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- College Essay Editing & Coaching
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1. Upload your college essay
Upload your college essay , and tell us a little about yourself. We’ll match you with a certified college essay coach.
2. Sit back and relax
Your coach will edit your essay and share in-depth advice to help you strengthen your structure, content, and narrative.
3. Receive your feedback
We’ll send back your fully edited essay. Applying to college is nerve-racking, but at Scribbr you never have to wait for long.
4. Revise and submit your essay
Thanks to your coach’s feedback, you’ll feel clear about the next steps and confident when you hit “send” on your application.
Our College Essay Editing Package
The first draft is always the hardest. Work with an admissions essay coach who will give you practical, step-by-step guidance on how to develop your essay and make your story come alive.
Your coach will…
- Read your profile
- Review your essay draft
- Share feedback to help you refine your topic, structure, and voice
- Leave in-text feedback and suggestions
- Proofread for grammar and punctuation
- Give you a roadmap to guide your revisions
We’ll help you show your best traits to college admissions officers and prove that you’re college-ready! With help from our essay coaches, you’ll improve your chances of getting accepted – so what are you waiting for?
Meet Scribbr's essay experts
Janice holds a PhD in German studies from Duke University. She also earned an MA in Library Science and a BA in German and Linguistics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
As a former professor, she has helped many students refine their application essays for competitive degree programs and study-abroad programs.
Today, she helps students improve their writing skills at Scribbr. In her spare time, when she’s not writing or editing, she enjoys working on the small family farm that she owns and operates.
Originally from Maryland, Amy headed west to attend Scripps College in California, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in music and gender studies.
In 2009, she began working for the admissions office of her alma mater, where she focused on reviewing applications and interviewing prospective students.
Today, she finds inspiration in learning about students’ interests and helping them craft a story that draws people in. She is a musical theater librettist, an avid baker, and a world traveler.
Alexandra earned an Erasmus Mundus MA in cultural narratives and a BA in English from Emory University.
As a teacher, editor, and writing coach, she has spent nearly a decade helping students find their voice and express their ideas. She especially enjoys helping English language learners: she wrote her thesis in a foreign country and knows first-hand how challenging it can be to formulate complex ideas in another language.
She lives in Italy and enjoys writing and reading, hiking, and cooking.
Grab your reader's attention
Admissions officers read thousands of essays each year. They can spend as little as 5 minutes reviewing each essay.
Using powerful writing techniques to craft an unforgettable story will make them want to learn more. Our college essay editing service has you covered!
We’ll check that your essay has…
- A hook that draws your reader in
- A well-structured and compelling narrative
- A clear and creative writing style
We care about your story and what’s unique about you: we make sure that your perspective and voice always remain front and center in the essay we return to you.
Make a positive impression
Colleges are looking for thoughtful, motivated students who will enrich their community. Your essay is your chance to show admissions officers why they should choose you.
We’ll make sure that you…
- Demonstrate your positive traits with compelling stories
- Showcase self-reflection and insight
When you select our college essay editing service , we’ll offer in-depth content feedback on all of the above. Y ou can also customize what level of feedback you want.
Meet your word count
It’s tough to make your case with a limited word count. Our college essay coaches can help you reduce your word count by up to 25% and make sure that every word matters.
Your coach can provide this feedback through direct edits or suggestions in comments — the choice is yours.
Need help getting started?
Use our Knowledge Base
For many students, finding the right story to tell is the hardest part—and there’s no reason for you to do it alone! Check out our Knowledge Base resources for articles such as How to Choose Your Topic , How to Make Your Essay Stand Out , and Common App Examples .
Join our free livestreams
Worried about whether your college admissions essay is on the right track? Whether you’re brainstorming topics or polishing a final draft, attend a Scribbr livestream to get your questions answered live by our college essay coaches. Get notified about upcoming livestreams .
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What makes Scribbr unique?
Team of experts.
Our team of college essay editors are passionate about sharing their knowledge and guiding you through the essay writing process.
