Navigating the big decisions together

When you want to hire a college planning expert (also known as an independent educational consultant) you need to know the No. 1 secret. 

… and that is…

Hire someone with loads of admissions experience!   

Check out my own example: Prior to Campus to Career Crossroads’ inception, I worked in an admissions office for over fourteen years. I gained countless intangible lessons when visiting with students and families. I learned from numerous experiences on the admissions side of the desk that I would not have been able to learn any other way. I can now apply those lessons to help clients in their college successes.

 You might wonder if other people hire college planning experts, and the answer: Yes! 

According to a study completed by the National Research Center for College and University Admissions (NRCCUA), 26% of seniors are using independent educational or college consultants to support them throughout their college search efforts. 

So, what do independent educational consultants and college planning experts do and what should you expect? Great question. Let’s dive in. 

What Do Independent Educational Consultants Do? 

When I worked in admissions, I: 

  • Visited dozens of high schools each year.
  • Partnered with high school counselors.
  • Met hundreds of families.
  • Learned the FAFSA is not as scary to complete as rumored.
  • Managed an institutional scholarship program.
  • Worked in an executive admissions leadership position.

So what do I do now that I’m an independent educational consultant? 

In some ways, I do the exact same things — I still work with students and families! 

Through my progressive admissions track, I gained abundant knowledge about working with them. Nevertheless, a major educational component was missing. I noticed that families didn’t have the right information about so many critical parts of the college admission process.

Key Ways Independent Educational Consultants Support Students 

While I was in admissions, I realized that I didn’t really get the opportunity to really work with students to help them gain admission to a variety of schools. In admissions, you’re limited to helping them get into one school — the one where you work.

I longed to help all students find their exact match but detoured first. I landed in the retained executive search industry and I learned career management knowledge, including executive interview skills, how to write lengthy candidate summaries, which highlighted candidates’ unique strengths, and learned a ton about LinkedIn. 

I got a taste of placing multiple candidates for hire with prominent higher education clients at Columbia University, Bucknell University, and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, to name a few.

Guess what I was finally doing? 

Yes! Placing individuals where they really belong and fit. Evaluating people, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses, then tapping into my knowledge to find the right place that would fit their interests and needs.

I switched to independent educational consulting to help students work through every step of the college search process. I was finally there, working with families. It’s what I was meant to do.

College Consultants: Jacks-of-All-Trade

During this process, you need someone who can offer resources for everything: essay help, one-on-one application help, working through the financial aid process, and more. 

That’s what college planning experts do. They help your family navigate the college admissions process. They carefully match students’ abilities, goals, and needs to specific schools. In a nutshell, we assist students and parents through the entire college application and planning process and beyond.

College Planning Experts Navigate the Way

Who Do College Planning Experts Typically Work With? 

If you’re the parent of a soon-to-be college student or a student yourself, you can work with a college planning expert. An independent educational consultant only works with a specific number of students, guiding families through the entire process, from the inquiry stage to the final decision. 

In contrast, high school college consultants or school counselors work with hundreds of kids — and in some cases, every single student in the school — to cover the basics of college prep and admissions. Sounds like a lot of work for one person, right?

Because of their high workload, your school counselor may not have the time to get familiar with all the available options, which is the reason any age high school student — freshman through senior — can work with an independent educational consultant.

Job Duties of a College Planning Expert 

What specific job duties does all this boil down to? They:

  • Make regular campus visits so they know about schools and unique program offerings that families may not find on their own. 
  • Create a college list that balances target, reach, and safety colleges. 
  • Balance all family viewpoints and ensure everyone is on the same page. 
  • Identify the unique attributes and achievements of students so their college application will shine. Also, provide comprehensive college application assistance!
  • Offer tools to help you figure out how to finance your college education.
  • Meet regularly with families to ensure they stay on pace with their college plan.
  • Help you zero in on a customized planning guide that comprehensively covers both pre- and post-college graduation.
  • Alleviate any stress points so families can enjoy this exciting adventure!

An effective independent educational consultant provides your family with a supremely one-on-one experience. Your family should feel as though they are the sole client of that independent educational consultant. 

