Updated December 5, 2022 · 5 Min Read

College admissions doesn't have to be a painful process. Here we give you a guide on college consulting and whether you need it to succeed. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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As the importance of a college education has increased, college admissions have become incredibly competitive. Many of the most desirable schools boast an acceptance rate below 10 percent. In this cutthroat world of college admissions, college consulting can help students successfully navigate the world of deadlines, requirements and unwritten rules that lies between them and the schools of their dreams. College consultants can give advice on class selection, help students select extracurricular activities that will make them stronger applicants, and provide guidance and editorial support for entrance essays. College admissions consulting provides valuable services for students who've followed a path through high school that's out of the ordinary, helping these students to figure out how to meet standardized entrance requirements with their occasionally unorthodox backgrounds. Most of all, college consultants provide a steady and experienced voice to help simplify the stressful and confusing college application process.

The Role of the College Consultant

College consultants act as the personal coach to help each student create the most compelling college application possible. Most college consultants have some experience as admissions officers, giving these consultants inside knowledge of the criteria that actual universities use to select their students. Consultants don't have any extra leverage with schools and can't guarantee admission to any particular school, but their specialized knowledge can give their clients a better shot at getting into their first-choice college.

As an objective outside observer, consultants act for the best interests of the student, from recommending extracurricular activities in high school to checking the student's application for errors. Some students and their parents seek out the services of a consultant as early as middle or early high school. The consultant can work with the student to help craft the best menu of classes to further the student's goals. The consultant's suggestions will be tailored to the student's abilities, the schools he's interested in, and the subjects he wants to study. For example, a student interested in becoming a biologist will be advised to take as many biology-related classes as he can find. The consultant will likely recommend that the student get involved with summer camps and volunteer opportunities that give him real-world experience in biology. The consultant may also recommend school clubs to join.

Some students seek the advice of a college admission consultant later in high school as they prepare to submit applications to colleges. A college consultant can help the student with each part of the application process, beginning with identifying schools that meet the student's needs. The consultant can then guide the student towards working on meeting the requirements of the desired schools, such as which courses to take and which standardized tests to sit for.

One of the most important functions of a college admissions consultant is their assistance on the student's application to a college. Even with today's streamlined online options for submitting applications, the process can still be daunting to a student and her parents; keeping track of deadlines, managing transcripts and accurately completing the application can be overwhelming when piled on top of the student's existing workload. A college consultant stays ahead of deadlines and helps with the building blocks of a successful application, including tips on writing an application essay and preparing for an interview with the college.

College consultants also provide valuable assistance with financial planning for schooling. Consultants know about available financial aid options and can give advice to help the family or student plan for the cost of college. They can help fill out the necessary forms, including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a national program that serves as the baseline for most college funding.

Do I Need to Hire a College Consultant?

Although college consultants aren't for everyone or every situation, they can provide significant services to a variety of different students, from students who are trying to get into highly selective schools to those who are unsure of their academic future. Thinking about your own needs, goals and the type of student you are can help you determine if you need the help of a college consultant. Broadly speaking, there are three types of students who benefit the most from college consultants: students with special or unusual circumstances, students who need individual attention, and students who are overwhelmed.

Students with Special Circumstances

Students with physical or mental health challenges can benefit from the assistance of a college consultant. These types of students may have gaps in their high school transcripts that require explanation to a college admissions board, and a consultant can advise these students on how to address those gaps without damaging their applications. A consultant can also do the necessary legwork to find a college that will work best with the student's difficulties. For example, a student with limited mobility or a debilitating and chronic illness may benefit from attending a college with a long list of online courses.

High school students who have irregular school transcripts may need the help of a college consultant to navigate the college application process. This type of issue is often caused when a student transfers from one high school to another. Grades and accomplishments in one school do not always immediately translate into the same thing at another school. A college consultant can smooth out the bumps in a transcript that isn't as clear as most other transcripts. A consultant's help may be essential if the student recently transferred and is unsure of how to get a letter of recommendation for their application.

Students from outside of the country may find the application process for American universities difficult to manage and understand. A college consultant can help eliminate the mysteries surrounding the process. The consultant can help the student arrange to meet the entrance requirements for American colleges; the SAT test, for example, is often available to international students, and a consultant can help the student find a testing site and date to take the test. They can also help students with any paperwork that may be necessary to get their high school classes accepted by American universities.

College consultants can help students with uncommon educational backgrounds, such as homeschooled students. Without traditional grades, these students may be uncertain how to best demonstrate their aptitude to potential schools. A college consultant has likely faced this challenge before and knows how to work with a university to ensure the student can be evaluated fairly based on their strengths, rather than being dismissed without consideration because of their unusual background.

Students Who Need Individual Attention

College consultants can work as substitute guidance counselors, especially for students in schools that don't have enough guidance counselors. High school guidance counselors are typically assigned the task of helping students work towards college. Unfortunately, many schools do not have enough counselors to give students the kind of individualized attention and assistance that can make a difference in a student's future. Without the aid of a dedicated counselor, students and their parents are left to tackle the daunting college application process on their own. If you or your child is at a high school with overworked counselors, a private college consultant can get you the help you need.

Some high school students are uncertain about which major or career they would like to pursue. College consultants can help undecided students identify their strengths and weaknesses and potentially help set them down a path that would lead to a successful career. After talking to the student and studying their grades, the consultant can make recommendations for colleges that would suit the student's needs.

Students who wish to attend a college that receives a staggering number of applicants each year, such as Harvard or Princeton, may find the services of a college consultant helpful. Although a college consultant cannot guarantee entrance into a prestigious school, the application process for these schools is unusually rigorous, and any extra help can make a big difference. Students in this situation may want to begin working with a consultant early on in their academic career, such as in middle school, to receive guidance on classes to take and extracurricular activities that can make their application more attractive.

Students Who Are Overwhelmed

College consultants provide a voice of calm and sanity to families who are feeling stressed by the looming deadlines of the college application process. Parents who are sending their first child to college may feel especially anxious about the process. Consultants can break down the necessary tasks into smaller jobs, making it easier for everyone to participate without feeling overwhelmed. Without familial relationships to complicate matters, college consultants can also provide a firm voice to ensure that no deadlines are missed unnecessarily.

College consultants are also a good choice for a family stressing about financial assistance. For many families, the staggering number of financial aid options and the process to secure aid is confusing and stressful. Consultants have experience with the long list of financial aid packages available to college students, including scholarships and grant money. They can guide families to many of the unique scholarships that they may qualify for, such as scholarships for children with specific ethnic backgrounds.

In the stressful world of college applications, college consultants can provide students and their families with a calm and expert presence to help guide them through the application process. With their specialized knowledge and firsthand experiences dealing with college admissions, these professional advisers can help students overcome unusual situations and gain entrance into the schools of their dreams.

Additional Resources:

College Admissions Library
Do I Need a College Counselor?
How To Apply for College
How To Write the Perfect College Admissions Essay

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