We’ve helped millions of students achieve their goals. Our 4.9 Trustpilot review score shows that students trust us to help them succeed.
We give every student personalized, constructive feedback: this is what sets us apart. We aim to help every student become a better writer.
You’ll always work with real people who do their work with heart. We care about your success and back it up with our 100% happiness guarantee .
Don't wait too long...
The deadline to submit your college application will be here before you know it. Get peace of mind knowing that your essay is on the right track—and rely on expert advice to make your essay even stronger.
Ask our team
Want to contact us directly? No problem. We are always here for you.
- Email [email protected]
- Start live chat
- Call +1 (510) 822-8066
Frequently asked questions
We know that waiting for feedback can be nerve-racking. If you select our faster deadline option, you’ll hear from your personal statement editor in 24 hours or less – including on weekends and holidays.
We never engage in rewriting or adding text at Scribbr. Our personal statement editors will make grammatical corrections and leave suggestions using Word’s track changes and commenting feature. However, we always make sure that your perspective and voice remain front and center in your essay.
We know that waiting for feedback can be nerve-racking. If you select our faster deadline option, you’ll hear from your college essay coach in 24 hours or less – including on weekends and holidays.
Yes. All our college essay coaches are subject-matter experts and can help you make decisions regarding the content of your essay. Your coach will help you make a strong case for your admission.
Our essay coaches will provide feedback on…
- Whether your topic is appropriate and how to strengthen it
- Whether your essay demonstrates positive traits and authenticity
- Whether the narrative flows smoothly and grabs the reader’s attention
- How to dig deeper and show self-reflection and insight
- What content is missing and should be added
- What content is weak and should be removed
- How to shorten your essay to meet a word count limit
However, we will never…
- Write or rewrite content for you
- Research or fact-check your essay’s content
If you have any questions, feel free to email [email protected]
Yes! Our essay coaches can help you reduce your word count by up to 25%. You can choose to receive this feedback through direct edits or suggestions in comments – just select your choice when you upload your essay.
When you submit your essay to our College Essay Editing & Coaching service, you’ll be asked to indicate what type of content feedback you would like to receive. You can choose from three options:
Dig deep and challenge me
Give me the standard treatment
Whichever option you choose, you’ll receive in-depth content feedback from your essay coach. However, the type of feedback your essay coach provides may differ, and the option you should choose depends on what outcome you want from the review. You can always elaborate on what type of feedback you want in your note to your essay coach.
Learn more about the three options below.
Choose from three options
If you choose this option, we’ll challenge you to write the best possible essay – no content suggestions are off-limits, including reorienting your topic or reframing your story. Students who choose this option aren’t afraid to go back to the drawing board if it’ll increase their chances of getting accepted. You may have to roll up your sleeves and do some more work on your essay, but your essay will be much stronger because of it.
Select this option if your priority is to have the best possible essay, even if it requires some extra work on your side.
We’ll strike a balance between “dig deep and challenge me” and “tread lightly.” We may suggest changes to your structure and narrative, including removing weak content, elaborating on certain sections, and adding content to strengthen your arguments. You may have to rework sentences and paragraphs, but we won’t suggest major content changes.
With this option, we’ll focus on improving your essay in a way that requires little additional work from you. We’ll provide you with targeted suggestions for how to refine your essay’s structure and narrative, but we will work within your current structure and topic. While you may have to make a few tweaks here and there, we’ll aim to return you a polished draft that’s ready to be submitted to your chosen colleges.
Select this option if you are fairly satisfied with your essay and don’t want to make major changes or if you have limited time to revise.
At Scribbr, we promise to make every customer 100% happy with the service we offer. Our philosophy: Your complaint is always justified – no denial, no doubts.
Our customer support team is here to find the solution that helps you the most, whether that’s a free new edit or a refund for the service.
- What to Expect
- Packages & Rates
How to Get Started
- Debbie Merion Bio
- TV Appearances
- Solving the College Admissions Puzzle
- From the Period. To the Colon: Memoir of a Child Writer
- Credit Card Payments
- Send Deb a Note
- Make an Appointment
Packages and Rates
Purchase a success package of five meetings.
