More College Applicants Hire Consultants

THE CHANGING FACE OF ADMISSONS CONSULTING 

When a student begins working with a consultant isn’t the only choice parents need to make. As the number of consultants grows, so does the diversity of options. Students can work in person with local consultants, like Casner. Or they can find a consultant through larger admissions consulting companies, where most, if not all, sessions will be held over Skype or email.

Joanne Goldberg, courtesy photo

Joanne Goldberg, courtesy photo

There are advantages to both. Large companies with multiple consultants benefit from more resources and combined experience. JoAnne Goldberg, who practices solo and through an admissions consulting company called InGenius Prep, gives the example of students with visa questions. As a consultant on her own, she doesn’t know all the rules for all the countries, but with InGenius Prep, she can pool resources and share information with her colleagues.

Sklarow adds that large companies may make it easier for parents to find consultants who have unique specialties, such as working with students who have learning disorders or those who boast specific artistic talents or religious affiliations.

‘THE DOWNSIDES OF WORKING WITH A LARGE COMPANY’

But there are also downsides to working with a large company. “I don’t like when a student is passed around to different people in a company,” Sklarow says. “I want the same person talking to the student, working on the list of colleges, and helping the student with the essays.”

Often, with large companies, the consultants work with students all over the country. This benefits clients who live in areas that don’t have many private consultants. But if a client has both options, working in person may be a plus.

“In a perfect world, we would have offices everywhere,” says Jon Frank of Admissionado – another admission consulting company. “It would be so great if we had an office in Sweden, and kids could walk in and talk to us. But we would need 2,000 offices if we wanted to be face-to-face with everyone.”

As it is, the industry appears to be leaning toward a virtual consulting model. IECA has found that while 98% of advising sessions were once in person, only 38% are today.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

The increasing number of options is also creating more diversity in price. While working with a consultant for months, or maybe years, isn’t going to be cheap, the range of that expense is pretty wide.

For three years of advice and support, Sklarow says prices range from $800 on the low end to $8,000 on the high.  Hourly consultants may charge between $75 an hour to $350 an hour. A lot has to do with location, with consultants based in places such as New York charging the most, he says. In general, a private admissions officer will cost about the same as a family therapist in many communities.

He also points out that some high profile consultants have been in the news for charging around $30,000. “There are exactly two people in America who charge that kind of money,” Sklarow says. “But unfortunately those are the people we typically hear about. So that’s what people think it’s going to cost. It’s rare for consultants to even charge $8,000. I think the average is about $3,400.”

HOW DO SCHOOLS FEEL ABOUT IT?

The common assumption is that college admissions officers are not fond of private admissions consultants. Some university websites ask prospective students to sign statements saying they filled out the applications themselves.

However, as hiring a consultant becomes more and more popular, the relationship and the assumptions change. Five years ago, Sklarow says that most schools were indifferent, with a small number of lesser-known colleges loving consultants for spreading the word about them, and a small number of mainly Ivy League schools that voiced public opposition.

“But today, virtually all colleges actively engage with independent educational consultants. Hundreds of colleges send representatives to IECA events nationally,” he says.

Frank from Admissionado says that as a consultant, he assumes that admissions officers figure that applicants are getting help, whether it’s from their parents, their friends, or a business.

“If companies like ours act ethically, then we’re doing the colleges a great service,” he maintains. “Especially colleges that are not ranked in the top 10. Harvard will never lack for students, but less popular schools have a marketing problem.”

‘HIGH SCHOOLS ARE DROPPING THE BALL’

Jon Frank, courtesy photo

Jon Frank, courtesy photo

But whatever colleges think of admissions consultants, it doesn’t change the fact that not everyone can afford the extra help. Frank of Admissionado says that while having a consultant is often a big advantage, not having one isn’t always a disadvantage.

“It doesn’t have to be. A student who is a self-starter or someone who has an older sister, or a parent who went through the process, or who has strong college guidance in high school – those students are not at a disadvantage at all,” Frank says.

But then, he added that not everyone has those advantages. “Maybe their school is bad at it, or the school ran out of money, or they had to choose between lunch and college guidance, and they chose lunch,” he says. “We exist, and the reason we exist is because there’s a gap. High schools are dropping the ball.”

DON’T MISS: QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE HIRING A CONSULTANT

  • I just wanted to offer that even large consultancies that belong to every Association Under the Sun can be extremely unethical, something I’ve experienced firsthand. While it’s not a scientific process, I think that the gut check is still the best way to sense if they would be a good partner. Along with checking out testimonials and references of course, but I don’t think that’s references and testimonials always paint the most accurate picture either. My main message would be don’t give your power away to brand name, testimonials, associations, or any of that stuff. Trust the feeling you get as the first hurdle. Then collect data.