I love writing this column every month and sharing some helpful college admissions tips and tricks, but maybe you are saying, “Who is this lady who says she knows so much about college stuff?  What exactly would I hire her to do?”  Seems like it’s time for me to define “College Consultant” and explain how I help families with this process.

Briefly, I have been around the college world for a while.  I’m a licensed School Counselor (or Guidance Counselor) and have been employed by several colleges as an admissions counselor to review and evaluate college applications.  Many other consultants have backgrounds either on the high school or college side or perhaps became experts in the field another way. The bottom line is that college consultants are uniquely trained professionals that can help families navigate the college search and application process.

But you have a guidance counselor or college counselor at your student’s high schools, right?  These professionals are also very well trained and experienced so why would you need the additional help?  Some families may not, but many find they need more one-on-one attention than they can get from the high school counselor. Guidance counselors often have impossibly large caseloads (we’re talking hundreds!) and are expected to also handle class schedules, truancy, and a whole host of other responsibilities. Aside from an hour here or there they may simply not be as available as you’d like them to be.

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So what do I do with my clients?  Over the course of the high school career (yes, I start working with families as early as Freshman year!) we use interest inventories and high school data to target strengths and interests and zero in on a college major or program that might be appropriate. I can be a second set of eyes of high school course schedules to ensure the student is positioned appropriately for the types of schools they’ll be applying to. I spend hours helping them prep for interviews, polish their resume, and refine that college essay. We make a strategic testing plan to most advantage the student’s strengths.

And then there’s the colleges themselves. Through college visits and professional development conferences I constantly educate myself on current admissions trends and processes of colleges all over the country. I can help a student and family target schools that are most likely to be a good fit and help narrow down the overwhelming number of schools out there. We’ll work together to ensure that all applications are submitted properly and completely, making sure the student can take advantage of every possible consideration. I want my families to get to that enrollment finish line feeling like they’ve left no stone unturned and they’re making a thoroughly informed decision.

But why me? That’s a great question, and there’s many amazing consultants and I’d encourage you to do your homework. The student and family have a very personal relationship with their consultant and finding someone that matches your philosophy and style is essential.  A word of caution--if you decide to work with a consultant you want to be sure they are a member of one (or both!) of these professional organizations: Higher Education Consultants Association (https://hecaonline.wildapricot.org/) or Independent Educational Consultants Association (https://www.iecaonline.com/). Both have locally searchable databases of consultants to help you narrow down the search. I’ve heard some pretty crazy consultant stories—people promising families acceptance at colleges for an insane sum of money for example—which is completely unethical, not to mention impossible! By choosing a credentialed consultant you can be sure that he or she is qualified to work with your family and will offer appropriate advice and assistance.

Please let me know if you still have questions or would like to learn more!  You can always hop over to my website at www.balbonicollegeadvising.com or check out my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/balbonicollegeadvising/