How To Find the Right College for Your Child

Finding the right college for your child can be a daunting task for most families. It is our natural inclination to look for the “best” schools, but what we should look for are the right schools for the child. This is where a knowledgeable and empathetic college consultant can make all the difference in the search. I will share with you below the expertise I have accumulated in my almost 30 years as an educational consultant partnering with parents in the search for the right colleges for their children.

How To Find The Right College For Your Child - The Best Solution

One of the primary goals of college consulting is to help the student develop the necessary self-awareness to make informed decisions about the future.

To do that, I work with students by having in-depth conversations:

My proven program provides the support that the student needs to learn to trust their instincts.

As a college consultant, I have been trained to administer and interpret the Strong Career Interest Survey, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and the Holland Self-Directed Search. This familiarity with career theory and assessments helps me to pick up on the nuances of what the student tells me in our meetings.

I can then show the student how they have demonstrated their career preferences throughout the high school years. To be effective, this process requires that students be true to themselves when choosing activities and coursework so that they can explore their passions as they develop.

What Not to Advise

Parents are often guilty of steering their child to courses and activities that they believe will make the child “look good” to a college. What they forget is that the college wants to invite someone in who will be a genuine and contributing member of the college community. 

Therefore, if a false impression is provided, the student may end up at a college where he or she is not happy and that will make success much harder. College students are in class about 15 hours a week. The rest of the time, the student needs to live on the campus and make a life. If it is the wrong setting, no matter how prestigious, life is not good. 

As human beings, we do our best work in environments where we are comfortable, can find friends to share our lives with, and experience growth.


Let Your Child Take the Lead

As parents, it is hard for us to let go and give our children the right to make their own choices. It was hard for me, and it will be hard for you, but the only way that our children can feel the thrill of success is to be empowered to make their own choices and to know that you have faith in their abilities to do so, and that you stand behind them to help as needed.

This begins in high school. It’s advisable to avoid urging your child into pursuits that you think will look good to a college rather than letting the child follow his or her own interests. This continues if you force your child to participate in many hours of tutoring rather than choosing a curriculum that has the right level of rigor for them. And it persists when parents push their child into a career, rather than letting their interests develop naturally.

A strong college counseling program will show your child what options are the best fit for their natural inclinations and then, how to discover the right ones to pursue. Beginning this exploration early in high school gives your child the chance to change their mind or refine the choices. This is the best way to ensure a successful transition from high school to college.

How Do I Set My Child Up for Academic Success?

In a recent article by Brennan Barnard, noted college admissions advocate, said:

“Despite the control students have over how they spend their time, they have no agency when it comes to what colleges want. It is a fool’s errand trying to predict what will be the deciding factors that lead to an acceptance.”

Given this truth, the best way to set your child up for success is to listen to them. Let your child explore their interests in the hope that they will find something they’re passionate about both in the classroom and outside it.

Develop Good Study Skills

It’s my estimation that over 30 years our schools haven’t taught children how to study. It is assumed that they will simply figure it out. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you feel like your child doesn’t have good study skills, there are some excellent books that explain how to approach different subjects.

One of my favorites is Essential Study Skills by Linda Wong. If your child’s middle school or high school does not offer a study skills course, encourage them to invite an expert to provide it to the students outside of the classroom perhaps through the PTA.

Build Good Habits

There are many habits that students need to succeed, but I will focus on just a few here.

The first is the habit of taking responsibility for their actions. If the child knows that you will sweep in and fix everything for them, there is no need to try. Human beings need to experience failure to understand the thrill of success.

Should you stand behind him while he figures out how to fix them? Absolutely!
This is how they will learn better decision-making skills and be less prone to peer pressure.

The second habit is self-care. We need to teach our children the necessity of getting enough sleep, eating nutritious and regular meals, and taking time to destress.

Time Management

Our children are so overscheduled that it is a wonder that they can do anything without falling over. Ensure that your child has time to think, to socialize, to relax. It is in those times that they discover who they are and who they want to be. Help your child both to manage time effectively and to recognize that not every minute needs to be scheduled.


How Do I Help My Child Get into College?

