Who Needs a College Counselor
Planning to study abroad for your Bachelor’s degree is exciting! It’s a huge decision for you and your family and taking the right steps to get through it successfully is crucial. Fortunately there are a lot of resources available to help you succeed. Among these is the option to engage a private educational consultant or college counselor. As Indian students’ interest in study abroad rises, so do number of consultants and organizations offering their services for a fee. But do you really need to hire someone? Could you get through this on your own with available free resources? And if not, what is the best way to find the right consultant and get the most out of the relationship?
When students and their families approach me for guidance, it is important for me to understand why they are seeking help. Here are a few of the profiles I see often:
The family that needs guidance from A-Z. A bright student who has a good chance of success at competitive colleges but parents do not have the experience to guide their child and neither does the school. A private counselor can be a worthwhile investment that helps families put forth their best effort.
The family that needs a mediator between the desires of parents and child. This scenario can arise when one party is aiming for the Ivy League and the other wants to explore less competitive options. A counselor can suggest choices and approaches that address both sets of requirements and help reduce tension within the family.
If the student is not responding to the urgency of the process and the parents want a third party to motivate their child. Realistically, counselors are hired for a limited period to deal with a specific task (e.g. admissions to college), so iff parent-child conflict is entrenched over years, the counselor can rarely smooth things. If families can make the effort to forge a united front, then the investment can pay off – but don’t expect the counselor produce family harmony.
Even if you fall into one of these categories, you may not feel like you need a full ‘bouquet’ of counseling services or you do not have the money to hire a counselor. In this case you can consider the vast free resources at your service. See below for a list of country educational resource centers for the USA, UK and Australia. These centers can help answer basic questions for free or a nominal charge. Alternately look for a counselor who will offer you either a free consultation or a low hourly rate to help you figure out what you need. Finally, for certain countries (e.g. Australia) agents are paid by the colleges, not the applicant, so you can access advice as a courtesy.
If you want to hire a counselor, do so carefully as you would for any other service – ask for references of past clients, try to meet as many counselors as possible to find the best fit, do not let yourself get forced into an array of services you don’t need, and keep your expectations of the counselor realistic. Students and families seeking to totally outsource the process of choosing colleges, writing essays, teacher recommendations and applications will be disappointed to find that good counselors do none of this – a good counselor will be your partner and help bring out the best in you, which requires a lot of time and effort from your side.