7 Things to Consider About College Prep Counseling

Private counseling for college preparation is a growing industry with thousands of people calling themselves educational consultants. Are private counseling services really beneficial? Parents and students should consider a few key points before putting out money for these types of services.
1. Should you pay for college prep counseling?
The competition for acceptance into top colleges seems to get harder each year. In addition to a high grade point average, advanced placement classes, and SAT scores, students may be expected to participate in extracurricular activities as well.
Parents frequently hire private college counselors in the hopes of getting their kids in the right school. However, paying for a counselor might be unnecessary because high school counselors in most cases provide similar advice without any expense. An exception may be when school counseling is inadequate.
2. Do private counselors have any credentials?
There are two major national associations for private college counselors, the IECA and the NACAC, both require members to demonstrate a certain level of experience but don't offer accreditation. Another group, the AICEP, says they require a master's degree in a relevant field, references and a written exam, but they concede that guidelines are flexible. It appears that most counselors have no formal accreditation.
3. Is it too late to benefit from private counseling?
Many colleges use an applicant's GPA and SAT scores during sophomore and junior year, which means that hiring a college counselor later in high school can have little effect. Because they don't want to turn away paying customers, many private college counselors sign up the bulk of their clients later after they get their PSAT scores, but that can be too late.
4. Do college essay services improve chances?
College essay services constitute a growing business niche with numerous companies offering to assist students in focusing and proofreading their essays. The problem is colleges can spot a professionally edited essay. Essays not done in the authentic voice of the student are evident.
5. Are better SAT scores guaranteed?
SAT preparation has become a given in the college admissions process, and classes may help to get ready for the test by teaching certain methods or time-saving strategies. Students can use online prep web sites, which often cost little or no money. Families who hire a tutor should be careful of anyone who guarantees a gain in their score.
6. Are they offering paid scholarship services?
Be wary of companies that offer to sell scholarship seminars. The information you get may be of little value since most scholarship information is available for free online, through your child's high school, and the local groups, nonprofits and corporations that are running the programs.
7. Does a private counselor offer a built-in advantage?
Some college admissions officers say that help from an upscale private consultant could be a detriment to a student's chances. Independent counselors are often seen as a privilege of the advantaged student and that selective colleges struggle against this built-in bias in the admissions process. Parents and students need to be aware that while some services can be helpful, others may be detrimental.