Completed essays are always an amazing improvement over the original drafts—more compelling, unique, and memorable. Students take away writing skills that help them succeed in college and beyond.
Prior to session one:
Before we meet, students use the jumpstart questionnaire to relax and recall experiences in their comfort of their own home. Students also complete a jumpstart contact form to help us stay in touch. You’ll receive a 13-page handout with tips and five sample essays.
Students learn what colleges are looking for in the college essay, and get all their questions answered. Time is spent interviewing the student and discussing their questionnaire as a way of getting to know him/her, reviewing helpful handouts with sample essays, teaching essay writing tips, and brainstorming best topics. Usually at the end of the first session, the student has one or more essay ideas. At the end of each session, we outline goals for the next session and confirm the calendar date of our next meeting.
This first appointment is perfect for a student who needs help selecting an essay topic or desires a thorough and professional evaluation of essay drafts.
About half of all Essay Coaching students walk in not knowing what they want to write–or should write–on an admissions essay. That’s OK!
Writing a strong college application essay is rarely taught in school, but is thoroughly covered in the first Essay Coaching appointment. All questions are welcomed…and answered! Students walk out relieved, knowledgeable, with essay samples, and usually with a strong idea for their own essay.
The other half of Essay Coaching students walk in with a draft, but aren’t sure of how it will affect a college admissions officer. Those students walk out with helpful feedback generated through a game and a discussion. Students wondering is this essay good enough? find this first appointment stress-relieving and helpful.
After session one:
Students write! They can type on a phone, ipad or computer, handwrite in a book, or dictate speech-to-text into a phone.
At the second session, the student will bring essay drafts, ideas, or may write during the session. Often we will simultaneously view their draft on a google doc. We will play a game to evaluate the writing as a college admissions officer would, discuss how to expand ideas into an essay, and may outline the essay. The other three sessions are spent editing the essay together and starting to brainstorm and draft additional essays.
After session two:
After session two: For college-specific essays, we encourage students to do their research. Students need to ask themselves what they know about the school, its courses, professors, classes, and their intended major if they have one. They can do this by reading websites, talking with students, faculty, alumni or college counselors.Students will continue to edit their essay drafts based on our session insights.
Sessions three to five:
During sessions three to five we will review college-specific essay drafts and continue to polish the common application essay.
Questions we ask at Essay Coaching before delivering one-on-one feedback.
- What did I learn about this student from reading this essay?
- Was I interested and/or impressed with what I learned? Did I learn about qualities that might help this student to enjoy, participate in and graduate college?
- Could I follow this essay, especially the timeline? Did any parts of the story confuse me?
- Was there anything mentioned that I was curious to hear more about?
- Does the essay seem as impressive as the student I read about in the questionnaire or met on a zoom?
- When I try to envision the student and his/her story, what images from the essay do I see, what phrases do I remember?
- Were there any obvious grammatical errors?
- Were there any sentences or paragraphs that were not needed or should be moved?
Remember : Application essays show what you care about, and what you’ve done about it. Colleges read these essays to envision you graduating from their college.
Five-appointments Package Includes:
- Solving the College Admissions Puzzle: A Guide for Students and Families about College Selection, Essay Writing, and High-Stakes Testing , by Debbie E. Merion, M.S.W, M.F.A, John B. Boshoven, M.A., M.S.W and Geraldine Markel, Ph.D. – Gold Medal Winner of the 2014 Global Ebook Awards.
- Essay Coaching Handouts Package
Package deal with five sessions:
Five appointments success package: $950
For the student who needs help selecting an essay topic, and structuring, writing, and editing the essay.
The five-appointment package covers the average number of appointments it takes to write one winning essay, but one student wrote eight essays during her five sessions!
Purchase a success package now.
