A bit of stats. Before the pandemic, around 2.2 million kids of the 3 million high schools students who finished high school each year took the SAT, so around 73.3% of all high school students. The 70th percentile and up are 30% of that, or around 22% of all high schools students, and 26% of those is around 5.7% of all high school students.
However, that assumes that only kids who get in the top 30% are using college consultants. In fact, one would expect that students who score lower will be even more likely to use one.
More statistics. The average hourly fee for a consultant is $200, and the total is, on average, $5,000, in 2018, anyways.
Let us assume that, as usual, when people with means talk about “high school students”, they actually mean “high school students who are looking to attend college”. So about 2,000,000 a year. If 26% of them use college consultants, that is 17.3% of all students in the USA. Since at least 60% of the students come from families who cannot, or are not willing to pay $5,000, we can conclude that the majority of the families who pay consultants are from the top 40%, but more likely, the top 20% by income. Since half of the top 20% by income are not using consultants, there is no way that 17.3% of families are paying for a college consultant.
My rough, unsupported guess (based on what I have heard, and who I have spoken to) would be that about 15%-20% of the families in the top 20% by income are using college consultants, and most of these are in the top 5% by income. I would not be surprised if research demonstrated that 100% of the families in the top 1% by income are using the services of independent college consultants.
As fr the “study”? Looking at what is still available from the much larger Lipman Hearne study “The Super Investigator: Understanding Today’s ‘Always On’ Prospective Student,” I am extremely skeptical of anything that they claim. Their sample for that study was about as biased as can be. They concluded, based on a sample taken from students who were registered on Cappex, that prospective college students are doing a lot of research. It is like taking a sample of people on eHarmony, and concluding that the vast majority of young people are not interested in casual dating.
Since the good people at Lipman Hearne do not understand the first thing about sampling, and seem incapable of understanding GIGO, I do not trust their conclusions about anything else, and I will automatically assume that the reason that 26% of the students in their sample had used a consulting firm was because their sample was biased, meaning that they way that they sampled was biased towards students who were likely to use a consulting firm.