Do I need a private college counselor?

October 23, 2006 at 4:22 pm Leave a comment

Posted by Dee

I struggled with this question myself beginning at the very start of high school. At first, I was sure that I needed a private college counselor, but by senior year I never got around to finding one. Overall, college admissions turned out fine for me, but I can’t help going back to this question, wondering if I had hired a private counselor, would things have turned out differently. Better? Or worse?

I think there are several issues you need to keep in mind when deciding if you need a college counselor, and ultimately when you do get one.

First, private college counselors are not inexpensive. As it is, college admissions is a pretty expensive game — from College Board fees to application fees to test prep books, etc. Seeking out a private college counselor is a serious purchase to be considered.

Second, how confused are you about the college admissions process and what resources are available to you at school? Most high schools I know of, both public and private, have some sort of college center that students can go to for college admissions resources. Unfortunately, most of these college centers are serving tons of other students. According to the National Institute for Educational Planning based in California, the “school counselor to student ratio is still 1:500 and up.” If you need more individualized attention, you should more heavily consider getting a private college counselor.

There are really a few ways in which you can use the services of a private college counselor. First, you may seek out a counselor more for consultation purposes; when you have particular questions, you call them up or meet with them. Or, you may seek out a counselor for more comprehensive purposes; they really do accompany you throughout the majority of the college admissions process meeting with you regularly starting from as early as freshman or sophomore year.

Once you decide what type of counseling services you want, be careful in actually choosing your college counselor. First, discuss your goals with the counselor and be sure they have the right experience to help you see those college goals through. Definitely inquire about their credentials and educational background as well as their experience in private college counseling. Also, ask about where their previous students have been admitted to. Is it similar to what you’re aiming for? Definitely talk to other students or family friends for recommendations on private college counselors they’ve used or know of. Don’t rush into a decision on which counselor to use; take your time because this is an important decision that will indeed influence how college admissions go for you.

When working with the private college counselor, definitely make sure you are making good use of your time with them. When you have a question, don’t just assume you’ll remember it for your meeting with the counselor five days from now. Write it down! Keep a notebook with their advice for you. Also, in terms of time efficiency, often college counselors will give you assignments to keep you in sync with the admissions process. For example, they may ask you to prepare a rough draft of an essay for your next meeting. Do the work! Yes, we know you have academics and extracurriculars to be on top of, but make sure you are doing the counselor’s assignments as well, otherwise you’ll waste the valuable time you have together. A good friend of mine who hired a private college counselor would always put off doing the counselor’s assignments and not only was she more stressed about completing every aspect of the application on time, but she also had to continuously feel bad about wasting her counselor’s time and, essentially, her family’s money, because meetings were not used as effectively as they could’ve been.

Don’t let a college counselor screw with your goals. Sometimes college counselors judge their own success by how many colleges their students were accepted to, or by the ratio of acceptances to total applications. This means that some college counselors may encourage you to lower your goals, and apply to colleges that are easier to get into so that they can boast about how “successful” they were in getting you into 100% of the schools you applied to. Don’t let them do this to you! Do be realistic of course, but be smart about looking into grade and standardized testing averages for the schools you want to go to. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re dumber than you are or that you won’t get into top schools.

Overall, college counselors are pretty good for keeping you motivated to staying on track with the admissions process. Do make sure that despite any timelines your particular private counselor uses that you are adhering to your high school’s deadlines as well, for submitting transcript or teacher recommendation requests for example.

If you have a story or other advice to share about private college counselors, leave a comment!

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Entry filed under: Academics, Accepted, Admissions, Application, College Board, College trends, Colleges/Universities, Counselor, Deadline, Education, Essays, Extracurricular activities, Grades, High school, Money, Motivation, Organization, Procrastination, Public schools, Recommendations, Teacher, Testing, Timing, Tips/Tricks, Writing.

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