Ballpark estimate: $1,000 to $40,000
Getting into a good college isn’t a given these days, even for the best students. As more youngsters compete for limited space in the nation’s best ivy leagues and private colleges, many parents are hiring college admissions consultants or independent education counselors (IECs) to help them get that all-important competitive edge to land a coveted spot.
Why Hire a Consultant?
While it used to be enough to get good grades, earn solid test scores, and submit thoughtful essays, these days many parents worry that their children won’t make the cut, since the stakes seem to get higher every single year. Therefore, some families are willing to invest in the help of an expert to ensure their children won’t get overlooked.
What is a College Admissions Consultant?
College admissions consultants can provide valuable assistance in a number of areas related to the college application process. This includes helping students select the best college setting for their interests and strengths, positioning them for success in the college world, and helping them prepare for their admissions tests. Other services consultants provide include helping students to polish their interview skills, as well as guiding them on writing effective essays. Consultants can also be helpful in introducing students to the array of monetary awards and financial aid that exists. All of this assistance seems to be increasingly important as more students try for some of the top schools. Further, while most students and parents could have direct access to much of the information even without spending any money on a consultant, many people are overwhelmed by the admissions process and don’t know where to start or how to fit the work involved into their busy schedules and they feel leaving the work to the experts makes the most sense, regardless of how much it costs.
Some students begin working with a college admissions consultant during their sophomore or junior year when they begin to explore their options and narrow in on their top college picks. The consultants can also begin grooming their clients in advance, suggesting extra-curricular activities, volunteer opportunities, and test preparation classes that can increase the student’s odds for success when it comes to a college acceptance. Other very ambitious parents start working with an expert when their student is still in elementary or middle school. The strategy in hiring a consultant so many years in advance is that this will help their children position themselves in such a way that by the time they are old enough to apply, they will have quite an impressive resume to share.
Not All Consultants Are Equal
When shopping for a college admissions consultant or an independent education counselor, it’s important to do your homework to find one who has real expertise in helping students gain admission to the caliber of schools you are interested in. A good place to start is through higher educational resources online or through organizations or groups that support such consultants, such as the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), the National Association for College Admission Counseling, or through a local college planning service like IvyWise and the Ivy Coach. While no consultant can guarantee that your child will be accepted, you at least want to look for someone who has a very good track record in this area. Therefore, always ask for recommendations for consultants from other parents whose children have been accepted to the type of schools you are interested in. You should also ask any consultant you are considering to provide a few references so you can find out how satisfied other clients were in the process. Finally, ask the consultant what type of training he or she brings to the role. There are no specific qualifications required today for this position, so you’ll need to use your best judgment to assess a professional before you invest in this endeavor. Many parents find that the most effective consultants are people who have been admissions officers in an institution of higher education themselves, so they have insider knowledge of what schools look for and what they want.
Cost for a College Admissions Consultant
What you can expect to spend on a college admissions consultant depends on exactly what you need. Some independent college advisors or consultants charge by the hour, while others may offer a flat price for everything. For the smallest package, if you want several hours of general guidance on how to select a good school fit for your child and how to prepare him or her for the applications process, you can expect to need up to 10 hours and the prices for this can be between $1,000 and $3,000 (assuming that the cost per hour is in the $100 to $300 range). If you want more personalized grooming and advice for your child, the cost can rise quite steeply from there. As a result, many parents who want to take full advantage of a consultant’s experience spend in the $5,000 to $10,000 range or even more. In fact, those who have a consultant start working intensively with their child several years before it’s time to apply for college may break the bank with an investment as high as $20,000 to $40,000. Further, parents who have their heart set on sending their child to an ivy league school can expect to spend on the higher end of the scale. While this may seem excessive, some parents who can afford the expense justify the fact that they are investing in helping set their child securely on the path to success.
When selecting an independent educational consultant or college admissions consultant, it’s important to remember that there are no guarantees that your child will get into the school or schools of his or her choice. In fact, the experts warn parents to be leery of any consultants who make promises to get a student into any specific school, since there is simply no way to predict who will get in.