“Where do we even start?”
I hear this all the time from parents when they first contact me.
When you hire a college planning service (also known as an independent educational consultant) to help you plan your child’s next four years, you want to get the most out of that service. After all, you don’t want to miss out on any opportunities or skip what your college and student planning services provider has to offer.
We’ll walk you through how to use your independent educational consultant to your advantage and squeeze the absolute most value out of that service.
Step 1: Select the right college planning services provider.
Parents, do you want to take on the project manager role when your son or daughter gets ready to begin the college journey?
If you answered “no,” that’s a good thought. College admissions and financial aid change significantly every year (especially in the aftermath of COVID-19). These changes become monumental over a five-year period. If you attended college 20 years ago, seismic shifts in the admissions landscape put you at a distinct disadvantage before your child even steps foot onto a college campus!
Parents who want to quit the project manager role and go back to being a parent contact me all the time because they want me to help them:
- Feel a sense of relief that they’re taking the right steps for their son or daughter’s college journey.
- Navigate the college admissions process with less stress and more success.
- Realize there is no one “right” college for any one student but a variety of right choices for every student.
- Recommend “hidden gem” colleges that families may not find on their own.
- Limit stress and balance family viewpoints.
- Turn the college admissions experience into a period of personal reflection and growth for high school students.
Doesn’t it make sense that you should choose the right person for the job? You absolutely must make sure that your independent educational consultant and your family have chemistry.
Parents, you may realize quickly that you’re unprepared for the rigors of college planning, and that’s okay. You can choose to enjoy the college experience.
You want experience, extensive industry knowledge, and to anticipate project obstacles. Leave the college project management role to a professional independent educational consultant.
Step 2: Know the list of college planning services.
In order to achieve that “chemistry” between you, your high schooler, and your independent educational consultant, check out a few services your independent educational consultant should offer.
Identify Career(s) of Interest
Your college planning service should offer a solid career assessment used by top companies. For example, I use a well-known assessment tool that helps students identify proper majors for them. The tool does more than just identifying student “likes” and “dislikes.” The tool offers a comprehensive analysis that maps students’ results to twelve career “families.” It’s so accurate that in the past, one student said, “Wow, I can’t believe how much this sounds like me. I would have never thought of this career on my own!”
Search for the Best College Majors
Your child shouldn’t ask, “What major should I choose?” or pore over the current employment statistics for a particular field. Instead, he or she should ask, “What major is right for me?”
Based on the career interest inventory, your child can then identify which majors plug directly into those careers. Your independent educational consultant should help you use that as a starting point for choosing a college major.
Finally, don’t discard fields where your child feels he or she lacks ability. Colleges teach many of those skills!
Collect Scholarship Applications
Applying for scholarships might feel like going into a giant maze with a blindfold. However, it’s really important to remember that any student can get scholarships, even those with average grades.
Your independent educational consultant can help you develop a list of the types of scholarships you can put on your list, including merit-based scholarships from colleges and universities. Once students have a solid list of scholarships, your independent college consultant should tap into his or her college financial planning services knowledge. Your consultant should help you organize and prioritize and help you find scholarships that fit your exact talents and needs.
Learn why Campus to Career Crossroads’s even sponsors its own company scholarship!
Get Letters of Recommendation
As a parent, you might not think you have any control over letters of recommendation — and they might provoke some anxiety. “What if the teacher doesn’t hit the ‘submit’ button? What if the teacher can’t write or spell and the letter repels admissions officers?” Or, the horror of all horrors: “What if it’s late?”
It’s a great idea to request letters of recommendation early and they will be ready to submit wayyy before the application deadline. Teachers, mentors, or past and present employers can offer letters of recommendation. These individuals should know your child well and should focus on your child’s character, talents, and potential.
Your independent educational consultant should help your child curate this list!
College planning services shine during application time. An independent educational counselor will review the application process with your family and help your child to fill them out. An independent educational consultant can also help review essays. When it’s time to gather all the pieces — the application, essays, letters of recommendation and test scores — the independent educational consultant will help with that process, down to the smallest detail.
Tap into Other Helpful Resources for College Planning
Your college planning service should walk you through everything you need to know about college planning.
Each student should get a college planning outline based on his or her goals. Your independent educational consultant should help you work around busy times, such as during sports seasons or summer programs.
An effective college planning outline consists of the following items:
- Goals to keep a family on pace
- A clear target based on the student’s college goals and year of high school
- Key to-do items like standardized testing and college visits, letters of recommendation, admissions applications
- Time allocation for career exploration
- Downtime for family and friends
Taking the college process one small step at a time builds confidence and makes planning the college “mountain” less daunting. Ask how else your independent college consultant can get your child that much closer to gaining admission to the college he or she wants.
