Few experiences are as stressful as when kids apply to college. In the United States alone, there are over 5,300 colleges and universities. Each one has its own specialty, reputation, and costs to consider. A plethora of options can be overwhelming because not every school is the perfect fit for every child. How to choose? An experienced college advisor can narrow down the list based on your child’s unique set of strengths and interests.

Quality advisors also thoroughly understand the admissions process. They coach students on how to highlight their achievements for the best possible outcome. After all, applying to colleges is a complex process. And it’s also quite costly. An experienced and ethical advisor is a wise investment.

Benefits of hiring a professional

Thinking about college starts early in a child’s educational career.

Parents are usually considering post-high school options when looking for the right elementary and middle schools for their kids. It’s a tricky balance between proper planning and stressing everyone out.

By the time college-prep kids get older, they’re part of the process as well. Everyone is thinking about which after-school programs and extra-curricular activities will give them a leg up when applying for college.

Parents usually seek help from guidance counselors so that their children register for the proper advanced classes. This includes AP, Honors and Dual Enrollment courses.

Then comes the time to put all the preparation to work and apply. This takes time. It involves applications, forms, exams and essays. Meanwhile students are busy trying to get through high school classes, sports and other activities. Many parents work and have other responsibilities. So naturally it makes sense to look for assistance.

With the proper college advisor on hand, a parent can concentrate on being mom or dad. They don’t have to edit papers. They don’t have to stress about what admissions officers might be looking for during interviews. Choosing an advisor allows you to put your kids in good hands to get the job done right.

What to look for in a college advisor

Best practices

Members of the National Association of College Admission Counseling and/or the Independent Educational Consultants Association subscribe to ethical and professional standards. These organizations are also committed to quality service.

Experience

Try to find an advisor with a background in college admissions. At the very least, they should have experience as a high school guidance counselor. Others might have decades of solid experience in the community and a good track record. Research their background ahead of time so you’ll be provided a good value for what you’re spending.

Check references

Ask friends and family for recommendations. Look online for reviews. You might even ask your child’s high school for quality candidates.

Data

Ask to see what percentage of an advisor’s clients get accepted to their chosen schools. Look for how many student clients are accepted to a top school.

A good fit

Interview each potential advisor. Make sure they’re supportive about what your child wants to pursue. Ask about their current workload and the amount of attention they can devote to your child. Your personalities should complement one another. After all, this is a team/family effort.

The earlier the better

If your child is in elementary or middle school, a college advisor can:

– help shape their early academic path.

– make suggestions about what classes to take, depending on the student’s interests.

– recommend extracurricular activities, school clubs and volunteer opportunities to pursue.

If your child is in high school, a college advisor can:

– give advice about classes, depending on the student’s interests.

– help select colleges, depending on your child’s academic record and future plans.

– give honest feedback.

– help with the application process.

– help students prepare for the SAT or the ACT.

– offer advice about the essay portion. This includes selecting the topic, proofreading and editing.

– help families find financial aid options.

– fill the gap left by overworked high school guidance counselors.  

– help narrow the field and concentrate on the most realistic scholarships and packages for each school.

– stay on top of deadlines.

– help students prepare for interviews with general advice and mock interviews.

– save money on application fees to schools that wouldn’t be a good fit.

– help the student make the final choice of which school to attend.

What students can do to help

Even the best college advisors can’t do this alone. They need help from the most important person in this process: the student.

Before meeting with potential advisors, here’s what a student can do to ensure this is the best scenario for everyone.

  • Consider their own situation and needs.
  • What kind of grades do they make?
  • What are their dreams for after high school? Are these realistic or does the student need help determining that?

What if your child has an unconventional educational background?

For example, were your kids educated at home or overseas?

Did they experience an illness or prolonged absence from school?

An advisor might be helpful to translate what your student did, and how they did it, in a way that makes sense to admissions officers. They can also help point you in the direction of schools that are more likely to be open to your circumstances.

Getting into a good college or university is never easy. Every year, the application and selection process seems to grow more challenging. It’s also competitive. What was once important can fade as trends and forecasts change in our country.

However, every year, kids do find the best schools for their needs. So it’s not impossible. Your child can attend the school of his/her/their dreams. It just takes proper planning and support. A qualified college advisor can be the difference between disappointment and celebration. 


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