Over the Christmas holidays, I received a most welcome gift. Well, it wasn't exactly a gift because I had worked for it for over a year. The non-gift in question was my diploma from UCLA Extension declaring that I finished their six course + 65 hour practicum college counseling program and was now a certified college counselor. Yay for me, I guess. I got into this program because I wanted to set up a US college admission consultancy here in Manila. I looked around and realized there was almost no trained, qualified guidance for local students who want to attend US universities. For most of them, they simply shotgun their applications all over the Ivies and maybe a couple of other schools they may have heard of and hope for the best. Sometimes they don't get in anywhere and they walk away disappointed. Usually, they're turned down at the Ivies and have to "settle" for what a good friend of mine calls "second tier universities". These guys miss out on learning about great colleges they might not have heard of and where they would have thrived had they gone to college there. So, at the risk of sounding self serving, these are the reasons why you, the prospective applicant to US colleges, need a certified and qualified college admission counselor.
1. A college counselor will help you apply to schools which are a fit for you. In Manila, we are looking at five or six universities. There's the Big Three: UP, Ateneo and La Salle. Then we have UST, College of St. Benilde, UA&P, and maybe UE for pre dentistry types. But in the U.S. alone, there are over 3000 four year degree granting institutions. Even if we were to narrow it down to about 500 schools worth considering, that's still a lot of schools. That's a lot of research. A good counselor will help narrow down the choices depending on the student's preferences, personality and academic talent. Without that counselor, most kids again just shotgun their applications all over the Ivies.
2. A college counselor will keep you on task. There's nothing quite like procrastination especially for the busy high school senior. A college counselor will be the voice of your conscience telling you when things have to be done. No sending of applications the night before it is due. Essays will be written, cleaned up and edited. Standardized tests will be taken on a fixed schedule so that ideally they are done in plenty of time for applications. A really good counselor will insist on working with you beginning your junior year.
3. A college counselor is a great source of information about US colleges, applications, and college life. What are the important things to look at when considering colleges? How seriously should you take rankings? What is dorm life like? How do I deal with homesickness? If you don't have a college counselor, you'll just have to guess.
4. A college counselor makes a great stress valve. Hopefully, a good college counselor will keep the stress to a minimum but there is some stress involved. At times, you need to vent or talk to someone who is knowledgeable about what's going on. Or you need to ask whether applying to this or that college is a good idea. A college counselor talks to parents too and is a resource for nervous or anxious parents and if necessary, acts as a mediator.
5. A college counselor is a good and knowledgeable application essay editor. Sure you could go to your English teacher or ask your older sister to help you out but will they know what the colleges are focusing on when they read your essays? A good college counselor will. Your college counselor will help your brainstorm essay ideas and help you through the many drafts until you get one that truly shines, makes you stand out, and helps the admissions office realize what a wonderful candidate you are.
There are other reasons but these are the five I can think of right off the top of my head. Regardless of whether or not you choose to hire a college admissions counselor, I wish you the best of luck in your applications!