What Makes a Good Independent Educational Consultant?

I get to work with students on a very professional and personal level.  What begins as a client relationship often turns into a professional friendship.  As we manage the college planning details, it is humbling to be invited to senior night ceremonies and championship games.

Hampton HS senior night

Characteristics of a Good College Planning Expert

Good college planning experts (above all else) offer a calming influence. They understand the challenges of going off to college and the social-emotional aspect of the college search process doesn’t get missed. Families (not just students!) will go through a major life change and they genuinely want to help them through it. 

Good college planning experts offer honesty and knowledge beyond what you may get through a school counselor. They focus on helping the student find a good match based on their abilities.

Characteristics of a Bad College Planning Expert

Run far, far away if you meet an independent educational consultant who only really cares about money, guarantees he/she will save your family a certain amount of money, or only wants to place students in Ivy League schools. I only want to place students in the right schools for them — not just where they will survive, but thrive.

What Does the Consulting Process Look Like? 

Everyone wants to know this question! The truth is, it looks different for every student because every student offers unique attributes, goals, and important qualities. Even siblings in the same family require a different college plan!

The foundation of my college planning process includes a personalized plan tailored to a student’s goals. I craft and present a plan for sophomore, junior, or senior clients while always being mindful of busy sports seasons and activities. Parents love having this roadmap so they can easily follow this plan and see the critical milestones in advance. Monthly to-do items keep the college process from feeling like an insurmountable mountain.  

When I design a plan for a family, I put certain college planning fundamentals in place for success. For example, many families have a certain college budget in mind and that is an important item to address early in the planning process. I know college net price costs (what the college will actually charge you) so we don’t build a college list that leads to financial heartbreak. Check out Suzanne’s experience to understand how my early planning makes a difference.

Overall, my college planning process empowers clients because they gain confidence by completing critical steps that lead to college admissions success. Clients who manage their college admissions plan through my consulting process gain the confidence, time management, and organizational skills to transition to campus life ahead of their peers.

Most importantly, with my fourteen years of admissions experience, I can quickly adjust monthly to-do items to accommodate for playoff seasons and anticipate when academics may require more attention — AP Exams, midterms, and finals!

When to Hire an Independent Educational Consultant

Some families hire an independent educational consultant as early as their student’s freshman or sophomore year of high school. However, a good rule of thumb involves hiring a consultant during your student’s junior year of high school at the latest. 

I always tell families that the sooner they start working with me, the less stress they’ll feel and their probability for success increases.

College Planning Experts Reduce the Stress

Know What to Expect When You Work With an Independent Educational Consultant

Having a professional advocate in the complex college to career journey is a service from which so many people benefit when working with Campus to Career Crossroads.  If you do not want to go through the college to career journey alone, please contact Campus to Career Crossroads today.

I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with the students, families, and professionals on each college and career journey. Each one offers unique complexities and challenges. For each to see success, I lay out a comprehensive plan tailored to meet each individual need. 

Finally, please listen to the podcast to hear about the passion I have for the work I do.

I am more determined to push the boundaries of tomorrow because of the success story of so many of my clients throughout the country. Presidential scholarships, winning complex financial aid appeals, prestigious internships, and a Fortune 100 accepted job sum up a few successes to note thus far. My clients inspire me to work strategically, push boundaries further, and deliver stronger outcomes.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an independent educational consultant or college planning expert?

An independent educational consultant helps students and their families navigate the college search process. They meet with families one on one to find the best fit for their kids. 

How can a college planning expert help my family?

Preparing for college feels overwhelming to many families. A consultant lets families breathe easier by helping them compare schools and programs, helps students with college applications and essays, and reviews scholarship options and financial aid.

What does a college planning expert do that a school-based counselor can’t?

Think of how many students your school counselor works with — in some instances, hundreds! 

A college planning expert offers a comprehensive one-on-one collaboration with your family to find the exact fit that works best for students. 

Who should consider hiring a college planning expert?

Anyone who plans to attend college can hire a college planning expert. If you want to know your exact next steps with a free consultation, contact Campus to Career Crossroads today. 

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