Dear Ms. Merion, I want to thank you for your expert advice and suggestions for my college essays last fall. I feel like I am often misunderstood, so it really helped that you took the time to get to know me, to ensure my voice was shining through with enthusiasm, visual imagery, and clarity in my writing. I was fortunate to be accepted to Harvard, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, Caltech, and my top choice, MIT — and I’m sure my essays and your guidance played a part in this. I am beyond excited to move to Cambridge this fall to study at MIT. Thanks again, and I hope you continue to share your talents with kids like me. –R.T. MIT Class of 2022
Find Out More .
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Rates & Sign-Up Info
Anna’s weekly rate is $875 (includes daily coaching and revisions). This weekly rate applies to students who register prior to Sept. 15th. The Common App personal essay is completed within 3 weeks.
If starting after Sept. 15th, there is a flat fee per essay. To keep costs down, Anna works with students to identify strong “super essay” topics from their lives that will stretch to fit multiple supplemental prompts.
Additionally, there is a one-time setup fee of $300 to cover the cost of preparing a college research spreadsheet and essay tracker . The first sheet tab is admissibility info and the second tab is an essay organizer. If you’d like us to research pricing and merit aid data, the total setup fee will be $500 instead of $300.
The process is the result of 20 years of experience and is backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee. The cost would be less if Anna offered a round or two of edits, spruced up the words, and called it a day. The result would be a perfectly well-written and error-free essay. Shouldn’t that be enough?
The reality is that superficial editing can do more harm than good. Getting a powerful story from a student in his or her authentic voice is the secret to Naked Essay’s success, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Read more about Anna’s time-tested process . If it seems like overkill, consider the New York Times article “The Almighty Essay” :
The more exclusive the college, the more weight the essay is given. … In fact, these colleges give more weight to the essay than grade-point average. Let me restate that: one writing assignment is more critical to a high school senior’s chances of getting into many top colleges than his or her average grades from four years of high school.
I do not take this responsibility lightly!
My guarantee to you:
All Naked Essay students produce engaging, insightful, and effective essays—guaranteed. Whether you’re a gifted creative writer looking to take your work to the next level, or a future engineer who would rather chew on scrap metal than pour out your heart to an admissions committee, tutoring is tailored to your unique strengths. As a result, I am able to offer a money-back guarantee. I see it as one more way to make your application process less stressful.
- Naked Essay
- College Essay Format: The ABCs of Brilliant Structure
- Money, Working, or Social Class as a College Essay Topic
- Common App Essay Prompts for 2015-16: How to Choose
- College Essay Tips from Great Writers: Kazuo Ishiguro
“You are amazing! This is nothing close to what I had expected. I knew you would help him get a decent essay, but this is exceptional! I am so thankful I found you!” – Marcey
“Anna was wonderful! Very understanding and patient. She helped our story come alive! Very satisfied with end result.” – Shireen
“Tremendously helpful at every stage of the process.” – Valerie M.
“We loved working with Anna. The essay is from the essence of the student, not canned and not from Anna.” – Lori N.
“Went above and beyond to help my daughter.” – Rao
You helped our daughter “knock it out of the park”… I can confidently say you helped make her next 4 years. Thank you with all our hearts, – The C. Family
“Anna was kind and helped my son write his best essay.” – Amy R.
It is great to see him make his dream school become real and I would like to share this happy moment with you. – J.W.
“It was a very productive and insightful experience. Anna is very familiar with the college application process and her expertise shows.” – Jack Z.
Thank you for your patience, your skills, and all of your time and careful help. You are excellent at what you do. –G.S.
- Call Us: 878-444-0455
Ivy Coach College Admissions Blog
"Way to tell it like it is, Ivy Coach" - The Dartmouth
Fees of College Consultants
Originally Published on May 13, 2018:
With more and more students turning to private college counselors, one might wonder about the typical cost of enlisting such services.
“You can’t put a price tag on getting into your top college. Or maybe you can. With competition among college applicants as fierce as it has ever been, some students are doing whatever they can to get a leg up — no matter the cost. That’s where private help comes in. A growing number of college counselors offer their expertise — for a price,” writes Jessica Dickler in a piece on private college counseling for CNBC entitled “To get in to an Ivy League, more families turn to expensive private consultants.”
