MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Applying to college in the 21st century can be an intimidating task for high school students and their parents. But thanks to GuidED Consulting LLC, there is now someone to help navigate through the morass of paperwork and complex application process and end those sleepless nights.

Since Dr. Deborah Hardy formed the business over a year ago, originally as a “mobile school counselor,” GuidED Consulting’s client base has increased by 50 percent. And the business now has a brick-and-mortar location in Mahopac and Hardy has taken on a partner.

The idea behind GuidED, says Hardy, a veteran school counselor with 24 years’ experience, is to help them get students through the college process without all the anxiety. Her business motto is, “College process with a heart!”

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Hardy was born and raised in Brazil by her American-born parents who had moved to South America because of her father’s job. She attended the American school system there and became fluent in several languages. She came to the U.S. to attend college.

Hardy got her BA in sociology from Rider University and then worked in admissions at Dominican College and then Berkeley College in White Plains.

“But I was continuing to hunt for what I wanted to be,” she said.  “I got to travel and talk to students about their dreams. Then a friend said there is a career called school counseling and you’d be great at it. I had a talent for helping others.”

She learned that the Sleepy Hollow School District had a grant to hire a bilingual/bicultural counselor and so she applied.

“That is where I started my [counseling] career in 1992,” she said.

She worked at Sleepy Hollow for 12 years and then had the opportunity to move up the ladder after she got her administrative degree at Bank Street College in Manhattan. Hardy became the guidance coordinator at Irvington and then director of school counseling at Somers. She went on to obtain her doctorate degree from Western Connecticut State University.

Through it all, Hardy was active in her profession. She was president of the New York State School Counseling Association; a member of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors; and a volunteer for the New York State Department of Education.

But after 24 years working in the public education system, Hardy decided it was time to set out on her own and GuidED was created.
“I decided to open GuidED after students said to me that they needed my guidance,” she explained. “They would say, ‘I am applying to college and I’m not sure what I want to do with my life.’”

Hardy said GuidED now helps students with three things: academic planning, college counseling and career coaching.

“Our focus has broadened beyond the college process,” she explained. “Now that we have a space, we can do academic planning, helping students with course selection for both high school and college. We do it so it matches the student’s interests and explores different career options.”

GuidED will also offer its clients a chance to meet an array of experts in the field.

“We are hoping to have webinars for different careers with speakers from their field to help students [learn] what they need to study, and what majors they need to take on to follow that career.”

Hardy said her role is not to replace the guidance that students receive from the counselors at school, but to supplement it, like a tutor complements a teacher. She can provide more focused one-on-one attention.

“Another thing that has improved our services is we are helping students with the transition from a two-year to a four-year school and helping them transition from four-year school to a master’s program,” she of the company’s growth. “We take that personalized approach. It’s not one size fits all. We are not just focused on academic success but understanding the student and then develop a personal plan. It’s not a robotic product. It is counseling with a heart; we understand the emotional constraints, the financial constraints. We believe that every student can succeed.”

Hardy said that because GuidED is now a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, it has more college counseling networking opportunities.  
“We visit many schools throughout the network developing a relationship with the college admission folks,” she said. “It’s part of the process—to be on campus and see what it’s like to be a student there and connect it our [GuidED] students [so we can ask,] do they have the learning support; do they have the right major?”

This past year, Sandra Cefaloni-Henderson joined Hardy as part of the GuidED staff.

“She was Director of Student Activities at Mt. St. Mary’s College in Newburgh,” Hardy said. “Now, she is working with me and her expertise is in the college [admission] essay, brainstorming and the college process. She does a great job networking with colleges as well. She helps students transition to college. She knows dorm rooms, registration, signing up for activities and can direct [the students] to find support.”

GuidED is also now a member of the Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber of Commerce.

“We are the first of this type of business to be in the Mahopac community,” Hardy said. 

But students don’t have to be from Mahopac to be a GuidED client. Hardy works with students from Somers, Carmel, Yorktown, Harrison, Scarsdale, Rockland and Dutchess counties, and even New Jersey.

“I always look for something that makes that student shine,” she said. “I believe everybody is special.”

To learn more, call 845-628-0726.