Of course, like everything, every student has different needs. It is not universally true that every high schooler undergoing the college application process needs to hire an admission “expert”. Granted, hardly any who call themselves such truly know much more than any guidebook could tell you. There is, however, one thing that is indisputable: all young people need advocates in their lives. Sadly, a common trend in education, private and public, alike, is that the high school guidance and college counseling departments are too overworked and underfunded to offer much more than one or two generic meetings to discuss the local and in-state university landscape. Not to mention, they all too often quickly dismiss certain universities as unrealistic and impossible for the student to gain admission. There have been very few instances that I can recall where I have said to someone that he/she can’t gain admission somewhere. It’s just not a good habit to practice. With the constantly changing state of the college admission process, you might want to look into hiring a private counselor if you meet any of the following criteria….
You might benefit from a private college admissions counselor if……
- You are not in the top ten percent of your high school class (the students who the school counselors ordinarily tend to focus on)
- Or, you are in the top ten percent of your class, academically, but have doubts about what you want or what might be a healthy fit for you.
- You’re seeking a less traditional academic path, in that you are a student looking to pursue athletics, theater, music or art at the university level.
- Your high school has a very poor record of college preparation and you believe that you are unique among your peers for wanting to pursue 4-year university immediately following high school graduation.
- You want to apply to out-of-state or in-state schools that your guidance office says are a “bad fit” or “out of your reach” or “not financially viable”.
- No one is helping direct you to potential options or many people are offering differing opinions on your future.
- You are a student-athlete and unsure of how to initiate conversations with college coaches.
- You need motivation and a lot of positive reinforcement during this very stressful process.
- You don’t want an all-out war in your house because of the intensity of the college search and application processes.
As for instances when, I believe, working with me has made a significant difference in a student’s life, there are many. Each different student has a different set of needs and recognizing this is the first of many steps. I have many students who had committed so much of their lives to athletics and were extremely talented, but did not want to focus on that in the college process even though it could be a tremendous benefit. They pursued that angle and it helped significantly. I had one student whose SAT test scores, combined for math and reading, totaled less than 800 but was accepted to the flagship campus of one of the top state systems in the country- a top 50 university. He got it because he really got to know the admission counselor for his region on a personal level and she helped become his advocate on the inside because she knew he would be successful once he got there. I have worked with students who had no support at home and those who had parents hovering above them at all hours. Both of these groups needed me to serve as an outlet.
Some need a mentor. Some, a teacher. For others they need a mediator or a counselor. I have been called a big brother and a father-figure, a disciplinarian and a friend. I have been rewarded, many times, with the first phone call once a student finds out that he/she has been accepted to their top-choice school.
But, like everything else in life, do your homework. Check references of the private counselor. Ask if you can meet with former/current students of theirs’. Ask as many questions as you can and be prepared for the extra time that a good consultant might ask you to put towards this process. Remember, we all need advocates in our life. In one form or another, paying for a mentor or a counselor is no different than paying the soccer coach who might end up as a role model or the tutor or the private music instructor. Just be aware of what you expect out of the process and make sure that the counselor you choose is on the same page as you are.