Getting into your dream school is totally doable as long as you set the right plan and stick to it. But figuring out what that plan requires and knowing how to follow through can be difficult, which is why many students choose to employ the help of an independent college counselor. However, even choosing one of those can prove to be a challenge to some.
Before you hire a counselor, make sure that you schedule a preliminary chat. Here are some ways to help guide that conversation so you can choose the counselor who will have the best chance of setting you up for success.
Independent college counselors can offer a lot of benefits, but you may not need every service they have to offer. To determine if they'll fit your needs, be sure to discuss what they can and cannot help you do. Common services include help with the college search and crafting a college list, strategy sessions when it comes to sending test scores, application essay review, and financial aid assistance.
If you know specifically that you're looking for help with your essays, a counselor who specializes in that may be best for you. If you're unsure what assistance you may need, it could be best to find one who has a wider range of offerings.
Next, focus on how often you want to have the ability to communicate with your counselor. The right answer for you will depend on your own preference: Do you want to have them on-hand for quick questions between scheduled meetings or are you okay tracking questions as they arise and asking them all at once when you're able to meet face-to-face?
If you're feeling overwhelmed (which is completely understandable with the college admissions process!), you might lean toward a counselor who offers more open communication. If you're only looking for a little guidance or support with certain items on your checklist, you might be okay with a counselor who's a little more hands-off.
There's more to a counselor than their certifications, degrees, and affiliations — though those are all worth assessing if you have any reservations about a counselor's skillset. Instead of just looking at their qualifications, also look at their results: what sort of colleges accepted their past clients? What sort of success rates have they had? Many counselors are quick to tout their history, but you shouldn't be afraid to ask if they don't. You want to know that your college future is resting in capable hands, so it's important to understand what sort of track record counselors have built over their years of practice.
If possible, you can also consider past student reviews of the counselors you're thinking about utilizing. (For example, you can view testimonials of our college admissions counselors before signing up.) Your choice of a best-fit school may come down to current student opinions; why shouldn't the same go for choosing a college counselor?
Ultimately, finding the perfect college counselor for you comes down to trusting that they will do whatever they can to help you get into your best-fit school, regardless of whether they've worked with that institution before. Overall, they'll encourage you to show your best self to those schools through your application and interviews.
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