While it should be no surprise that private college counselors offer their expertise for a price, just as it should be no surprise when a dentist takes your payment after cleaning your teeth, let’s zero in on the typical fees of private college counselors.
How Much Do Private College Counselors Cost?
Back in 2018, a survey conducted by a college counseling organization discerned the mean college counseling fees across the nation ranged from $850 to $10,000, with average prices in the $4,000-$6,000 range.
But, like in any industry, there are excellent and poor as well as inexpensive and expensive practitioners. There are private college counselors based in Lincoln, Nebraska, and private college counselors based in New York, New York. The cost of an iced latte in Lincoln is not the same fee as the cost of a latte in Manhattan.
In the United States, businesses can charge what they wish. In 2019, Ivy Coach’s managing partner, Brian Taylor, defended capitalism, offering up the “ Quote of the Day ” to The New York Times : “If someone wants to pay a fee that you command, they have that right.”
The Fees of Ivy Coach, the World’s Leading College Consultancy
The fees of Ivy Coach , perhaps unsurprisingly due to press attention over the years, are significantly higher than this purported range for private college counselors.
Yes, Ivy Coach’s fees for college consulting have been featured in The New York Times , on the cover of a Sunday edition of The New York Post , and even the subject of commentary on CNBC .
That said, Ivy Coach’s fees, which tend to increase yearly and are based on the firm’s track record built over the last three decades, are not always reported correctly. While the charge is $1.5 million for families to work directly with the founder of Ivy Coach, Bev Taylor , it is not the firm’s only package.
Yet Ivy Coach, while unapologetic about the firm’s fees which can often inspire dropped jaws in America’s free market economy, understands that the costs are not for everyone.
As Ivy Coach’s Brian Taylor said candidly on Nightline in an interview with Juju Chang, “Not everyone needs a private college counselor. And if they just used some common sense — and so many times they don’t use common sense — they can beat this process.”
College Consultant Fees FAQ
How can ivy coach justify charging more than the annual cost of college tuition.
We justify Ivy Coach’s fees with three words: our track record. Also, we can only work with so many students each year. We are not in the business of working with the masses. Thus our fees are our fees are our fees.
Why does Ivy Coach charge so much more than its competitors?
Our fees are not based on other private college consultancies. Our fees are based on Ivy Coach’s track record and service demand.
You helped my child earn admission to Harvard a few years ago, but now your fees are higher. Why is Ivy Coach not rewarding my loyalty?
We appreciate your loyalty just as we hope you appreciate our success. Your child earned admission to Harvard with our assistance. As we joke at Ivy Coach, “We always get the siblings. We usually get the cousins. We rarely get the friends.” Parents don’t want to acknowledge their children had help earning admission to the colleges of their dreams — and that’s ok!
You are permitted to use www.ivycoach.com (including the content of the Blog) for your personal, non-commercial use only. You must not copy, download, print, or otherwise distribute the content on our site without the prior written consent of Ivy Coach, Inc.
Categories: College Admissions
Tags: Charges of College Consultants , College Consultant , College Consultants , College Consulting Fees , Fees of College Consultants
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Working parents face many complex decisions about their children's education, especially when it comes to preparing for and applying to college. Many parents spend hundreds of hours on college-related tasks, and the lengthy process can leave them distracted, disengaged, and financially strained. Educational expertise alleviates a major source of anxiety for your employees.
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Resources to instill strong learning habits, cope with stress, and explore a range of academic options for high school education
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- Delivered by former college admissions or financial aid officers
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- Scheduled throughout the year
Highly valued, one-on-one help assists employees and their student with every step of the education process. College admissions and college finance experts make this a truly unique resource that many can't afford on their own. Give your employees the help they need, and save hours of work time that would otherwise have been lost to personal research.
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Is a College Coach Worth the Investment?
Pros & cons of hiring an admissions consultant, what is a college coach, college coach fees, is hiring a college coach worth it, weighing cost vs. reward.
