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When it comes to applying for college, the numbers can be overwhelming. Elite schools boast single digit admissions rates, a four-year education can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and applicants are often required to write a multitude of essay responses versus a single personal statement. If the thought of it all makes your head spin, the good news is that there’s help out there — in the form of college admissions counselors (CACs).

CACs can provide the individual attention that many seniors need when applying to college. They compare colleges, keep your child on a timeline, assist with financial aid documents, and help with dreaded application essays.

If you’re considering hiring a college admissions counselor, here’s what you should know.

The Pros
A CAC tailors the admissions process to the individual. She begins by helping a student figure out what he enjoys, then researching colleges that are aligned with those interests and the student’s qualifications. CACs understand how to read college profiles, know the odds of admission, and possess inside knowledge about what specific colleges are looking for in applicants.

Application essays are one of the most common reasons individuals seek outside help. CACs encourage students to brainstorm beyond obvious topics and guide them to articulate their passions in clear, interesting ways that help them stand out from other candidates. They also provide extensive editing services.

Working with a CAC can help alleviate stress for both students and parents. Students often feel overwhelmed by the application process and many parents don’t have the knowledge base or the time to effectively guide their kids through it. CACs keep students on a timeline so that important deadlines — for applications, teacher recommendation letters, financial aid and more — aren’t missed. They also ensure that quality applications are submitted.

If you don’t want to wait until senior year, CACs can also help younger kids plan which classes to take, encourage extracurricular involvement and summer activities, explore interests and passions, and decide which standardized exams make the most sense.

The Cons
When it comes to the necessary introspection to write impactful personal essays, the best person to help may actually be you, since nobody knows a child like his parents. While CACs are great at giving kids a creative push, your knowledge base about your child’s life is irreplaceable. Whether you hire a CAC or not, consider being involved with essay brainstorming sessions.

Hiring a CAC can take away from quality time with your child during his senior year. You may find that working together on the application process and experiencing eventual college admissions success is incredibly bonding.

Without a doubt, the biggest drawback in hiring a CAC is expense. Services can cost thousands of dollars. Some CACs allow people to pay individually for certain types of assistance, such as editing essays, without committing to a full package. Keep in mind that high school counselors and writing teachers are great, free resources for help — although they may not have enough time to provide adequate personal guidance.

No matter how you approach it, college applications cost time and money — but choosing the right college is an important decision. If your budget can swing it, and you don’t have the time or resources to provide the necessary guidance, college admissions counselors may help give your student an improved chance of getting into their top choice school.


Lisa Pawlak is an award-winning contributing writer and local mom of two sons, one who is starting college this fall.


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