In over fifteen years of working with families, I can say this with absolute certainty: Each family has its own college admissions goals and needs a customized plan. You cannot simply copy another family’s college roadmap and hope it works for your child. There is not a one size fits all approach.
College planning help requires a personalized touch. After all, each student has different interests and goals. Searching the internet for hours may not help you find information relevant to your child. When you overlook college planning services, you could end up with a huge college bill or a final college decision that is not your child’s best fit.
To prove the point, I want to share two families’ stories I encountered from this past year.
College Planning Help Experiences: A Tale of Two Families
Knowing that the college planning process takes preparation, time, and insight, let us take a look at these two families’ stories. We’ll call the first Family A and the second Family B.
By the time we reached the fated decision date of May 1, we were faced with multiple school decisions, made more complicated by scholarship offers at some schools and waitlists at others. We tried (on our own) to weigh which schools would be the best fit for our daughter. We also tried (again, on our own) to understand the financial implications of these decisions.
Jason was kind enough to give me some pro-bono advice during our daughter’s second semester. One of the most painful things he said to me was, “You guys should have been done with this in December.”
Ouch. After what we had just been through these past few months, that was difficult to hear.
Not using Jason was a mistake, and for those of you considering using his services: Just do it.
Read Family A’s full story on Campus to Career Crossroads.
Working with Jason has outlined so many details about the college process that we never would have learned on our own. We also noticed that when we showed enthusiasm for a school our daughter looked at, she started to feel pressure to choose that school. We worried that our ultimate influence would get in the way and that she would feel that she wouldn’t make the final decision on her own.
Thanks to Jason’s efforts, I know she’s choosing a great university. Even better, our family has been strengthened by this group effort!
Read Family B’s full story on Campus to Career Crossroads.
Which family do you want to be? Family A or Family B?
How College Planning Help Can Benefit the Whole Family
Reading through these two accounts, you can see that professional college planning services made a huge difference for Family B in terms of admissions success and less stress.
I always provide a family-centric college planning approach. Students and their parents usually have different goals, needs, and stress points. If their concerns are not addressed properly, it will only lead to bigger frustrations down the road. My college planning services offer a third-party voice to balance all viewpoints and ensure the family works in the same direction — just like I was able to help Family B.
Benefit 1: Offers a voice of experience.
Many families struggle simply with where to start with college planning and how to effectively plan the months ahead. Experienced college planners:
- Know the college planning milestones families should achieve during different months of the year. (I receive inquiries from all levels of high school clients throughout the year.)
- Should be adaptable and nimble with customized plans to ensure proper fundamentals stay in place.
Family A had begun college planning during the spring of their daughter’s junior year. They were clearly ahead of Family B in many areas. However, Family A did not effectively maximize the head start with the right mix of colleges so acceptance letters would arrive in December.
Benefit 2: Gives families a college planning timeline.
I believe each client’s timeline should depend on his or her unique goals. This timeline helps us focus on the critical tasks and gives the student a clear agenda for the months ahead. Each client gets a pared-down list of vital tasks and a list of tasks to put aside at a later time.
Family B reached out in the fall of their daughter’s senior year and needed a precise timeline. I was able to craft a plan to meet their needs and have applications ready for many November 1 application deadlines. I know from experience that it is very difficult to get admitted into the Regular Decision round of any application cycle. I was more correct than ever because the 2020-2021 application cycle had record-setting applicant numbers.
Benefit 3: Offers an objective voice.
Students need honest feedback about their admissions odds. A college list should not be a wish list, and objective feedback will help eliminate heartbreak in the months ahead. I have found that students appreciate these honest conversations because they allow me to recommend colleges and an application strategy that fits the student.
Family A’s daughter was counting on one of the most selective universities in the country to accept her, and it didn’t occur because she didn’t receive the honest feedback she should have gotten. It set her back from applying to more colleges, especially target colleges with Early Action deadlines.
Benefit 4: Gives students an effective application path.
Students must apply to the correct mix of colleges by November. Because more colleges accept students through Early Decision plans, Early Decision cannot be the only strategy. Family B’s daughter was able to submit over eight applications and leverage Early Action application plans to her advantage. Family’s A daughter only submitted one Early Decision application to a highly selective institution.
Families without college planning help can struggle to understand the appropriate number of colleges to which they should apply and when. Not applying the right way in the fall can make the months ahead more arduous and stressful.
Benefit 5: Professional association knowledge.