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Getting into college can be a competitive business, especially if your student is aiming for a top-tier school. Bringing a college coach on board to help them navigate the admissions process could increase their odds of landing a spot at their dream university .
However, hiring a college coach can come with a hefty price tag. Before you commit to paying for the services, it's important to calculate your potential return on investment.
A college coach—also called a college admissions consultant—specializes in helping students achieve success in the college admissions process. These individuals are often former college admissions officers who have firsthand knowledge and expertise to share with prospective students.
Generally, the college coach's number-one job is helping a student to achieve their end goal of getting into the school of their choice. They do that by offering personalized advice to help students in selecting and applying for colleges . They can also help guide students' decision-making when it comes to things like extracurricular activities, curriculum choices, and college essay topics.
College coaches can help with the undergraduate and graduate school admissions process. Depending on which college or university your child wants to attend, the coaching process can begin as early as middle school. In addition to covering academics and extracurricular activities, a college coach can also discuss the financial aspects of choosing a college and applying for financial aid, scholarships, and grants.
All of these services can be offered through one-on-one coaching sessions, which can be conducted in person or online. Coaches can also provide additional support via email or phone, so you're not limited to only working with admissions consultants in your local area.
One of the most important aspects of college planning is considering the cost. Hiring a professional college coach can add to the total of what you spend on your child's education.
The fees can vary widely depending on the coaching or consulting firm you choose and the suite of services your student needs. Some coaches charge hourly rates, while others bill a flat fee when you purchase a coaching package. Hourly charges can easily run between $85 to $350, while comprehensive packages can range from $850 to $10,000. In one extreme case, a coaching firm charged one family $1.5 million to help their student gain admission to an Ivy League school.
Paying an additional $10,000 for coaching services may strain your budget if you're already planning to spend tens of thousands of dollars to cover tuition, fees, and other costs of attendance. On the other hand, spending $850 for college coaching may be more within your budget .
The value of a college coach depends largely on your student's goals and what you expect the result of coaching to be.
College coaches don't guarantee that your student will be admitted to their dream school, so you're taking a gamble in paying for their services. Many factors can influence whether a student is admitted to a prestigious or highly competitive school, including:
- Academic record
- The overall strength of their curriculum
- Class ranking
- Extracurricular activities
- Personal statement or admissions essay
- Admissions interview
- SAT/ACT scores
- Level of interest in a particular school
A college coach can help students determine which areas they need to focus on to make themselves attractive candidates for admissions. Ultimately, though, it's up to your student to do the work. Their coach may advise them to join a student club or improve their GPA, for example, but unless they make an effort to follow the advice, your child may not see the results they want when it's time to begin applying to schools.
A coach can also be useful in developing strategies that you and your student might overlook. For instance, a student who's part of a racial, ethnic, or religious minority may want to attend a school that has a very diverse population. But because there are already so many students like them, their application gets lost in a sea of others. In that situation, a college coach may steer them instead toward a school that has a smaller representation of students from their background. The prospect of adding diversity to the school could make them more likely to be accepted.
It's important to weigh the investment against the quality and cost of a degree at your student's top school. Earning a degree from Harvard, for instance, could help your students enter the workforce at a median starting salary of $95,000, according to PayScale research. That's a payoff that may be well worth a fee for a college coach. On the other hand, if they're interested in a school whose grads earn a typical starting salary of $50,000, your ROI shrinks significantly.
If you're considering hiring a college coach, do your homework first. Check out the range of services offered and the pricing for those services. Ask how often a coach will be available and what their track record is for helping students get admitted. Get an idea of their methods, and be sure they're not offering to do your student's work for them. Steer clear of any service that asks for a large deposit before offering any services or one that guarantees results that seem unrealistic. As with anything else, if a coach seems too good to be true, they most likely are.
Independent Educational Consultants Association. " State of the Profession 2018 ," Pages 20-21.
Ivy Coach. " Elite College Counseling: A Legal, Prohibitively Expensive Pay-to-Win Game in Admissions ."
PayScale. " Salaries for Harvard University Graduates ."
