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Articles / Applying to College / Should I Hire a Private College Counselor?

June 20, 2007

Should I Hire a Private College Counselor?

Question: If I plan to apply to prestigious schools, is hiring a counselor a good idea? All my friends have these special counselors but my dad doesn't want to pay for it. (It's in the thousands) He thinks I can get in without one. Can private counselors significantly increase my chance of acceptance? Or would it just be a waste of money? I appreciate your insight.

In addition to writing the "Ask the Dean" column, I also work as a private counselor, so you have to consider the source as you read my response. :-)


Hiring a good college counselor is not a waste of money, but it's not a necessity either. The vast majority of high school seniors--including those who are admitted to the most hyper-selective colleges--survive the college admission process without assistance from outside of their high schools.

However, all of us have different "comfort zones" when it comes to accomplishing various tasks, and thus we each have personal views on what we can truly "need" and "afford." For instance, my husband and I always pay for a professional to prepare our income tax returns, but we change the oil in our cars and do other minor mechanical repairs. In many households, the reverse is true. Some folks think that paying for tax help is a waste; others (like me) think it's worth every penny.

Similarly, if you feel especially flummoxed by the admissions maze ahead, you might consider investing in a LITTLE BIT of assistance but not necessarily an entire counseling package. For instance, check out our College Confidential's College Counseling services,

We have services that start at $89, and you'll get a lot of bang for your buck.

On the other hand, don't feel that you are at a big disadvantage, just because many of your friends or classmates are hiring private counselors. Some independent counselors are really helpful, but others are far less so. You can definitely get through this on your own--especially if you try to stay organized and also take advantage of whatever help your high school can provide ... as well as free assistance like "Ask the Dean." :-)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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