How valuable are positioning consultants?
I'm the parent of a rising junior. She has a strong profile, but is looking at highly competitive schools. There are a number of consultants out there and it seems to me they typically offer services focused on one or a combination of these topics: 1. getting in to the schools you choose; 2. helping you choose schools; 3. financial strategy to help get aid/pay for school. What's been your experience with college consulting? How do you assess what services you need? How do you evaluate the various service packages (doesn't seem like apple:apple comparisons)?
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I’m in the same position as your child; rising junior looking at Ivys/T20s. My parents and I looked at CC but we decided against it for the following reasons. IMO consultants can’t give you substantially more “insider info” than you could find for free by yourself by just googling, asking around, browsing student forums like the subreddit r/Applyingtocollege on Reddit (student perspective), College Confidential, or even the Collegevine forum. I also recommend looking at Prepscholar and Young Prodigy, two free college blogs both founded by Ivy graduates. The advice I’ve found there is very helpful for an Ivy-specific or T20 goal.
I don’t recommend using a CC to boost/specifically alter your daughter’s profile since often even “scheming” your kid’s profile a specific way can’t secure an acceptance. There could be a lot of other issues - grades, a bad test score, someone across the state having a slightly better profile, pissed-off AO, etc. that you can’t control or pay to eliminate. You can find out what your child’s profile should “look like" by looking at sample ivy-accepted resumes (available on google with some digging) and asking around, if you have connections with people who went to high-level schools. I also really recommend that your child reach out to students from their high school who went/were accepted to Ivys (if any) and talk to them and ask how they got in, what their profiles were like, how the interview went, etc. My high school has a designated graduated HS student contact at every Ivy so all students looking at top schools have a graduate of my high school who attends that university to talk to.
If you do decide to get consulting anyway all I will say is that usually the more expensive offers do not carry significantly more weight/bang for the buck. To determine legitimacy I would base it off of 1) peer/student reviews (ask in college forums like Reddit, CC, etc if anyone has experience with it - CV is not geared towards this so we can’r really help you) 2) price and how much you would be willing to pay nd 3) googling the organization and seeing if anything sketchy pops up.
TL;DR: (summary) I don’t think that college consultants are worth the thousands of dollars since you can find most of the info the will be charging you to learn about on the internet for free. I feel that your money would be better spent on SAT/ACT tutoring to help your child achieve the highest possible score they can. I think Collegevine is a great resource considering that it’s free. I highly recommend your daughter fill out the “live profile review form” on CV so that she can get a free (short) consultation with one of the CV staff and have her profile live reviewed during a webinar. CV hosts these once every couple of weeks or so, so there should be another one coming up soon.
So typically if you will get consultants you should look at an admissions person (helps with school list and getting into the school) and a finicial guide.
Also my mom stressed about aid so we were on a webinar with a semi-sketchy company who just made stuff up. I said I was looking at rice (who meets full aid) and he said that we would help you maximize aid not lower EFC but increase your aid. So be mindful of these very misleading companies personally I’d look at local organizations or non profits and not a national company.
I’d look for a cheaper company/person and the sketchy company I spoke to was like 4000 and advertised that they did both admissions and aid. That was a very high price. Personally I’d look for a sub $2000 dollars combined.
I’d also ask your child’s high school counselor for company recommendations and do not go with a unsolicited company these are the sketchiest of the sketchiest.
As to how to evaluate ask them what school they helped people get into, ask about how big the company is (my expierence is that bigger companies aren’t as good as they are profit seekers may just be me) also ask for any statistics.
Also for making a school list I really don’t recommend you hire a consultant for that as it is fairly easy to do by yourself. You can visit campuses look at common data set for each school (google) majors offered type of school (private research private liberal arts public large or small public. Collegevine has amazing filters to see the stats of the school and you can make a list and see stats side by side.
As for a typical list typically has at least your states flagship school (notable exceptions are schools with sub 35% acceptance rate. Personally my list will have like 7 schools In very confident I’ll get in 3 schools that are a coin flip and 2 ish that are elite elite school as in ivy caliber but that’s just me.
PS look into collegevines advocate tool in your child’s senior year after she gets decisions.
Hope this helps and please comment if you need clarification as I’d be happy to help clarify!