Sunday, October 16, 2011
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
Dear Mr. Bradshaw: I am considering hiring a college consultant to help me with the admissions process. My parents and I agree that applying to top colleges is a real challenge, and we would like to know how a college consultant could help make things easier. --Student
If you are applying to a top college, a consultant can be a real asset, and the benefits are wide-ranging.
Although little is published on the subject, student surveys indicate that at least 40 percent of the applicants who were admitted to Harvard and Yale last year used consultants.
Even if your parents graduated from a top college and are familiar with the application process through an alumni network, hiring a top college consultant can help level the playing field in the admissions area.
So where should you start? I recommend you Google “college consultants” and examine their websites. Pick a few consultants who focus on top schools and call them with a set of prepared questions. Ask how much they charge, what services they include, if assistance with scholarship essays is a part of the package, and so on.
I highly suggest hiring a consultant who is a graduate of a top college because without these credentials, it is unlikely the consultant will be current with the admissions practices of exclusive schools.
Keep in mind that consultants who were admitted to top colleges will have scores and grades similar to yours. Ask them why they think they got in. Obviously, they were able to separate themselves from other applicants, and you are looking to them to help guide you along the same path.
Assuming you are near the top of your class and have scored in the top 10 percent on the SAT or ACT and on at least two SAT II subject tests, your next hurdle will be the essays required for the common application and individual schools.
Typically, top students apply to 10 colleges, which means writing 40 to 60 essays during the admissions process. The essays are designed to tell colleges something special about you, and each is given a score. Do not be fooled into thinking that the shorter ones don’t count and that only the longer ones matter.
You will find some of the essays can be downright silly (from my point of view), but they still reveal something about how you handle off-the-wall questions like, “What does ‘blue’ mean to you?”
Answering these questions is always difficult, as I dislike quirky questions that don’t have a logical base in my thinking.
What I would like to say and what a responsible answer might be often are different animals. I advise students how to approach these questions and turn the answers to their advantage.
A consultant will help keep you on track in the admissions process and provide a sounding board for you and your family. Making sure you meet deadlines, coaching you as you approach your scholarship essays, and cutting through the admissions clutter are some of the services a consultant provides.
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