Updated August 25, 2020
The Quick Answer:
Yes! College admission consultants help you through the intense application process for a price, but even the priciest services pay for themselves over time. Private college counselors offer everything from years of mentoring to cheaper, pinpointed admissions advice, and the competitive edge that you’ll get can set you apart drastically from other applicants. As a result, you’ll be positioned for better scholarships, better school options, and eventually better salaries, making most college consultancy services well worth the cost in the long run.
The Long Answer:
Getting into a good school requires great GPAs, standardized test scores, and extracurriculars, but it also requires that all those pieces be presented in the best way possible on an application. With their busy schedules, it’s not easy for students to put together a complete application with all this info in the first place, much less an application that’s competitive.
College application consultants can help you through each step of the admissions process, both on the undergraduate and graduate levels. And though they can be expensive, they aren’t just for students wanting to get into an Ivy League school. Their services come in lots of different types and can be surprisingly affordable, so students shouldn’t write them off too quickly for being too prestigious or expensive.
These consultants are the best at what they do. Their hiring processes are incredibly selective, and their insider knowledge of top schools means that they know exactly what selective admissions boards are looking for in prospective students. Their college application advice can be the deciding factor that gets their students into competitive schools, and once those students graduate, their salaries are significantly higher than they would’ve been without consultant services; high enough that your consultant fees will eventually pay for themselves…and then some.
On the other hand, if you don’t want to get into a highly competitive school, their services can still boost your chances of getting into the school of your dreams. If that sounds like you, a consultant can target specific parts of your application to provide you with a drastically improved competitive edge at lower prices.
In this article, we’ll walk you through exactly what a college admissions consultant does, how much they cost, and how their advice can be worth the cost even for students using the most expensive college admissions help. That way, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to determine whether a private college consulting service is the right choice for you!
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What Do College Admissions Consultants Do?
College consultants can help students at every step of the admissions process, and they usually do this through two main types of packages. The first is the comprehensive package, and the second is the a la carte service. The comprehensive packages are usually more expensive, but give you 1-on-1 access with an admissions expert who guides you in the most personal and complete way possible. A la carte packages, on the other hand, are cheaper and give you specific feedback and direction for single elements of your application.
Comprehensive College Admission Consultants
If college consulting services were on a menu, buying these packages would be like getting access to an all-you-can-eat buffet. A comprehensive package will often pair you up with one consultant based on your college goals, academic interests, and even your personality type. That same consultant will then be with you from beginning to end. Depending on the company you go with, you could work with a college consultant for a year, two years, your entire high school career, or even for a few years in middle school. Graduate admissions consultant packages generally don’t last that long. Some companies even use team-based consulting as part of their business model, so you can have one consultant, a consultant and an editor, or one main consultant plus access to the entire consulting team.
When consultants dedicate years of time to a student, it allows them to tailor the students’ entire academic experience to their long-term academic and career goals. They can help you decide your extracurriculars, which classes you take, and can even guide you as you take on specific jobs and internships. That way, there’s no question that you made the right moves when it comes time to show all your experiences to an admissions team.
The advice they’ll give you during this process isn’t the same stuff you’ll hear from most academic counselors—they’ll help you avoid common pitfalls that can make even the brightest students blend in with the rest of the pack.
With comprehensive packages, a consultant can guide every academic step you take to point you toward the school of your dreams.
Even these packages don’t have to last for years, though. Some companies, such as Admissionado, our top-rated college admission consultancy, also charge by the number of schools they’re helping you apply to. If you’re one of those students who’s been set on that perfect, ultra-prestigious institution since day one, they’ll tailor your entire application experience toward getting into that specific school instead of several options.
Comprehensive packages like these are the most effective option out there, and the consultant companies that offer them can tout absurd success rates for their clients. In Admissionado’s case, 98% of their students successfully get into their top schools.*
*Note that many success rates are self-reported by admissions consultants, and haven’t been vetted by a third party. Be sure to do your research and determine the legitimacy of a published success rate. You can better determine the legitimacy of a published success rate by looking for detailed, verified reviews published from varying sources.
A La Carte College Application Consultants
A full-feature ‘buffet’ package may not be the best option for everyone, so if you know there are specific menu items you’d like, you can purchase them a la carte. These are better options for those who are farther along in the admissions process and already have most of their application elements set in stone. They’re also better for anyone looking for expert college advice on a budget.
For a first semester senior, their GPA, standardized test scores, and extracurricular activities from the past few years can’t exactly be changed. However, maybe that senior is struggling specifically with their application essay—they don’t know exactly how to present themselves. What strengths should they focus on in their application? Does their college want students that are well-rounded or specialized? Should they mention their weaknesses, or only talk about their strengths?
Answering those questions is a college consultant’s specialty, so many of the top private college consultants include these ‘essay services’ for fractions of what their full services cost.
Other a la carte services are available too. For example, you can enlist a consultant to counsel you through your long-term college goals, which will help you figure out which schools would best fit your career aspirations and personality. Through these college planning sessions, they can let you know what schools might be too far out of reach, or they can show you how to stretch yourself and your abilities further than you thought possible.
If you only need help proofreading essays, or maybe you just need someone to do a quick ‘lookover’ for your application, they’ll also sell these types of services. Lastly, you can sometimes pay an hourly rate for college consultants instead of paying for a specific service or for a years-long package. These rates are a bit steep, but they’ll often allow you to ask questions on a wider variety of topics than you’d get with a specific a la carte option.
