What to look for when hiring a College Counselor

At Opus College Prep, we talk with families every day who are curious about what to look for when hiring a College Counselor. And, we think all families should have these curiosities when thinking about hiring a College Counselor to work with their family. We know that most families will talk to a few different College Counseling companies to get a sense of the landscape — and we think that is great! It’s important to do your research and find the company that is right for you. 

No one should offer guarantees

First and foremost, no one in college counseling can offer a guarantee of admission to any school. If they do, please kindly run in the other direction. Do you remember Varsity Blues? Don’t be like Aunt Becky and the people she surrounded herself with. Guarantees in college admission are the biggest red flag you can find.

No need for lofty price tags

The cost of attendance for college itself is tens of thousands of dollars, there is no need for lofty price tags when hiring a College Counselor. What you need is someone with depth of admissions experience who can guide you to submit strategic and compelling applications to your best-fit school list. A college advisor does not need to cost $30,000. A high price tag does not always equal best service. At Opus, 98% of our students were admitted into one of their top choice schools, and our services cost nowhere near $30k!

Now, this will not be a $100 service, either. If you think about the credentials of the people you want to work with, they have some very elite admissions experience. There is not a large number of people who have worked in selective admissions and want to work with high school students through the process. Hard-working counselors pour their heart and souls into the work with their students, and they ride the wave of emotions with them, too. It can be an exhausting process, (we know you know this!), so it’s imperative that counselors are compensated with that in mind so they stay invested in the work.

Experience matters

When considering what to look for when hiring a College Counselor, experience matters. There are many people who take a few courses in College Counseling and open up private practices, and they do offer great services! These people tend to serve their local neighborhood or community, and can be a great option for people who are just looking local. However, these counselors tend to be great essay editors, and not always great strategists when it comes to application narratives and deadline strategy.

At Opus, all of our Admissions Counselors are former Admissions Officers at the most selective schools in the world. They know how admissions decisions are made behind closed doors, but more importantly, they know how to translate those evaluation processes into coaching for your family. Those are the most important aspects in admissions — understanding the process and how to translate it into strategic, personalized advice for each individual student.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all 

Finally, the college admissions process is highly personalized. No two students submit the same application, no two students are admitted to the same university, and so it is essential that no two students have the same counseling experience. After years in the college counseling world, and having worked for larger, more “corporate” admissions counseling companies, this is the most important to us.

College admissions can be stressful. It’s a hugely important transition for students, and an important transition for parents, too! We can’t tell you how many times we hear “a lot has changed since I applied to school!” It’s true, the admissions process has changed quite a bit, and will continue to change into the future. We want families to enjoy the process. We want them to learn new skills from us, we want them to walk away with an understanding for the process and an understanding of how each student should approach college admissions for their greatest chance of admission.

No one should try to change your candidacy. No one should try to tell you to market yourself as someone different than you are. A truly exceptional College Counselor will offer personalized insight on how to strengthen your candidacy, overcome perceived weaknesses and submit the most compelling narrative to your dream schools.

We hope this guide is helpful as you think about what to look for when hiring a College Counselor. If you have any questions about this guide or about our approach to the process, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We would love to work with you, but most importantly, we want to ensure you receive excellent support in this very important process!

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