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College Process | Independent Consultants | October 2012

Six Things to Know Before Hiring an Independent College Counselor

By Dean Tsouvalas and Taylor Cotter | For

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston
Earlier this week, it was reported that education consultant Mark Zimny and his education consulting firm, Ivy Admit, had taken over $2 million from the Chow family, a Chinese family looking to get their two sons into Harvard University. The organization tutored the two boys, and claimed to use the money to make donations to the sons’ potential colleges. However, the Chows grew suspicious, and have filed a lawsuit claiming “Zimny lied to them repeatedly, committing fraud, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and several other transgressions.” (via The Boston Globe)

Hiring a private educational consultant is a great option for many students. Currently, 26 percent of the students at top college used an independent college counselor to assist them with the process. However, before hiring a consultant (fees can range anywhere from $80 an hour to $40,000 a year), make sure you know a little about the industry and what an independent college counselor is capable of:

How popular is hiring an independent college counselor?
Pretty popular. As of 2010, 26 percent of students at top colleges hired an independent college counselor, and the numbers are growing. With public school guidance counselors monitoring an average of 473 students, it is often necessary for students to seek out more individualized attention. The $400 million industry usually appeals to the lowest and highest performing students.

How much should hiring an independent counselor cost?
It depends on the experience and services that the counselor offers. Many offer hourly services similar to tutoring services which can range from $85-$150 dollars/hour. More common are package services, which can range from $3,000 to $40,000 for assistance through the entire college process.

Is it necessary to hire an independent college counselor to go to an Ivy League school?
No. Plenty of students are accepted to Ivy League schools without the help of an independent college counselor. However, many independent counselors specialize in Ivy League admissions and have been well-versed in their application process. If you do choose to hire an independent college counselor, it is likely you will receive exclusive insight and experience regarding Ivy League admissions.

Who benefits from independent college counseling?
The overall cost of education is incredibly high, now in many cases, a more expensive investment than buying a home, so it may seem counter-intuitive to drop even more money on a college counselor. You wouldn’t buy a house without having it inspected. Why would you invest in a college that you know little or nothing about? However, if your counselor can help you find schools with great financial aid, qualify for scholarships, or find a place where you can prepare for a high-paying job after college, the cost can pay for itself. The students that benefit the most from having an independent counselor are those with special interests: high achievers, creative and performing arts, student - athletes, and students with disabilities, but students of all ranges and interests can benefit from the extensive help as IECs are familiar with and have visited hundreds of different colleges. They are likely to find many colleges that are a good fit for any student!

What are college counselor red flags?
-    Guarantees: a college counselor cannot guarantee admission to any school
-    Filling out your application: a legitimate college counselor can help you understand your application, but cannot fill it out for you
-    Writing your college essay: counselors can suggest ideas and edits, but cannot write an essay for an applicant

Where should you find an independent college counselor?
The IECA – Independent Educational Consultants Association – is a verified educational counselor association with their own set of ethical practices.

More questions? Ask Verified Advisor and independent educational consultant, Judy Zodda!
Thanks to Judy for helping to contribute to this article.

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