5 Questions You Should Ask College Admissions Counselors

5 Questions You Should Ask College Admissions Counselors

Neil Chyten is Founder and CEO of NC Global Education. A 36-year year industry professional, he is the founder of several education-related companies, has written or co-written 15 books on test preparation, college admissions, and academic skills, and has contributed more than 175 unique strategies for test preparation excellence and academic advancement. He has been a featured or guest speaker at more than 200 events ranging from parent information sessions and college fairs to young Harvard Graduate School Future Entrepreneurs.

We are pleased to welcome Neil as a guest contributor and a seasoned expert on college admissions. Neil offers a wealth of insights from his years of experience working alongside students and families who are navigating the complex college admissions landscape.

In the wake of the pandemic, this landscape has only grown more complex. The competition to get into elite schools is as fierce as it has ever been. Likewise, there are more colleges than ever before vying for your attention and tuition dollars. Speaking of tuition dollars, the cost of a higher education continues to rocket upward while student debt spirals out of control. So it goes without saying that you could benefit from the help of qualified experts.

This is where college admissions consulting comes into the picture. Whether you’re just looking for a little help on your college essay or you’re seeking an advisor who can stand beside you from your SAT exam all the way through your first-year college orientation, there is likely a college admissions consultant near you who can help.

But, as Neil Chyten warns

The quality and extent of advice given by private counselors varies dramatically. This is to be expected given the fact that there are tens of thousands of private counselors located throughout the country and internationally. Some counselors are focused on access, which roughly translates into getting into any college that will take them and that a family can afford. Other counselors focus exclusively on the essay, either editing or writing original essays for students. Some counselors charge for a set number of hours, and others charge by the number of colleges or services they provide. Some counselors specialize in regional colleges, and others have a more national or international focus. There are counselors whose expertise is in locating scholarships, and others who focus on gap years. Like a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates, college admission counselors come in a wide variety of flavors-not every counselor is right for every family.

So how can you match up with the best college consultant for your needs? Well, for one thing, it’s a good idea to start your search geographically. To do so, you can jump to our by-state listing of the top college admissions consultants.

But if you are considering using a private college counselor, you should learn as much as possible about that counselor first. We asked Neil to lend his thoughts on the most important questions you can ask a prospective college admissions consultant to ensure that you match up with the very best service for your needs and budget. Neil’s responses are excerpted from a piece originally published at NC Global Education

Read on for the 5 questions you absolutely must ask your prospective college admissions counselor...

  1. 1

    How Many Students Do You Work With Each Year?

    Neil Chyten notes that this question is important because the number of hours in a week must be divided by the counselor’s number of counselees. Done right, personalized college admission counseling takes time. Make sure that any service you hire offers a good ratio of counselors to clients. If you aren’t getting the personalized attention you need, then you aren’t getting your money’s worth.

  2. 2

    What Is Your Focus, or Where Do Most of Your Students Matriculate?

    Find out how each counselor matches up with your educational goals. Does the counselor have a background and a successful track record working with students who share your goals. Chyten points out that Some counselors are more comfortable working with students who are candidates for top colleges such as those in the Ivy League, MIT, Stanford, USC, Carnegie Mellon, UC Berkeley, Duke, Northwestern, Amherst, Williams, Pomona, etc. Other counselors focus more on colleges offering scholarships or on college access. It is best to know where a counselor’s expertise lies.

  3. 3

    How Many Years of Experience Do You Have?

    Chyten points out that some counselors are very new in the field and even though they may seem to have the right qualifications, experience is the greatest teacher of all. Also, it helps to have experience on the high school side rather than on the college side. In other words, actual college counselors know things that college admission officers may not, such as opportunities for scholarships, internships, and advantageous summer programs.

    Before you sign up with a consultant, find out how long they’ve been in the business. Professional experience can be a determinant of everything from personal contacts and connections to illuminating insights on the shadowy inner-workings of the college admissions office.

  4. 4

    Do You Provide Advocacy for Students With Special Skills or Talents?

    There’s a lot more to college admissions than just your academic performance. In fact, your chances of getting into a school of your choice are dramatically enhanced when you do an effective job at highlight your extracurricular talents. College admissions consultants may be exceptionally effective at helping you do so.

    Chyten observes that There are counselors who specialize in working with gifted athletes, artists, and musicians. Other counselors have no particular areas of extracurricular expertise. Still other counselors can provide support for students who have a particular talent but who will not select a major related to that talent. Advocacy (reaching out directly to a particular college department in order to obtain a recommendation to the admissions committee) can be effective for a student who has a true gift or talent.

  5. 5

    How Much Do You Charge?

    It goes without saying that cost is a big concern for many college applicants. You should be aware that college admissions consulting can add to that cost quite a bit. But what you’ll pay depends on what you need and who you hire.

    According to Neil Chyten, the range of prices you will find for college admission counseling may shock you. It can range from a few hundred dollars to a few hundred thousand dollars. Similarly, the range of services can vary dramatically. Some college counselors charge by the number of hours while others charge by the level of service or based on their experience. If you are just seeking basic help, you can likely find a counselor who will charge by the hour. Typically, standard counselors charge between $200 and $400 per hour. If you prefer to work with a highly seasoned and experienced professional, you should expect to pay between $20,000 and $40,000 for full-service counseling which will likely include significant help writing essays. Unlike counselors who charge by the hour, full-service counselors may spend 5 to 10 times more time between sessions than they do for actual face-to-face meetings.

If you’re ready to pose these questions to actual prospective counselors, check out our look at The 30 Best College Admissions Consulting Agencies.

Learn more with a look at our Guide to the College Admissions Process.

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