Nothing about the admissions process is easy. Many families will decide to hire a private admissions consultant for additional help. If you identify your needs and expectations and then ask the right questions, you can choose the best private admissions consultant for your family. Use the Top 10 Questions to Ask a Private Admissions Consultant to help you compare and contrast the services of private admissions consultants.
Is a Private College Admissions Consultant Right for You?
Private college consultants (aka admissions experts, college counselors, admission professionals) don’t all provide the same services. A private consultant’s website can look slick, and their 5-star testimonials will express high satisfaction. However, if you pay for the services of a consultant before you know what to look for and what questions to ask, you can end up wasting a significant amount of money on services that don’t meet your needs.
Two Things To Do Before You Hire a Private Admissions Consultant
1. Define Your Needs
Private consultants often have a laundry list of services they provide to clients on their websites. See if the personalized services you’ll be receiving are the ones you need. Services like test prep or in-depth essay reviewing can often be considered ‘additional’ and may cost you more money.
2. Define Your Expectations
Most private consultants will help you with a range of basic admissions tasks. If you need a consultant for a specific issue, then make sure whoever you hire can deliver the in-depth expertise you need. Clearly defining your needs and expectations will help you find the consultant that’s best for your family.
Where Should You Start?
Hiring a private college consultant is expensive. If you hire the right consultant at the right time (before the beginning of an academic year, NOT in the middle of one), the cost can be worth it. Start by searching online for private admissions consultants near you. Ask friends for private consultant recommendations. You can also search for specific services to see which consultancy services come up online. Don’t hire the first consultant you meet. Instead, interview at least three contenders so you can compare and contrast their services before you make a final decision.
Ask For a Free Preliminary Meeting
Research your prospective consultant before you meet. Visit their website to view their educational background, professional experience, and membership in professional college admissions counseling organizations. Make sure they are members of an industry association for higher ed professionals.
Take Your Student With You
The admissions process is a family affair, but students often have questions or needs that their parents don’t know. It’s vital that your student feels comfortable reaching out to their counselor on their own. During the preliminary meeting, note how much time the consultant spends giving you a rundown of what they can do versus how much time they spend getting to know your student.
Top 10 Questions To Ask a Private Admissions Consultant
1. How much do you charge?
Ask for a detailed printed list of rates and services. It’s better to have a hard copy so you can easily compare counselors. A good counselor will be upfront about their fees.
2. How many students do you expect to work with this season?
If your consultant is working with too many students, they may not have time to devote to you. However, working with too few students can be a red flag too. Find out about their average numbers, then question why their numbers are up or down.
3. What’s your track record?
Learn about past accomplishments, the type of students a consultant has worked with, and the variety of colleges previous students attend.
4. Do you provide services for FILL IN THE BLANK, or will I be charged an additional fee?
Some private counselors consider one-on-one test preparation or comprehensive essay counseling to be ‘additional counselor responsibilities’ that require an extra charge. If a consultant offers the service you need, find out how much time they will devote to it.
5. Will you schedule regular weekly or bi-weekly meetings with us?
Find out if regular check-in/guidance meetings are part of a private consultant’s services or if you have to call or email to set up a meeting. Often if a family dictates the frequency of meetings on an ‘only when we need you’ policy, the result is less time spent getting preemptive planning guidance from the counselor you’ve hired.
6. What specific strategy sessions do you offer?
You may need to speak in-depth about SAT/ACT prep, extracurriculars, senior classes, essay topics, teacher recommendation letters, etc. Find out what strategy sessions a private consultant offers and ask them for an example of what information is covered.
7. How accessible are you, and how quickly will you get back to us?
Find out if you or your student can contact your counselor between any regularly scheduled meetings.
8. What’s your financial aid (need-based and merit-based) strategy?
Ask them to explain how they will help you find your financial fit colleges and what appeals process they have in place. It’s common for colleges to tell families, ‘No one pays sticker price,’ but not tell you how much you will pay. Find out how your prospective counselor is going to keep you from paying sticker prices at a college.
9. Will you help us file the FAFSA and the CSS?
The federal government uses the FAFSA to see how much financial aid you may need. Private colleges and universities use the CSS to determine your eligibility for grants, loans, and scholarships awarded by that college. Both documents are seemingly straightforward, but understanding exactly what numbers they are asking can be tricky. Find out how your consultant will help you to avoid leaving money on the table.
10. What are our student and family responsibilities?
A good private counselor should have a clear list of their expectations from your family. Make certain any requirements are acceptable to you and include duties that you feel are appropriate.
Bonus Question: Why should we choose you?
Private admissions consultants should be specific about their strengths and qualifications. This question will help you learn which areas they’re most interested in and whether or not their expertise fits your criteria.
Always Follow Up
Top 10 Questions to Ask a Private Admissions Consultant covers a lot of ground, but expect to need more information from one or more of the consultants you meet. Send an email follow-up to address any additional questions. A private counselor’s reaction to your questions will give you a good indication of what they’re like to work with. If your due diligence aggravates them, they’re not the right consultant for you.