• In Support of Private College Consultants

    November 17, 2006 by

    What is an independent educational consultant?
    “Independent educational consultants are skilled professionals who provide counseling to help student and family choose a college, university or other program that is a good personal match: one that will foster this particular student’s academic and social growth. Educational consultants can provide a student and family with individual attention, first hand knowledge of hundreds of educational opportunities, and the time to explore all of the options. An independent counselor works one-on-one with students and parents to develop a thorough, carefully researched and appropriate school and/or college search, and guide the student through every step of the process.”
    Many argue that independent college consulting is a luxury many cannot afford. Within the four professional organizations I currently belong, I have yet to meet a private counselor who doesn’t work on a sliding scale or in fact for free if it necessitates. After being in schools for twenty-five years, it’s obvious that the potpourri of jobs any counselor has doesn’t give students the focus and assistance they need in both understanding and filling out college applications. School counselors are often excellent and well qualified. It’s just that they are part of a system that has an average ration of 500 students to every counselor.
    A recent Boston Globe article discusses the possibility of a potential check box where students would have to indicate to universities if they were receiving outside help to complete their college applications. I wholeheartedly disagree with this concept. Privacy issues are of ultimate concern everywhere in everything. What families and students choose to do is personal. Do universities tell the public what they are doing behind closed doors? I think not. Not to imply that anything is being done they wouldn’t publicize. However, it is the right of every admission officer to keep their information private. There is nothing unethical about keeping this information private. Qualified private counselors assist students and do not do work for them. I know that myself, along with many colleagues will answer questions for students with no charge.
    “The Independent Educational Consultants Association has seen its membership triple since 1996, and expects continued growth in the coming years. There are now approximately 4,000 independent counselors nationwide. . . . ‘Of the 260,000 [high school] graduates last year who went to private colleges, 58,000 worked with consultants, representing 22 percent of the freshman class in these schools.”
    The business of education is widely recognized and accepted. Qualified independent college consultants must be a respected option as are life coaches, psychologists and physical trainers to mention a few. After all, college consultants all have the same goals in mind – that of placing students in the best educational environment to meet their needs and have them gain knowledge and achieve happiness and success.

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  • Applying to College : No Easy Task

    November 15, 2006 by

    Examine an application – Just see what is required to click that submit button. I understand universities need the information to make distinctions and decisions. However, the complexity of the application is often difficult if not impossible for students to complete without the proper guidance.
    Realize that well meaning school counselors are often spread too thin and universities recommending the students’ independence want them to do it alone. Some colleges do suggest support and guidance, but from whom and how? The fact is that many students do not know all the current application requirements, options, statistics or what universities want to know. Reading any university website on what the school wants, clearly demonstrates the vague nature of how admission officials make their decisions. There are factors in admission that change from year to year. What are the different ways to apply? Early Decision, Early Action, Restrictive First Choice Early Action? Rolling Admissions? Who is explaining this in the high schools? Most recently Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia eliminated their Early Plans for the Class of 2012. How do students become aware of such news?
    Other factors students must know when applying to college include standardized tests – what tests to take where and when? And how to prepare…About 720 universities in the United States don’t even require tests. What are the differences in the requirements? Who takes the ACT? SATI? Which universities require the SAT Subject Exams and how many of these? Are they optional? required? Students also need to know how to register for the exams. High schools generally do not provide these answers. The counselors can, at times help but with ratios at nearly 500 to 1, their time is extremely limited. Recently, I had one of my seniors request a senior college prep packet at his high school only to hear, “We don’t have one.” I compliment Rob Killion, executive director of the Common Application who continually works toward a commonality in this complicated maze. However, look at the number of supplements and additional essays required by schools on the common application. www.commonapp.org. Just how common are these applications anyway?
    Then there are those recommendations – how many and for which school? Who should I give them to? What should I include? Should I send the universities supplemental recommendations? When should I submit them? What should I fill out? Do I waive my right to see them? These are just a few of the questions I get from students all the time. There are also Midyear Reports. Many students have never seen this before. What do I do with them?
    There’s the Brag Sheet or list of extracurricular activities and honors and awards received in high school. Students need to know how to present those. Students want to know how to best state their activities and who should get this list. One of my students recently gave me a near twenty page extracurricular list answering numerous excellent and specific questions. Unquestionably, this gives any reader a clear sense of this student. However, who would read this at the university level. Students are given approximately seven short lines to list years of experience and accomplishments. They are entitled to know how to maximize this space.
    Essay questions are a significant source of concern to students. Just what are these admission officers looking for? Although many universities do give a “topic of your choice” there are those questions that are amazingly specific – quoting legendary philosophers that have students decipher the content and then connect it all on a personal level. To do all this in anywhere from 100 to 600 words depending on the institution is yet an additional skill. We hear too that essays should be in story format, creative and wonderfully intriguing. Most recently, I heard an admission officer state that they often read the 1st and last paragraph and then decide whether or not to read the rest. Students generally do not learn to write 1st person essays like this in high school. Realize too that many applications require 3 to 4 essays…some long, some short – but nevertheless all different.
    High school athletes also need guidance regarding NCAA rules and requirements – how and when to contact coaches and where to go for information.
    If universities are requesting and requiring all these components, students are entitled to know what to do and what it all means. As long as most schools do not provide the adequate guidance, admissions remains a complicated process. Competition for select spots continues to increase along with the need and demand for private college consultants.

