As faith in high school and college admissions counselors dwindles, a private industry of college counseling has developed. Because they're beholden financially to the student and his or her family, private counselors may have more success finding the perfect school for that student.
A private admissions counselor is hired to help the student navigate the college admissions process from start to finish. Essentially, they do the jobs of college and high school counselors; the difference is private counselors offer personal attention that can help a student actually identify, get into and pay for the right college for him or her.
The services that private counselors provide are usually comprehensive. They help students come up with ideas for admission application essays, identify what kinds of extracurricular activities and classes can help make the student a more attractive applicant and find financial aid to help pay for school [source: College Admissions Partners].
There is an ethical debate that people looking to hire a private counselor should be aware of. A number of people who work as high school or college admissions counselors moonlight as private admissions consultants [source: Jaschik]. To some, this dual role is disingenuous; these counselors should be lending their full expertise to all students, not just those who can afford their private services. To others, hiring an industry insider for private services is a reasonable tapping of their unique expertise.
Regardless of where you sit on this debate, private counselors can be expensive; their services can cost thousands of dollars. Families that can't afford private services can still help their children get into college. The services provided by high school, college and private admissions counselors can all also be carried out by the student. For example, a student with low verbal scores doesn't need advising to know that he or she should bulk up on English and literature classes. There are also a large number of Web resources administered for free by the federal government to help students find financial aid and search for the right colleges [source: O'Shaughnessy].
Allotting time to find and apply to the right schools makes all the difference. So does being prepared. Click here to read about questions you should have to prepare yourself to speak with admissions officers. For more information on the college application process, see the links on the next page.