What do college admissions consultants cost?

By Maxine Seya

$1.5 million for a college consulting package. (Yes, that happened.)

Guaranteed admission to Yale.

That’s normal, right?

No.

If you’re considering hiring a college admissions consultant, please don’t get ready to sell your house and liquidate your retirement.

Here’s what you need to know about college consultant fee structures, average costs, hidden costs, and benefits.

College Consultant Fees

À la carte

Like at a restaurant where you pay per item, you pay the consultant for the product or service you want. For example, your college consultant might offer help on essays, financial aid form completion, interview prep, and college list creation. If your college consultant offers an à la carte fee structure, you pay one price for the essay help, one price for the financial aid form completion, one price for interview prep, and one price for the college list.

This allows you to pick and choose only the services you need. If, for example, your family won’t be applying for financial aid and already have a college list you’re happy with, then simply pay for the essay help and admissions interview prep.

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Range of fees: À la carte services (essay review, college lists, test prep, etc.) can cost anywhere between $500 on the lower end to $5,000 on the higher end.

Hourly

Like lawyers or therapists, some college consultants bill you hourly for their work on whatever you want. Every time you need help with some aspect of the college application process, set up a meeting with the consultant and get billed by the hour for his or her expertise.

This allows you to “pay-as-you-go” and give your child space to complete as many aspects of the application as possible herself. Only when she has a specific question or needs a second review of her essays will you need to hire the consultant.

If the service you purchase requires research, such as college list creation, you can expect the consultant to also bill you for the hours spent researching, not just the hour-long meeting with you.

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The upside of the hourly rate payment structure is that you can communicate how much time you want the consultant to spend. For example, if your child’s essay has already been reviewed by 5 teachers at school, but she wants another expert look, you can ask for just an hour of review. This can help you save money.

The downside is that some college consultants may not put as much prep time into your meetings, since they are not getting paid for meeting prep. It’s possible you’d spend the first half of the meeting getting your college consultant caught up with your situation before actually getting the expertise you paid for. Another downside is that your consultant might charge you for emails or phone calls, which can get costly.

Range of fees: On the lowest end, college consultants may charge as low as $85 per hour to as high as $1,000 per hour. The average, however, lies around $300 per hour.

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Comprehensive

Like a combo meal for which you pay one price for the main course, sides, and drink, you pay one fee for all the services you need. Unlike the hourly rate structure, the comprehensive or package plan doesn’t use the number of hours worked to bill you. A comprehensive plan might include college list creation, unlimited meetings, unlimited essay reviews, interview prep, application review, major/career selection, recommendation letter prep, extracurricular planning, SAT/ACT/AP prep, and more. For these full packages, the consultant will charge a flat fee.

Depending on the college consultant, you might pay that flat fee all upfront, spread over a certain number of months, or within a certain number of payments.

For example, if your consultant charges you $10,000 for a comprehensive package, you might negotiate paying that fee once a month over the course of the year-long service, so $833 per month over 12 months.

Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.

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