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College admissions counselors: Weighing the price
By Amy Fontinelle Amy Fontinelle is a personal finance writer focusing on budgeting, credit cards, mortgages, real estate, investing, and other topics. Posted on Dec 14, 2022
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If you want your child to have a fighting chance at getting into one of the country's best universities, or if you are overwhelmed by the process of helping your child select and apply to colleges, you might consider hiring a college admissions consultant.
The college acceptance numbers would seem to argue for it. The top national universities had single-digit acceptance rates in 2022: roughly 3 percent at Harvard, 4 percent at Yale, and 6 percent at Johns Hopkins, according to one admissions researcher. And about 24 others have an acceptance rate of 20 percent or less, as do 17 of the top-ranked national liberal arts colleges.
What do college admissions consultants do?
College admissions consultants, also called independent education counselors (IECs), work with students and their parents to figure out which schools a student should apply to. They also guide them through the application and essay-writing processes . Some consultancies are one-person operations; others have dozens of counselors on staff. All help compensate for the lack of time high school guidance counselors have to spend with students.
Admission consultants’ services often go beyond merely selecting and applying to schools. About half offer career advice, about a third offer test prep, almost half provide guidance on financial aid, and the vast majority advise on academic course selection, while a few provide academic tutoring services, according to the Independent Educational Consultants Association . Planning college visits and helping select extracurricular and summer activities that will make a student a well-rounded applicant are other services admissions consultants sometimes offer. ( Learn more: Hunting generous colleges )
Edward Vosganian, president and founder of College Funding 123, said in an interview that some advisors, including his company, have schools that call them to say they are looking for students with certain interests; this might be the case if the school is introducing a new program or major, for example. This knowledge can help expand a student’s options for which schools they might want to attend and what scholarship funding they might be eligible for.
Why some families hire a college admissions consultant
“I've often been told that having a consultant made life happier at home because there was no nagging needed about what progress the student was making on applications,” said Pam Rambo, a college admissions consultant with Rambo Research and Consulting , in an interview.
IECs emphasize their ability to not only help students identify and get into colleges that are the right fit for them, but also their ability to make the process of selecting a college enjoyable rather than stressful. They also say that the money families pay them is well worth it because they can help students identify schools that are more likely to offer them a generous financial aid package and that by helping students choose the right school, they are more likely to graduate on time. Both of these achievements can keep college costs down by far more than what it costs to hire a consultant. ( Related : College savings calculator )
Anita Gajula, a college admissions coach with My College Planning Team , said in an interview that most parents do not have the time and energy to become experts in whatever interests their child. “They hire tutors to help with ACT and SAT test preparation. They hire nutritionists or medical experts when their child is experiencing physical problems. Why should this be any different for the college process?”
Characteristics of a good college consultant
Gajula said that most good college consultants have dedicated several years to learning how to assess and evaluate a student's interests, strengths, and abilities so they can help them choose a major and/or career. They have spent countless nights on the road touring a variety of the 4,000 colleges in the United States. They have taken classes about all the ins and outs of the financial aid and admissions process, and they are constantly reading up on the newest changes in the test-prep industry and admissions process. ( Related: Student financial aid and big changes for the FAFSA )
Many consultants have prior experience as college admissions directors, scholarship directors, or financial aid directors, which gives them an insider’s knowledge. You can also look for credentials such as membership in the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA) or the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), though the occupation is not licensed, so a lack of such credentials is not a cause for concern.
A good college counselor gives a student an edge by helping him or her avoid applying to too many low-probability “reach” schools and not enough high-probability “safety” schools and medium-probability “target” schools, said Jonathan M. Perkins, a college counselor with EssayWise, in an interview. ( Learn more : Choosing a college )
Another thing to look for is the comfort factor.
“I think chemistry is important between the consultant, parent, and child. If you meet a consultant and don't feel comfortable with them, interview another consultant,” Rambo said.
According to the IECA, most consultants offer either a free initial consultation or a consultation where the price is rolled into the package if you end up hiring that consultant. This initial meeting allows parents and students to learn about the counseling company and its services and to see if the fit is right.
