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Some College Counselors Are Better Than Others. Here’s How to Identify a Good One

The field of college admissions has been a topic of much discussion recently. As news stories from the past several weeks have shown, some people will go to extreme measures to get their children accepted into a particular school. I want to take this opportunity to clarify some misconceptions about college counseling services, and offer four tips for anyone seeking sincere admissions support.

Despite what recent headlines may have led you to believe, the college admissions counseling industry is legitimate. There are honest, trustworthy counselors all over the country, working hard to help students achieve their academic dreams. These counseling firms provide an invaluable service to families who need support navigating the often-confusing process of applying to college, and they are distinguishable from illegitimate companies if you know what to look for.

Here are four ways to tell that a college admissions counseling company is reputable:

1.They do not offer a guarantee of admissions.

Although it would be nice to know for sure that working with a college admissions counselor will guarantee a student’s admission to their preferred school – or any school for that matter – this is simply not realistic. No one can guarantee an offer of admission, and a reliable counselor knows this.

2. Their fees are consistent with those charged by other counselors.

As a general rule, families should be wary of any admissions counselors charging very much or very little for their services. The average counseling service in the United States will charge between $10,000 and $15,000 per student, for unlimited support throughout the entire application process. If a company charges much more than this, they are taking advantage of their clients. If they charge much less, it is likely because they do not have the expertise that most families are looking for.

3. They do not offer to falsify information in an application.

If an admissions counselor seems willing to falsify information in a student’s application at any point during your interaction with them, this should send up red flags. For example, if they offer to write a letter that portrays things about an applicant in a way that is not accurate, or if they suggest submitting documents that are otherwise untrue, they are not a dependable counselor. Bad counselors may rely on dishonesty to run their business, whereas good college counselors know how to present the truth in a favourable light, without deception.

4. They offer useful, unlimited guidance without compromising the integrity of an application.

This is arguably the most important thing to look for. A reliable, experienced counselor will offer unlimited and personalized support to the families they work with. They will not simply offer cookie cutter templates, and they will not put a cap on the amount of support a student can receive. Responsible counselors know that the amount of guidance a student will need varies widely depending on the individual, and that different parts of the application process may require more clarity for different people.

On the other hand, a reputable college counselor will not complete materials for a student. For example, they will not write an essay on a student’s behalf, or fill out the common application for them. Rather, they will guide students through each step of the process, offering as much or as little as support is needed to ensure that each applicant completes their application to the best of their ability. They will coach a student with attentive, individualized assistance, delivered with care and professionalism, instead of taking control or agency away from their clients.

Recruiting an admissions counselor to help with one of the most important processes in a student’s life can feel daunting, but it does not have to be. If you think college admissions counseling could benefit your family, do not be afraid to seek support. Every student deserves to attend their dream school, and an experienced counselor can help to make that dream a reality.


On paper, I am by no means a perfect student. However, thanks to my Application Positioning, I was able to maximize the strengths that I bring to a college to compensate for other factors. Thanks to The Ivy Dean Team, I will be attending Princeton University, my dream school, in the fall.

Douglas R. – Princeton University

Dee provided excellent advice and guidance throughout the application process. Her overall expertise in admissions, professionalism and warmth made the experience a great one. I was thrilled that I was accepted to several of the most selective colleges in the country and will be attending Stanford in the fall.”

Laurel P. – Stanford University
It's my pleasure to inform you that I've been admitted to my first choice college: the University of Southern California. My dream is becoming reality! I am thrilled to get the chance to belong to the USC and to start a new adventure there. It is also thanks to your great help that I've been accepted, I'm very grateful! Thank you so much for everything.
Sonia G. – From Switzerland
Our son and daughter wanted to go to colleges in the same city but they had different interests and different strengths. She matched them each with their ideal college, one Columbia University and the other NYU, and worked to get them admitted. We couldn't have been more pleased.
Niki and Roger S.
I was a serious student but also wanted a university where I could continue competitive cycling. There weren't many schools that met my needs and fit my personality. From her experience, she was able to hone right in on what became my first choice school. I graduated last year and the entire college experience was awesome.
Colin J.
My parents and I didn't know how helpful it could be to have someone who understood things from the inside working with us. Ms. Blackman was able to identify just what would make me the most attractive candidate to colleges.
Bob M. – Harvard University