A College Prep Counselor's Top Ten List

college prep imageCollege prep counseling is a large and growing industry with many counselors charging anywhere from $95 to $375 for their advice. But SmartMoney.com suggests that parents and their high school age children consider a few key points before shelling out money for the services these counselors offer.

In an article headlined, 10 Things College-Prep Advisors Won’t Tell You the personal finance magazine, warns that many college prep counselors have no special credentials. While there are two major national associations for independent college counselors, neither offers formal accreditation. One of them, the IECA, questions the qualifications of many of those offering college prep advice.

“There are thousands of people calling themselves educational consultants. Most of them don’t have educational training or commitment to ethical practice,” says Mark Sklarow, executive director of IECA. “I hear almost every day from someone who says, ‘I got my daughter into Swarthmore, so now I want to help others do this.”

Since SAT scores and sophomore and junior year GPAs are often the two key deciding factors in college admissions decisions, parents who hire a counselor when their student is a junior in high school may be too late. And as for the all-important essay, hiring a college counselor to help may actually work against an applicant. Dan Saracino, assistant provost of admissions at Notre Dame, told the magazine he can spot a professionally-edited essay a mile away. “The essays that are not done in the authentic voice of the student are readily apparent,” he says.

But there’s no need to be discouraged. The magazine also points out that most high school counselors will do the same job as a professional counselor for free. “In many cases, paying for advice might be unnecessary, since the counselor at your teenager’s high school probably provides similar counsel–free of charge.” The only exception would be high schools where guidance counselors are assigned more than 50 or 60 students each.


There are countless reasons why it does make sense to hire a qualified educational/college consultant. Most high school counselors are on overload. A report released with the support of the Gates Foundation can be read here:
“Survey Finds Few Have Fond Memories of Their High School Guidance Counselors”
There are many excellent high school counselors that are stretched too thin with case loads exceeding 500 students. When a family considers the investment of a college education, it is worth getting it right by hiring a private consultant. The college admissions process has become so complex, detailed and competitive that students deserve to receive the guidance. Our company as well as many of my colleagues take pro bono students to make this process as equitable as possible. I do urge families to be careful in hiring anyone private just as they would if they were hiring a CPA or attorney. As a professional member of the IECA, I know that our organization is the most credible in the country with strict requirements for membership.