Characteristics of a bad college consultant
A bad consultant, by contrast, will fill out your child’s applications for them, write your child’s essays, or engage in other dishonest tactics in an attempt to gain an edge. Other warning signs that an independent educational consultant is not worth hiring, according to the IECA, include promises to use pull or connections to help your child get admitted to a particular school, acceptance of finder's fees from colleges, and a lack of specificity about what you are getting for your money when you hire them. The IECA also provides a list of questions to ask before hiring a consultant.
College consultants cannot guarantee that your child will be admitted to a particular school — or to any school at all. They are not the ones making the decisions in the admissions office. For the same reason, they also cannot guarantee that your child will receive a particular scholarship or financial aid package.
“There is no special secret that can get an average student into a super-selective school,” Perkins said. “There is only an open secret: that having a hook helps.”
He said that five common hooks exist for students…
- Belong to a family that donates lots of money
- A recruited athlete
- An underrepresented minority
- Part of the first generation in a family to attend college
He said that a college admissions counselor can identify a hook and help a student accentuate it in the application, as well as help the student avoid writing an application essay that fails to provide any memorable details. ( Related : Preparing for the college acceptance letter )
Who should consider hiring a college consultant . . . and who should skip it
“As someone who has been an independent education consultant for a dozen years now, my view on the question of if a family should hire someone like me is an unequivocal and unwavering, ‘maybe’,” said Arun Ponnusamy, head counselor and vice president of Collegewise , in an interview. “Fear should not be the motivating factor. There’s loads of great, free advice out there to supplement any of the support found within a high school. A savvy student or parent — with some effort and organization — can absolutely move through this process at a high level without paying a dime to an IEC,” he said.
Ponnusamy added that for students with niche interests — recruited athletes, musical theater talent, or STEM-focus, for example — a knowledgeable expert can help reveal some lesser-known options for popular or prestigious schools. ( Related : A primer on college financial aid )
College consultants can also help families with troubled students or families where parents and their child cannot agree on where to apply or attend. They can also be useful if a student has an unconventional academic background or wants to pursue an uncommon major or career.
And if your child has any other special characteristics — maybe she has a learning challenge or a physical challenge — a consultant who has worked with similar children and understands their unique needs can make it easier for your family to find the right school.
How much college admissions consultants charge
The cost of a college consultant depends on the fee structure of the company you hire and how much help you want with the admissions process.
Ponnusamy said parents can hire someone for just an hour to review a child’s college list, or they can buy a comprehensive package that spares parents the grief of learning the nuances of the college admissions process, which can be particularly important for working parents.
Many providers offer transparent pricing right on their websites. Others don’t, preferring to engage first. Prices can range from roughly $250 for a one-hour meeting to several thousand dollars for a package offering unlimited assistance for 11 th and 12 th graders. The IECA reported that the mean college advising package fee in 2018, the latest survey available, ranged from $850 to $10,000, with average packages in the $4,000-$6,000 range. 1
For families on a tight budget, some counselors reduce their fees or waive them altogether. In fact, the IECA reports that about a quarter of families who use college counselors are working class, lower middle class or impoverished. 2
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This article was first published in October 2016. It has been updated.
1 IECA, “Trends in Independent Educational Consulting 2018,” IECA Webinar, February 2020.
The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel. Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.
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Back in 2018, a survey conducted by a college counseling organization discerned the mean college counseling fees across the nation ranged from $850 to $10,000, with average prices in the $4,000-$6,000 range. But, like in any industry, there are excellent and poor as well as inexpensive and expensive practitioners.
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Some coaches charge hourly rates, while others bill a flat fee when you purchase a coaching package. Hourly charges can easily run between $85 to $350, while comprehensive packages can range from $850 to $10,000. 1 In one extreme case, a coaching firm charged one family $1.5 million to help their student gain admission to an Ivy League school. 2
The cost of a college consultant depends on the fee structure of the company you hire and how much help you want with the admissions process.