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Working With a College Admissions Counselor

Ianni Le


The college application process is no walk in the park. If you or your high school senior are feeling overwhelmed right around now, you’re not alone!

Even under normal circumstances, helping your high school senior decide where to spend the next pivotal years of their life is a big project. During the pandemic, choosing a college has become even more difficult because institutions are taking such different approaches with COVID-19 guidelines. This impacts both the opportunity to visit campus as a prospective student and to anticipate what it will actually be like to be a student at a particular school.

Though we’re well into the fall semester, it’s not too late to consider independent admissions advising to help with your student’s applications. Regular decision application deadlines range from January 1st into February and sometimes beyond, which leaves plenty of time for your family to squeeze in some extra strategizing and planning with the help of a seasoned professional.

Because working with an independent admissions counselor can be time-consuming and expensive, it's always a good idea to start with resources available at your student's high school. In addition to the counselors, the high school may host workshops run by volunteers who can help with essays and applications.

Why Use An Admissions Advisor?

Students and their families turn to independent admissions counseling for a variety of reasons. In some cases, parents find they don't have time to provide the support their students need because of their own busy schedules. For other families, it can be as simple as wanting a professional opinion to help navigate any confusion (or anxiety!).

Remember that applying to college is your student's job and they will need to be on board with working with an admissions counselor. If your student isn't engaging with the college search and application process, it may be time to check in about how they're feeling and talk about other paths they might take after high school graduation.

Learn more about alternatives to traditional college >

Should your student take a gap year? >

What Can an Admissions Advisor Do For My Student?

There are many different admissions counseling options available, so the first step is to sit down with your student and figure out exactly what you are all hoping to get out of the counseling experience.

Make a list of things you want help with and organize them by priority so you can easily reference it when you look through your options.

Do you want help with college financing? Putting together a list of colleges? Editing and fine-tuning your student’s application or personal statements?

Each admissions counselor will offer a varying set of services. If your student is struggling with their Common Application essay or supplemental essays, there are admissions advisors who specialize in helping students find the best angle to craft a compelling personal story. If you’re looking for more help on the strategy side of things, maybe you and your student want someone who specifically works with Ivy League admissions or someone who can also help with career planning or graduate school planning.

These are just a few things to talk about with your student to help clarify action items and focus your search for an advisor. These counseling services tend to book up fast, so you'll need to consider availability and how urgently your student needs the help (is an important application deadline approaching?).

Doing your research and understanding all your options will help you make the most of your money and set your student up for success.

How to Find the Right Admissions Advisor

A majority of admissions counselors work remotely with their clients, which helps them serve a wider range of students, so if you and your student hope to meet with an advisor in person, you’ll want to limit your search to local businesses. Otherwise, you can start your search anywhere! A quick Google search will show you what businesses are around you, or if your student previously worked with a service for SAT/ACT prep and had a good experience, you can see if they offer admissions counseling as well (or can recommend someone).

Ultimately, choosing a counselor or a team of advisors will be an issue of personal preference. Check credentials by looking for a mix of education and real world experience. Some have degrees in counseling or higher education or have worked in college admissions offices.

You can also look for memberships in national organizations such as Independent Educational Consultant Association (IECA) and National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) as well as counseling certifications.

If you’re interested in a counselor's track record with previous clients, you can check Google reviews on their business or any client testimonials available. Many admissions counselors are very open about their previous client successes, and you can always ask them what their success rate is for getting clients into their dream school.

Can Admissions Advisors Help College Seniors Looking to Further Their Education?

Yes! College seniors (or anyone applying to graduate school) can also use admissions advisors. There are specialty advisors who work with prospective law or medical school students as well as graduate admissions counselors who focus on helping students apply to masters, PhD and MBA programs.

It’s always important to remember that admissions counselors, while very useful, are not a shortcut. Your student is still in charge of handling their applications, writing their essays, and sorting through the forms and paperwork. Their advisor will simply act as a guide (albeit a well-versed one) to walk them through the process and help them stay on track. You will want to continue to check in with your student and, if it's appropriate, request updates from the counselor.

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Ianni Le is a freelance writer and content creator. She attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, graduating with a degree in Media Design and English Literature. Ianni grew up in Shanghai, China and enjoys her dogs, books and food equally.

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