The most effective way to help your child get into college is to validate their decisions and get out of the way. An experienced college admissions consultant can provide the buffer that most families need at this very stressful time in both your lives.

Parents are dreading the loss of their child and students are struggling to assert their independence. This is a recipe for a lot of power jockeying. You can turn that power struggle into a joint venture managed by a neutral third party whom you both trust and can listen to unemotionally.

A good college consultant will listen to what you each have to say. They will objectively evaluate your child’s academic record and profile of extracurricular involvement. Most importantly, they will talk to the child to find out what is important and how they want to live their life.

A college admissions counselor who is worth hiring will have the courage to tell you when you are taking over the decision-making from your student and in effect, disempowering them. In addition, your counselor will have factual information to back up what they say. Because their college admissions counselor’s vested interest is in your child, they will also have the courage to explain to your child when that child is making harmful, rather than insightful, decisions.

Everyone has an opinion...

Both you and your child will be subjected to a barrage of advice from well-meaning people throughout the process. Evaluate that advice carefully.

If the advice is unwarranted or being advised without insight or professionalism, smile politely and move on.

Are Professional College Admissions Advisors Worth It?

Obviously, I think we are more than worth it. U.S. News and World Report listed the following average yearly cost of attendance for the 2022-2023 admissions year:

“$42,162 at private colleges, $23,630 for out-of-state students at public universities and $10,662 for in-state residents at public schools.”

And these prices have increased for the subsequent years. Consider the investment in an experienced college counselor as a way to ensure that you are getting good advice throughout the process. The process itself usually lasts about 18 months, and is as valuable as hiring an accountant to do your taxes or a realtor to help you buy or sell a house. These professionals, like a college admissions counselor, keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry so that they can present you with the most current information and thus protect your investment.

Many parents hire other college and university prep services without blinking an eye. Families routinely hire essay coaches, ACT/SAT tutors, college visit organizers, and others to help them through the process. Unfortunately, unless you are making the best decisions based on the current available information about where and how to apply, these don’t matter.

The college admission counselor brings all the results into one picture, and she helps you present that picture to the colleges. She does not control the outcomes. Only the colleges with their ever-shifting needs can do that.

Fees for college consultants vary by geographic area and the experience of the consultant. Never hire someone who is not affiliated with the main professional organizations (IECA, HECA, NACAC) because members are bound by a strong code of ethics and have access to continuing professional development.

According to the College Planner Pro 2023 Pricing Survey, the average college admissions counselor is paid in the following way:

Average Hourly Rate $212
Average Package Price $5,255
92% of consultants bundle or package their services.

Since most consultants, like me, see students both in-person locally and virtually nationwide, the geographic differences in pricing are less important than they used to be. You can now hire the best qualified person regardless of where he or she lives. I work with students across the US.

The key is to find someone with whom your student connects and who has the experience to make this process less anxiety-ridden because they offer trusted, verifiable and honest advice.

Important College Admissions Dates

Some colleges are on “rolling” admissions which means that you can apply as early as July or August before your senior year. It is advisable to do so if you’re sure of a school because they commit to you within a few weeks.

Among the colleges with this option are the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Arizona, Anderson University, and the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). 

Other colleges have “early action” deadlines as early as October 15th. Among these are Clemson, UNC Chapel Hill, and the University of South Carolina–Columbia.

The more typical early action deadlines fall between November 1st and December 1st. Some colleges restrict your ability to apply to “early action” or “early decision” to other colleges if you have applied for early action to them. 

Be cautious. This is the kind of thing that a college admissions counselor can help you navigate and strategize so you don’t lock yourself into a college contract you don’t intend to fulfill.

The Bottom Line

The question is not whether you can help your child to find a good college; it is whether you should. Bringing in a seasoned professional, who knows what questions to ask and how to help your child through the myriad decisions that they must make is life-changing.

As a college admissions counselor for 30 years, this landscape is my world. I have helped hundreds of students and I can help your son or daughter whatever their situation. I am not a miracle worker, but I am a realist and if getting into college is your goal, I will help you get there.

Get In Touch

A Certified Educational Planner and member of IECA since 1995. I have been honored with the Steven R. Antonoff Award for Professional Achievement by the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA). Contact Charlotte today.