Step 3: Communicate your needs.
What do you need help with most? Everything?
Whatever you’re feeling, it’s okay. I understand how overwhelming it can feel to even know where to begin. Most parents become confused with the first couple of steps in the college journey and feel totally unqualified to sequence the entire college process.
Does this sound familiar? You quickly realize hours of “Google searching” leads to more confusion and uncertainty. Buying books with titles like “How to Get into College — 86,000 Steps” requires hours of reading and processing the information. Plus, how do you know if you even interpreted it correctly?
You’re not alone. Check out the following questions I get all the time.
Question 1: How do we navigate the technical details?
Parents have a ton of questions when it comes to pulling all the college details together.
Parents often find themselves stymied by:
- Student transcripts
- SAT and ACT scores (especially since test-optional policies have become so common among colleges and universities)
- Volunteer work or internships
- Finding a program the student is interested in and that fits within his or her family’s budget
- Filling out college applications
- Scheduling college tours
- Reviewing their college admission essays
- Giving students suggestions for improving their applications
- Applying for financial aid or scholarships
As an experienced admission professional and an independent educational consulting professional, I can quickly customize a college plan to reach a family’s goals and partner with the family each step of the way to ensure success.
Question 2: Which colleges should go on the list?
Did you know that a proper college list includes a variety of public universities and private colleges? This allows a student to experience a variety of settings.
But most parents struggle to identify the best fit colleges for their children, and it’s no wonder. Their kids can choose from 4,000 colleges throughout the country! Determining which colleges should go on the list quickly becomes a primary source of concern for many parents.
Question 3: How do we know if a college campus is a good fit?
Once a family does identify colleges to visit, the next stressor becomes determining the right cultural fit. From my admissions experiences, families do not formulate thoughtful questions that they should or could ask to understand the overall campus fit. Your independent educational consultant should help families create a list of questions based on their specific needs to find a college where their child will thrive academically, socially, and financially.
Question 4: How will we get through these stressful family conversations about college?
Many parents who take on the role of a college admissions project manager struggle with balancing all family opinions. Their son or daughter can show resistance to their ideas. This can lead to arguments and create more college-related stress in the household. Your independent educational consultant should bring an experienced and impartial voice that listens to and bridges all viewpoints.
Step 4: Establish a roadmap.
College planning consultants should know all the possible planning milestones and know how to sequence the correct course of action for each student’s goals. Within the same family, siblings may each require a different college planning approach!
Each month, families should accomplish tasks to keep college stress to a minimum.
Most parents want a structured plan based on their son or daughter’s goals and most students want a defined plan as well! Students have become busier than ever with academics, sports, family and friend schedules and more. It’s the college consultant’s job to tailor to students at different high school stages, from freshman to senior year.
Step 5: Open up lines of communication.
Parents and students all have dozens of questions. If these questions get answered without an understanding of the family’s overall college goals, it can lead to more stress. An independent college consultant should answer questions, balance expectations and mediate different points of view. Without this third-party perspective, many families get mired in disagreements and lose valuable time.
I welcome feedback from clients at all stages of the college planning process. In fact, I have even developed a student and parent questionnaire to help draw out key areas that alleviate stress — including financial stress. Many colleges cost over $70,000.00 annually and families need to have an early conversation about their affordability range.
Step 6: Follow your college consultant’s steps.
Finally, the relationship — that chemistry — ends with a give-and-take relationship! The best thing you can do is make sure ahead of time you know what you’ll get out of the relationship with an independent educational consultant.
Then, create a path together of how you’ll get there.
Get the Most Out of Working with a College Planning Service
I’ve learned college planning as a professional project management skillset by assisting hundreds of families through college admissions offices and in my consulting business, Campus to Career Crossroads.
At Campus to Career Crossroads, I want to help you! I’ve met with hundreds of families over my career. My college planning process stays family-centric, which is unique within the college planning services industry. I’m comfortable communicating with your entire family, from students to moms and dads and even grandparents!
Visit Campus to Career Crossroads and let’s get started working together on this exciting journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are college planning services worth it?
One hundred percent! They take a lot of stress off your plate during the college search. At Campus to Career Crossroads, I help students identify their career of interest, help students search for the best college majors, apply for scholarships and of course, offer families the most helpful resources for college planning.
What does an independent educational consultant do?
Independent educational consultants, also called independent college counselors or college planning services, help families navigate college applications, standardized tests, letters of recommendation, scholarship applications and help put together a roadmap to target the best college match possible. Independent educational consultants assess students’ abilities, goals, needs, and also can help with career assessments.