Considerations when deciding to hire a college admissions consultant
Given the ultra-competitive nature of admissions into elite colleges, for families who have decided to start the journey, it is natural to wonder if hiring an admissions consultant would be worthwhile.
Legitimate consultants can make a strong applicant stronger. A quick online search will turn up many to choose from and it is an unregulated industry. Below are some considerations when selecting consultants.
Applicant age – consultants may say that the earlier they can help ‘package’ the applicant, the better chances of getting into that dream college. For example, they want to advise on what extra-curricular activities and summer programs to join. There are extreme examples of elementary age students who had their educational life planned from pre-K. When consultants get involved early, it usually starts in middle school.
Consultant qualifications – given the wild west nature of this business, it’s not easy trying to figure out how competent someone really is. Just about all consultants will claim to be certified in some way, but not all have been in the room where decisions were made. Obviously, someone who used to be a senior admissions officer at an elite college would have more credibility, but many consultants don’t have that experience. And the reality is that admissions committees are comprised of humans who can make decisions based on intangible factors. In other words, no one can guarantee success. It helps to know the track record of the consultant by asking questions related to which colleges his or her clients are mostly accepted into. Also, it is crucial for him or her to establish rapport with the family, especially the applicant.
Scope of work – When college applications get complex, providing the right kind of help to applicants can be beneficial. Some parents do lots of research on their own and only need assistance with specific areas such as essay editing. Parents who find the process overwhelming or burdensome prefer to have consultants to be deeply involved throughout the whole process, including college selection, activity planning, essay editing, application strategy and documentation. The scope of work should be tailored accordingly.
Rates – There are 3 main ways consultants charge: i ) by the hour, with the low end rate of around $100; ii ) a flat rate for a block of hours covering specific services; . iii ) a (high) flat rate for a comprehensive package without limit to hours, where the consultant works with the applicant over several years.
So, please perform due diligence before committing to or walking away from the service. We talked to several consultants and selected one that charges by the hour. After two hours, it is became clear to us that we should DIY.