes the decision way more complicated.

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You figured correctly! (That is, yes! top students get into top schools no outside consultants necessary).


One of the only disappointments we’ve had is regarding financial aid and scholarships. The advising offices will generally have a session or two for parents focused on financial aid, how to apply, etc. They may have some references as to where to look for scholarships but that’s about it. The thing is - many of the top scholarships have application deadlines in October or November. At that time, kids are focused on their EA and ED applications and often standardized testing, as well. They aren’t thinking about scholarships when they haven’t even been accepted anywhere.

Many prep school kids will need financial assistance in order to attend college and many families are in that middle area where they make too much for financial aid but too little to be full pay. I think that the college advising offices should have specific scholarship meetings in the spring of junior year and fall of senior year where they discuss the top scholarships, application process, deadlines, etc.


There are consultants that focus on helping you find schools with strong merit aid. It seems silly to pay for consultant if you are looking for aid but for people who make too much for FA yet cannot afford to pay it could well make sense. Spending $3K on consultant to get 40K/year merit offer at a school you are happy to attend seems worthwhile. My older kid’s private had excellent financial aid assistance but not so much merit aid help which is what a ton of UMC parents are looking for. And while you can look up which schools are generous with merit in general, find some that match your child’s needs/interests may not be so easy. So there may be very good return on investment to spend a few thousand on a consultant here. For some families anyway.

My point is - regardless of whether private consultants are available - prep schools should offer timely information about scholarships for kids who want/need it.


There was a great thread on the big board last year by a guy named kevin something or other - he was a dad of a bs kid chasing merit. It mapped his daughter’s journey start to finish. None of it was through the bs college counseling office. Spoiler alert - it has a happy ending. But it was an enormous amount of work.

A total eye opener.


I think it’s really tough. There are so many scholarships that are very specific with regard to what the student is studying, what the qualifications are and if it’s based on income or purely merit. I don’t think that providing a list of programs would be helpful. They would also have multiple students competing for the same programs.
I do think it’s helpful that schools have kids writing essays based on the common app, creating a CV and all the rest. That way they can focus on the scholarships in the late Summer. IMO, it’s far too late in September when you have to fill out applications.

Yes that should definitely be an aspect of the consulting office. And they should be well versed in whatever forms, dates etc are on the calendar.

How much of that actually happens in a boarding school? At my older kid’s prep school, they would have a couple of meetings on this, and then essay writing workshop at the very end of the junior spring term where they would do a first draft of a common app essay. But then they were expected to work on the applications over the summer, not just the common app but the supplemental essays as well. This was one big reason some families hired consultant, to avoid the parent to be the nagger and editor and brain stormer for the process. We did not but I admit there were certainly times I wish we had. We were up right against the deadline for a bunch of schools, and senior fall was a total misery as a result.
It is quite different this year as due to covid kids are less busy so have had more times for these things, but in normal times both junior spring and senior fall are just a whirlwind of activities so there was huge advantage for kids who were organized and got some of these things done on early side. Be it standardized testing, school visits, community service commitments or essay writing. Back in our year so many kids (including mine) were still doing it senior fall and it was ugly. They all survived but it was far from optimal. Particularly for the essays, most schools have some variation of “why our school” and at some point you are running out of steam and just start repurposing the same essays. And generally schools can tell and will WL or reject applicants who treat it as safety.

@417WHB - I had to laugh to myself when you mentioned “Back In our year…” when I applied to college in the 1970’s - there was no Common Application and I did each essay on a type writer - with white out. No auto-spell correct either. Not a IBM electric typewriter, either. White out and sometimes that white tape. No help from my immigrant parents who knew nothing about college applications, could not understand the applications, could not proof read - no help given to them either at my school - somehow we all did it on our own without help. This is not a political statement and please don’t attack me for what I wrote! Just memories of what it was like.


What you post is true, @Golfgr8. In my case, my HS BF needed a roommate for freshman winter term as hers left at the end of first semester. She begged me to come, but I was working in a bookstore and going to beauty school. She filled out everything but the essays on the 8x11" tri-fold app and sent it to me with a pathetic note pleading for me to write the essays and send it in. I didn’t have access to a typewriter, so I hand-wrote as small as I could into the two essay boxes on the form and found myself in college that January. Easy peasy.


I really like the approach Kings Academy (Jordan) takes with their Seniors. They return to school a few weeks early before Fall term begins. The Seniors spend this committed time to writing application essays and starting the application process all under the experienced eyes of the GC’s, English teachers and other professionals. Granted, many of the students are applying to college/university programs in different countries. I say we pack up our kids, send them back to their schools a few weeks early and have their respective boarding schools deal with this entire process!! (Yeh - that will go over well - but I kind of like this idea for selfish reasons :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:)


@Golfgr8 Sorry this was unclear but I meant the applications with my oldest (prep but not BS) kid in 2018. Not my own applications which were written by hand back in the stone age.

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Agree in normal times that kids are very busy. So that’s a silver lining. The BS sets it up so things are due every week. Keeps the parents off the kids back. I’m not sure if other kids are doing their CG homework. Mine is. Every couple of weeks I get an email update about what they spoke about and what was actually completed. I also have a calendar list by month of what is coming next. I’m sure the calendar list was made in “normal times” when kids had sports, Ecs and all the rest.
There is no way I’d wait on this. My kid doesn’t do well when there’s a short timeline so it would be a disaster and lots of stress that I wouldn’t deal with. Then again, there’s much less going on so my job is easier.
When you say older kids’ prep school, do you mean BS? I’m confused. If it were a day school and prep, I would not expect this type of guidance. One of my kids was in a school like that and I’d be doubtful they did as much hand holding as the BS. YMMV. Guess BS will vary as well.

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This is all very interesting for my future self.
Compared to BS application process, how much harder is the college app process? (meaning in terms of time overall – I realize that as a parent I will be far less involved.)

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@Calliemomofgirls for us, the college process was MUCH easier. Probably due to our BS’s CC office.


Much easier for us too. I think it’s because each BS application/set of essays was different. And we only applied to 2-3 boarding schools!

Agree with @buuzn03 - I am anticipating that our BS application experience will serve as a great dress rehearsal for college applications next year. My kiddo has already commented on that - not sweating it as much as friends back home who have never done such a process. Plus, our kids were younger when they applied to BS - they had to really reach up and dig deep. It built resilience in our kids that will serve them positively when applying to college IMHO. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

We did SAO only, so maybe my experience is not the same as someone applying to acronym schools. But the essays for D21 were much more time consuming this year than D25’s for BS. Longer, higher standard, sometimes less reusable. Plus many colleges are big on demonstrated interest, so if you are casting a wide net that’s a lot of Zooms or visits during normal times.

The list making is much tougher too. Just so many more choices, both in terms of number of choices and in types of options.

@Calliemomofgirls - I can already hear my Kiddo’s answer to your rhetorical question: “Much easier applying to college because I was not at home with my parents on my back”