Independent College Consultants in the U.S.

Posted on: 2011-08-02 , The latest updated on:2012-01-08

In the U.S., almost every high school has a college counselor(Chinese translation:大学升学顾问), whose job is to provide assistance to high school students in college applications. Because the vast majority of schools are in short supply of college counselors, many wealthy families seek the help of outside independent consultants for their high school children.

Independent college consultants provide fee-based advisory services for students and parents. In general, they mainly serve U.S. high school students, including families who want their children to study in a good private high school. In addition they are alsoin demand for students who apply to medical schools, law schools and business schools. Regardless of how well-known these consulting firms are, the companies are always very small. In the United States, you can not find even one chain of college consulting firm that exists as they do all over China. Also very few consulting firms advertise as heavily as Chinese agencies usually do. Hence,, what U.S. consulting firms usually do is to accumulate their customers over time by word of mouth. This means that independent college counselors' consulting fees vary widely depending on the consultants' qualifications, background and length of service, ranging from a few hundred dollars to 40-50 thousands dollars per package.

Independent college consultants in the U.S., whether they are famous or not, often do everything themselves to ensure the highest quality. Hence, a consultant can usually only service about 30 cases a year. Therefore, the consulting fee of a senior independent consultant is very expensive. For example, a company called Ivy Success has a $30,000 price tag. On July 18, 2009, aNew York Times report on American independent college consultants stated that IVY Wise's consultant, Catherine ·Cohen's service price was $40,000. Although, like university admissions, her fee is high, her "admissions" places are filled quickly early each year. However, this high price raises concerns regarding whether charging students such high fees is ethically right or not.

Many people think that only families with a relatively low level of education will seek help from independent college counselors. In fact, families that hire independent consultants are mostly well-educated middle and upper class families, because only they can afford the expensive consulting fees. This is because Harvard, Yale, Princeton and other elite universities have more and more competition, and college admissions have become increasing complicated, hence it is not true that a person who has received a good education in the United States can be certain to make their child's application perfect.

In order to allow children to find their wat into the elite schools, American upper middle class families, starting from grade 7 or 8 or even earlier, seek to hire an independent consultant for college planning. The consultant designs a plan based on the student's characteristics, recommends elective courses to the student, makes suggestions for extracurricular activities, provides a list of volunteer activities and gives advice on how to participate in competitions to develop social experience and leadership. In addition, the consultant also helps students to edit college essays, guides them on how tofill out the application forms and Resumes, and advises them on how to get strong recommendation lettersfrom teachers. By all of these efforts , they hope to achieve a perfect level in the completion of application materials.

On the issue of whether the use of independent consultants is really effective in helping students to increase their chances of being admitted by a university, for reasons easy to understand, U.S. universities deny that it gives students a measurable advantage, because they do not want student application materials to be packaged by experienced consultants. Nevertheless, the 2011 university and college survey reported by Insiderhighered showed that 22.4% of university admissions officers do indeed think that the use of independent consultants can be very effective in helping students to increase their opportunities for university admission.

In China, college consultant firms are in their infancy stage. The industry itself is still completely unregulated. There is a large quality gap between consulting firms in China and the independent consultants in the United States. Except for a small number of parents who can correctly see the value a good college consultant can provide, this career is under-perceived by Chinese public. However, with information gradually flowing in, sooner or later it will be clear what a real role a professional consultant can play.


*: The 2011 Insiderhighered survey of college and university admissions