It’s no secret that applying to college and university programs can be stressful, confusing and very time consuming. If you (or your child) are preparing to apply to college, you’ve probably wondered if it’s worth talking to someone who can help you navigate the process. Especially since experts have stated that 2017 was the hardest year on record for applicants to get into elite colleges – thanks to increases in the number of applicants and heightened expectations of candidates.
Knowing that the acceptance rate at elite schools drops almost every year can be worrying. However, the good news is that there are experts who can help college hopefuls submit their strongest possible applications, thus increasing the likelihood that they’ll get into one of their preferred schools.
Many people find that having someone guide them through the college application process is extremely beneficial. This is especially true for the majority of parents, whom either have not applied to college in many years or have not attended college in this country at all. So whether you are applying from within the United States and want to make sure your application stands out, or you’re applying as an international student and need support to navigate the American application system, you can benefit from consulting a college counselor.
It’s worth noting that a college counselor can be an extremely valuable resource regardless of what type of institution you or your child want to study at, be it a community college or an Ivy League institution. The important thing is to choose someone who meets your specific needs.
Here are three key things to keep in mind when searching for a college counselor:
Number 1: Get help that’s relevant to you.
Not every college applicant needs the same kind of support. There are counselors who specialize in specific kinds of schools, for example, so you and your child should look for someone appropriate given the level of colleges that you want to apply to.
Elite admissions offices usually have different screening criteria from other schools, so if the goal is to get into an Ivy League school you’ll want to find someone who has experience with those kinds of applications. Similarly, if your target is a regional college, you don’t need a counselor with a background in admissions at a top college.
Number 2: Consider the services available to you.
Applicants sometimes make the mistake of thinking that the only part of their application they will need help with is their essays. While it’s true that application essays are important and worth getting assistance with, a strong college application is much more than a well-written composition.
In addition to getting guidance on the subject for and content of any application essays, the average student will need help with creating a college list, getting strong letters of recommendations, preparing for interviews and selecting extra-curricular activities for during the school year and the summer. Make sure that the counselor you choose can address all of those areas, paying special attention to any aspects of the application that you expect to have the most difficulty with.
Number 3: Don’t believe everything you read.
As with everything worth investing in, it’s generally a good idea to gather information about a prospective college counselor before you hire them. But when reading reviews and feedback online, it’s important to take the information with a grain of salt. As a reader, you have no knowledge of the reason why someone posted a review online, whether it’s good or bad.
A seemingly-authentic review could be from a counselor trying to boost their own business, from a competitor who feels threatened, or from an applicant who received excellent service but did not get into their dream college (which is, of course, ultimately out of the control of the counselor). Whenever possible, speak with the college counselor you are considering and have questions prepared whose answers can let you know whether they are a good fit with your family or not.
It’s true that applying to college can be difficult, but a good counselor can simplify the process and help you maximize your chances of acceptance. For many families, finding and working with the right college counselor is more than a worthwhile investment.