Is hiring an independent college admissions counselor for your high school student a wise investment?

Dana McKeeBy Dana McKee

College tuition has skyrocketed in recent years.  The cost of a private four-year college education, including room and board, can buy you a home in Maryland, and the state colleges are not far behind.  A contentious custody or divorce battle can leave parents with insufficient assets to comfortably finance their child’s college education without substantial loans or unwisely digging into their retirement savings to finance their child’s “dream school.”  Worse yet, the burden of paying for a child’s college may fall upon the shoulders of only one parent.  So, what can a parent do?   Depending on your circumstances, hiring an Independent College Counselor may prove to be a wise investment.

What is an Independent College Counselor?

An Independent College Counselor or Independent Educational Counselor works with families who are looking for a more comprehensive approach to finding and applying to colleges than what most students receive from their high school counselors.  They are not employed by colleges or universities, but rather work for the student and their family, who pay for their consulting services.

How Can They Help with the College Admissions Process?

Independent College Counselors work closely with the student and their family to find colleges that are a good fit for the student.  They take the time to get to know the student, make recommendations on how to improve the student’s record for college admissions, prepare the student for interviews, develop a reasonable list of schools to consider, assist with the application process, and provide advice on financial and merit aid.

Can They Help with Finding a College that is Affordable?

Independent College Counselors know which colleges provide generous merit and financial aid packages.  They also know from their years of experience which students are likely to be eligible for those coveted scholarships.  By working with an Independent Educational Counselor and being honest about your family’s financial resources, your student will have a list of schools that the student has a good chance of getting into and will most likely be able to afford.

Is the Cost of an Independent College Counselor Worth It?

Whether the cost of an Independent College Counselor is worth it depends on many different factors.  Is the student interested in devoting the time needed for such counseling to make a difference?  What services will the counselor provide?  How experienced is the counselor?  How much does the Independent College Counselor charge for the services to be provided?  What is the counselor’s track record?

Before making any decision on whether to hire an Independent College Consultant, interview several of them.  Determine whether the services that each one offers would assist your family in finding the best college for your child, including identifying schools more likely to offer more generous financial aid packages and merit scholarships  Make sure that the counselor’s personality is a good match for your child.  Check out their references and professional credentials (membership in professional associations and certification in training programs for Independent Educational Consultants). Once you have done your due diligence, you will be able to decide if the cost is something you want to undertake.

My Family’s Personal Journey Using an Independent College Consultant

I initially thought that my daughter’s college search would be an exciting adventure, but after visiting several schools up and down the east coast, I soon learned that finding colleges that my daughter liked was not going to be a simple task.  What I thought would be fun had become stressful.  I knew that we needed help coming up with a list of schools that my daughter would find acceptable.

I reached out to several Independent College Counselors in Maryland.  Some of them had no availability, while others did not seem like the right fit for my child’s personality.  During my search, I found Kate Cleary of College Match Plus in Lutherville, Maryland.  I interviewed Kate by phone.  She was knowledgeable about the college admissions process, regularly visited college campuses, and emphasized the importance of the “best fit” instead of the “brand name.”

Kate provided me with references for other families that had used her consulting services.  I dutifully checked out Kate’s references even though I knew in my gut that she would be able to help us find the right college for my daughter.  Each family provided glowing reports of how Kate made the college application process less stressful than it would have been if left on their own.  Their children had been accepted to the schools of their choice and were doing well.  One of the parents noted that Kate accurately identified several top-ranked private colleges that her son had a reasonable chance of getting accepted into and would provide a generous financial/merit aid package.  Her son was happily enrolled in his first-choice college at a cost that was less than the cost of attending a state university.

In the first few months of working with Kate, we reaped the financial benefits of her services.  She convinced my daughter that getting a part-time or summer job would enhance her chances of getting into the college of her choice.  The income that my daughter earned from that job not only covered the cost of Kate’s services, but it also provided my daughter with an introduction to the employment market that will benefit her in the future.

In our experience, hiring Kate Cleary was worth every penny.  My daughter was admitted to several top-ranked colleges that offered her substantial four-year merit scholarships, which resulted in the college cost being much more affordable than originally expected.  So, if you find yourself stressing out over how to pay for college, you may want to consider whether an Independent College Counselor or Independent Educational Consultant is right for you.

Brown, Goldstein & Levy’s family law attorney, Dana McKee, pride themselves on finding creative solutions for their clients’ problems.  They recognize that the legal process for parents in divorce and custody matters has its limitations, and that other solutions may be more fruitful.  If you need assistance with a family law matter, whether it be a divorce, custody, or child support dispute, contact us at 410-962-1030 to schedule a consultation.

We represent clients in Baltimore City (Bolton Hill, Canton, Federal Hill, Fells Point, Guilford, Homeland, Mt. Washington, Roland Park), Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Frederick County, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County.

Authored by

Dana McKee Partner