One of the benefits of my college planning services involves the best-in-class industry knowledge I can offer all clients. I receive weekly information from gold-standard professional associations such as the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC). I have also set up monthly calls with admissions officials throughout the country for my regional leader duties in IECA. Check out the April 2021 call with Clemson University.
Family A was not aware of the record-setting application volume that occurred this year. They navigated the most competitive application cycle without information. They did not apply effectively in the early application round and did not source information to apply appropriately in the Regular Decision round. They should have applied to more colleges in the Regular Decision round. This would have compensated for the application volume and given their daughter the best college options for her final decision.
Even though Family B was receiving acceptance letters in December, I encouraged them to apply to a few more colleges. I knew the application volume was intense and I wanted to buffer any unfavorable decisions in the months ahead. They welcomed the advice and applied to a few more colleges.
Benefit 6: Offers post-application support.
Many students assume the application phase has ended once they hit the “submit” button on the Common App. However, colleges must also receive electronic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and standardized test scores after that. If students move out of the early application round because their application is incomplete, they will likely face intense competition in the Regular Decision round. This will significantly lessen their likelihood of acceptance.
I diligently remind clients to monitor applicant portals once they submit their applications. I was able to coordinate with Family B’s high school counselor to ensure transcripts were sent again when we noticed a delay in her applicant portal at certain universities.
Another misstep for Family A’s daughter was not checking her applicant portals. She chose to have standardized test scores as part of her application. One university did not receive them and they could not provide an admissions decision because her application was incomplete. This delayed her decision for a university she wanted to attend. Due to the increase in applications the school received, she was not accepted for the fall term. She was accepted for the spring term instead.
Benefit 7: Helps sift through final college decision options.
College planning help pays huge dividends with the final college decision. May 1, commonly known as National Decision Day in college admissions, means seniors must accept one of their college acceptances and enroll in that institution.
Family B had over ten acceptances to desired colleges in March. Their daughter’s application efforts had been recognized with many generous merit aid scholarships as well. They had exciting college options for their daughter’s final college decision. If anything, they had a tough time creating a shortlist of the top contending colleges.
Family A did not have one acceptance as of April 5. The stress levels for the family were unimaginable. May 1 was approaching fast and they had to scramble to identify colleges that were still accepting applications.
Benefit 8: Strengthens the college journey.
I believe the college journey can be a rewarding experience for students and their families and college planning help can help that experience. Over fifteen years, I have noted the things that make the college search process productive, successful, and enjoyable. When families understand their goals and planning milestones, they have less stress. This leads to more positive and productive college conversations among family members.
Family B’s daughter matured and took on more responsibilities each month of the planning process. Every step of my process helped build her confidence. Each acceptance letter encouraged her to achieve more which will serve her well as she transitions to campus life. Family B toured colleges together and created numerous positive memories they will cherish in the years ahead.
Get College Planning Help
Again, I ask you: Do you want to be Family A or Family B? Most families would overwhelmingly prefer to be Family B — organized, calm, and making the right decisions throughout the college process.
College planning help involves more than creating a college list. It involves numerous intangible benefits invaluable to a student and their family.
Could college admissions help be right for your family? Contact Campus to Career Crossroads for a free consultation and understand how personalized college planning services will benefit your family. Seeing students increase their confidence and families enjoying their child’s admissions success are rewarding parts of my job.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are college planning services worth it?
Yes! Families that seek successful admissions outcomes want to know exactly how to navigate changing conditions in the admissions process. Contact Campus to Career Crossroads for a free consultation and to get a complete understanding of how personalized college planning services will benefit your family.
When should you start planning for college?
As soon as possible! It is never too early to start planning for college, and you can even start at home beginning in eighth grade! After all, eighth grade serves as the launchpad to high school. Putting a focus on grades and getting started in the right direction during eighth grade matters. I recommend getting started with a college planning service like Campus to Career Crossroads no later than junior year.
When should you start filling out college applications?
Colleges and universities open their applications generally around August 1 of a student’s senior year. It’s always best to check with each college’s opening application date and deadlines.
However, do you want your child to scramble to apply right around the deadline? Absolutely not. You want to carefully prepare applications weeks (and even months!) in advance.
Get in touch with me so I can help you carefully put together an application plan for your child’s top schools!
How do I know which college is best for my child?
Such a great question. Also kind of overwhelming, right? So many components go into making the final decision, including going on college visits, making pros and cons lists, evaluating costs, majors, etc.
I have put together a carefully formulated list of items you need to consider prior to launching the college search. I will also meet with you and your child to help you identify the characteristics your child wants in a college.