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  • Full Blown College Admissions Frenzy

    November 03, 2006 by

    It becomes instantaneously obvious once anyone starts examing the plethora of requirements necessary to apply to college these days, that it is an amazingly complex and overwhelming process. Combine that fact with the many who are limited English speakers and first generation in their family to attend college that must weed through the requirements of this process with little or no guidance. Add in the mix the over programmed teen who, on top of monumental amounts of homework, extracurricular activities and perhaps a job must now apply to an average of a dozen universities just to assure acceptance into a college during the most competitive admissions cycle in history. Just examining last seasons percentage of admits at selective universities will verify this fact. http://www.college-connections.com/collegelinks.htm
    There are those who continue to bombard the independent college consultant in their private efforts to guide these students. Their services invariably improve family relations and reduces stress. In addition, nearly all independent counselors take pro bono students. The simple truth is that thousands of students are not getting the guidance they need. Certainly there are countless effective counselors in schools across the country, but the counselor to student ratio is exorbitant. Some school counselors manage as many as 500 students. Add the vast amounts of additional jobs many of these counselors have including but not limited to scheduling, monitoring social behavior and writing recommendations. Many have job titles that include “guidance counselor”. How many times have I heard students say, “My counselor doesn’t know me” and then there are those students who don’t even know if their schools even have a college counselor. Universities have specific requirements for admittance. Yet, thousands get to their senior year without the necessary courses due to lack of guidance. These counselors simply cannot handle the large enrollments and it’s no surprise, as the schools are significantly under budgeted. Yes, there are those independent schools that manage well, whose ratio of counselor to students is 10:1, where students’ curriculums are reviewed and carefully managed. However, so many of these families still seek outside help for their college admission process.
    The angst and anxiety of the college admissions process has reached new levels. Words like “admission frenzy” and “gaming the system” are all over the media. As a result, some of the top universities have eliminated early plans to try and quiet the storm. Private college consultants have become as necessary as any psychologist. Yet, how many psychologists do as much pro bono work as college consultants? Educational business is not a dirty word. Other factors driving the admissions intensity are the universities themselves. The business of college admissions is at an all time high. Large budgets are allocated for enrollment management divisions. Thousands of dollars are directed at recruiting students and encouraging more and more applications because it then can make the university look more selective. Just last week on one of my professional online digests was a request from a top admission official for marketing suggestions concerning online banner placements. College websites are huge business and placement of ads equally as important. After all, these are tremendous recruitment tools and yield does increase that U.S. News Ranking. Other factors driving the frenzy are undoubtedly the “helicopter” parent population. Many parents push their kids to the absolute limit to achieve what they didn’t and still hold beliefs that the way to a successful, secure future is through a top tier school – not necessarily so. Many state universities are notorious for having produced some of the most successful and influential people in the world. Peer pressure is added to this mix, creating anxious turmoil. The average number of senior applications is estimated at 12 to 15 schools per students. Last week at a selective independent school in Los Angeles, a nervous 9th grade parent group was encouraged to not think about college plans just yet.
    Jeannie Borin, M.Ed.
    IECA, Professional member
    NACAC, Professional Member

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