Things Parents Should know about working with Independent Counselors

Matt Struckmeyer the Director of College Counseling at Dunn School recently had an article published on a site in Santa Barbara called Noozhawk. He had 4 tips parents should know about working with independent counselors. Many families question whether they should hire a Private College Counselor for their child but with price tags from $2,000 to $10,000 it can be a big investment. Some of his thoughts might be insightful for the High School Counselor community as well.

1. He recommends families not forget about you, the High School Counselor. While hiring a Private Counselor can provide more individualized attention for their child he recommends that all parents make a visit to their child’s Counselor and ask direct questions such as “What is your experience, qualifications and philosophy?” and “How well do you know my child?”

This second question is pivotal, for college guidance is anything but a one-size-fits-all enterprise, so making a great college choice begins with the conversations and personal connections that the best counselors initiate.

2. Hire an Independent Counselor as you would a Realtor: College is a major investment, and having someone with expert knowledge of the marketplace is key. The best counselors, just like the best realtors, know it’s only a good deal if it’s a good fit.

The best realtors use their intuition to see beneath the surface, matching homebuyers with the houses their clients will love, not just settle for.

Good counselors possess a similar finely tuned radar about hidden interests and values. Perhaps they can also help shave thousands of dollars from what a family might otherwise pay.

How? Lots of experience helps them anticipate how much a given college wants a particular child to enroll. If you know parents that have made the decision to hire an independent counselor recommend they check out several and don’t just go with the first one they talk to.

3. Forget the Old Rules of College Admissions: The days are long gone when a student with stellar grades and high test scores could be assured of admission to the college of their choice.

Schools like Stanford and Yale turn down the overwhelming majority of valedictorians who apply.

With so many applicants sporting identically exceptional credentials, it’s harder than ever to stand out from the crowd.

Colleges consider much more than their applicants’ qualifications. With an eye on enrollments, colleges closely scrutinize the applicant’s “demonstrated interest” — their apparent passion for a given school — which suggests how likely they might be to enroll if admitted.

These factors are precisely why a family might want to hire a good independent counselor, to rely on their vast understanding of the intricacies of a seemingly arbitrary process.

4. Beware of those who promise the Moon: Despite what many claim or wish to believe, there are no “silver bullets,” “tricks” or “secret pathways” in college admission.

Each child’s record will be reviewed carefully, and no reputable college will be fooled by plaudits or accomplishments that aren’t authentic.

There can be a tendency of some counselors and some parents to overstep their bounds and alter or even mute the student’s own voice in the application. Colleges see right through this meddling, which often has the opposite result of what’s intended.

The best counselors are coaches and advocates. They give students the confidence to find their own voices and to put their best foot forward, which means parents can breathe just a little bit easier.