When to Hire a College Consultant

By Maxine Seya

Here’s a misconception: College consultants only help high school seniors with their college apps.

I once heard a sales trainer tell a college consultant that their target audience is high school seniors.

We apply for college in senior year, so we hire consultants also in senior year, right?

No. And the trainer probably didn’t know much about college consulting.

College consulting can be even more effective when started earlier than senior year of high school.

When should you hire a college consultant?

Parents might think it’s a little early to start in 9th grade and that’s true if you’re only talking about the Common App and personal statements.

In every grade of high school, a college consultant can help, if you know what to ask for. Here’s our guide.

9th grade is a good time to get help from a college consultant on:

  • Starting a meaningful independent project like launching a business, writing a book, or raising money for a cause your student believes in.
    • Your consultant can help develop milestones and deadlines, expand your student’s network by connecting him to local influencers, and give college-related tips along the way. Because these entrepreneurial pursuits take time to flourish, 9th grade is the right time to start.
  • Academic course selection. Your student’s freshman year class selection can affect his ability to take the most rigorous classes as a junior or senior. For example, if your child opts to take regular math instead of honors math, he might not be able to take calculus before 12th grade, depending on the academic progression at school. Selective schools like Carnegie Mellon rarely accept high schoolers without calculus on their transcript.
    • Your consultant can help weigh the pros and cons of various academic paths with the college admissions lens in mind. Because your child’s 9th grade course selection affects the rest of his high school transcript, 9th grade is the right time to start.
  • College financial planning. College can cost as much as a house. And it takes years to save for a house, so why would it be any different saving for college? Instead of relying on traditional college savings vehicles, you should explore alternatives that might give you a higher return on investment. By doing this sooner rather than later, you’ll give yourself time to grow your assets and ultimately give your child the gift of applying to and attending any school he wants.
    • Your consultant, particularly one well-versed in financial aid or wealth planning, can diagnose your family finances and propose a personalized savings plan the way a nutritionist might evaluate a client’s eating habits and propose a healthier diet plan.

10th grade is a good time to get help from a college consultant on:

  • Getting a focus plan for the next 2 years. It’s still sophomore year, so there’s no need to dive too deeply into college apps. Save yourselves the stress. But as classwork and extracurricular requirements grow heavier, students might benefit from a focus plan with college admissions in mind. This is like a business plan, but for students aiming for admission to selective colleges, detailing what to and what not to spend time on and how to attain certain goals. There’s not enough time in the day for your student to take every single opportunity available to him.
    • Your consultant should be involved in this focus plan if your child’s goal is to get into top colleges like Yale, Cornell, or Princeton. The admissions expertise will guide this focus plan.
  • Exploring majors and careers. Your child can apply to college undecided, but having an idea of different major and career options will pave the path to crafting a well-fitted college list. It’ll also help your child find extracurriculars related to his career goals, which in turn strengthens college essays when the time comes.
    • Your consultant can help administer personality tests, major/career fit tests, and expose your child to majors and careers he never knew existed.

11th grade is a good time to get help from a college consultant on:

  • Compiling required elements for college admissions. College apps can feel pretty bureaucratic. Like getting driver’s license or applying for a work visa abroad, you need to gather a ton of documents. For college, your student will need to submit transcripts,

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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.