Getting into college can be tough these days. According to IvyWise, college acceptance rates in 2014 fell to an all-time low of 5.07% meaning colleges are very selective in who they admit. The competition is fierce. So fierce, in fact, parents are flocking to private college consultants to help their children get admitted to their dream school. If your kids are in high school and college is becoming an ever-increasing household discussion, here are a few pros and cons to consider before hiring a private college counselor:
Help Make the Best College Match for Your Child
Going to college is an investment that you want to ensure will provide a lifelong return. Sadly, many students fail to see that return. The National Student Clearinghouse found that of those who began college in 2008 planning to earn a degree in 6 years, only 55 percent succeeded. That could be a result of a myriad of issues including financial and academic struggles to depression and loneliness. A private college consultant can help fit your child’s personality, desires and passions to the best institution possible giving them a better chance of graduating. Whether your son or daughter is musically inclined, has interests in science or is tech savvy, a counselor can potentially find the perfect school for them.
Creating a Plan for Success
You can hire a private college consultant in your child’s junior year in high school to create a solid plan for success. They can offer tips on extracurricular activities to get involved in, how to seek out teacher recommendations and advice on general academics and standardized tests (they even can tutor your child for the ACT/SAT). As with many things in life, instead of just winging the college admissions process, having a well-organized and thought-out plan from a professional will give your child an advantage when it comes to highly selective schools.
Filling a Void
Because of tight budgets, high school counselors are often overwhelmed with astronomical student to counselor ratios. The American School Counselor Association sites Wyoming and Vermont as the only two states having the recommended 1:250 ratio. In order to give your child adequate help in the college admissions process, investing in a private college counselor can be a wise move. Instead of trying to squeeze an appointment with an overworked high school counselor, they’ll have a dedicated private counselor who can provide tips, offer resources and be your child’s guide till the day they enroll in college.
It Can be Pricey
Hiring a dedicated counselor can put you back $40,000 on top of the actual expenses associated with college. Many urban high schools which lack a decent student to counselor ratio have families that simply cannot afford that price. If you haven’t built-up a 529 plan that covers a majority of college expenses, then finances can be a factor on whether or not your child finishes college in the first place. It might be better to put all your financial resources into their educational costs and focus on seeking all the federal financial aid they can receive.
You Might Not Need One
Before committing to a private counselor, evaluate whether or not you need one. You have many options when it comes to receiving aid for the college admissions process that include online resources, high school counselors (as long as the ratios are decent) and college websites themselves. Instead of digging yourself deeper financially into a service you might not need, taking advantage of the free help available might be all that’s necessary.
It’s Possible You’re being Lied Too
The private college consultant field is unregulated meaning there are no standards to abide by for those who wish to consult. Anyone can claim to have the best experience in college admissions and charge an exorbitant fee for their services and not exactly be telling the truth. No matter how convincing they may be, it’s a good idea to research an individual consultant before writing the check.
Some Helpful Resources
If you do decide to take the plunge and hire a consultant, some organizations to look into include the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and the American Institute of Certified Educational Planners (AICEP). Otherwise, do your due diligence with researching and asking important questions before hiring a counselor.
Lance Mann is a blogger and owner of the site EasyScholarshipsNow.com which offers lists of scholarships by category, all easy, in addition to other helpful frugal tips for students in college.