Remember, not every college consultant team has these a la carte services, but our lists of the top college consultants and the top MBA consultants will show you which companies do, as well as the exact packages that they provide.
How Much Do College Consultants Cost?
There’s no way around it: college admissions consultants can be expensive. In recent years, news stories have shown just how the world of admissions can drive people to charge insane prices, or to sacrifice their ethics to get their clients into schools they shouldn’t have gotten into. It’s an expensive and highly competitive world, but if you look around for the right deal, you’ll find that there are plenty of budget-friendly, ethics-focused college consultant teams out there that can aid you as you prepare for your next academic steps.
Out of the top-rated college consultant firms we’ve found, they generally range between $4,000 and $8,000 when it comes to comprehensive packages. This time, when we say comprehensive, we mean the most comprehensive—these are the packages that allow you to apply to as many schools as you want, and include complete access to a consultant for years at a time.
However, there are substantial packages that aren’t as all-inclusive and don’t cost quite this much. Admissionado college consulting, which also provides our second favorite MBA consulting service, offers services as low as $2,000 that get you full admissions counseling for 1 specific school. From beginning to end, they’ll help you brainstorm, determine a college action plan, and help you begin crafting an exceptional college essay.
This plan includes a lot, but it isn’t the most comprehensive plan out there because you won’t get long-term help to strategize about your class choices, extracurricular activities, and study habits. To purchase a long term college guidance package from Admissionado, you’ll pay about $8,000 for 2 years of counseling, which will ensure you that every academic choice you make is one you’ll be grateful for in your senior year.
A la carte consulting packages are significantly cheaper. Veritas Prep, one of our top-3 college consultant options, sells a full application review for $500, which gets you expert feedback on every aspect of your application—what will work and what you might want to reframe—for 1 particular school.
Stacey Blackman Consulting, our number 1 MBA consulting choice, has a great a la carte menu: hourly consulting, editing services, MBA interview prep, and they’ll even review a waitlist or rejection response you’ve received from a school. With that last service, you’ll learn exactly what went wrong on an application, and can figure out how to move off of a college waitlist or refine later applications. Stacey Blackman’s hourly rate for MBA consulting is $365 for an hour, and their other services have flat rates.
Why Should I Hire a College Admissions Counselor?
So, the price of a consultant can be pretty high (though not nearly as high as you might think), but the question is: is hiring a college advisor really worth it?
Many consultants have served on the admissions boards for the most competitive schools in the country, so they really know the system inside and out. In fact, we’ve researched which consultants have experience at certain schools and posted that information on our comparison page of the top college consultancies out there, along with consultant reviews for each company. There, you might find that one consultant or another has served on the admissions board of the exact school you hope to attend.
With experience like that, private application advisors are the most surefire way to get into a specific school. Admissionado, for one, boasts a 98% success rate for its students…
So if your question is whether a consultant can get you into the best possible school you could hope for, the answer is a simple yes.
Instead, the question you should ask yourself is whether getting into a more competitive school is worth it. When it comes to the price of tuition, the price of a consultant, and the resulting salaries a student might get out of college, what’s the end result?
Are Competitive Colleges Worth It?
As you probably expect, the most competitive schools in the country have higher tuition than less competitive schools. This may make you think that a competitive college is just going to bleed your bank account dry, but that’s only if you don’t consider the salaries a student will get coming out of these competitive schools. When you take those numbers into account, the results become clear:
Even when considering the higher initial cost of tuition, graduates from the top 30 competitive schools in the U.S. make, on average, over $300,000 more after their first 10 years of work than the average American undergraduate.
This shows that there is a general relationship between how competitive a school is and the value you’ll have coming out of that school—more competitive schools lead to better average salaries in the long run. On average, those salaries are big enough that a more expensive cost of attendance will eventually pay for itself.
So, if you consider the cost of a consultant as part of the cost of attendance, you’re generally not paying much in comparison to what that investment could net you. Compared to average starting and mid-career salaries for students in the country’s top schools, it’s hard not to see even the more expensive consultant packages as a drop in the bucket.
With that being said, college consultant services are still a major investment, and you should not take them on lightly. If you’re not hoping to get into a top school, a full-fledged, several-thousand dollar comprehensive admissions service probably won’t be the best option for you. You can get a great salary—and more importantly, live a great life—coming out of less competitive schools, so don’t assume that a full consulting package is the only way for you to succeed.
For students that need a competitive edge but aren’t shooting for the best of the best, a la carte consultant services can be budget-friendly, and they just might be the thing that gets you into an otherwise unattainable school. For example, you could always add more polish to your college application essay, and that specific attention may be the only thing you need to show your student stats in the best possible light.
You may think college admissions consultants are only there to help the wealthy, or to get kids into elite Ivy League schools, but that simply isn’t the case. They certainly do provide services for those wanting to go to the top schools in the nation, but private consultants for college admissions come at a variety of prices as well, meaning that they have a little something for every type of student.
If you want to spend as much money as you need to have a personal consultant for several years, it provides no guarantees, but it gives you the best possible chances of tailoring your qualities for even the most prestigious schools. If you’re hunting for last minute application advice from certified experts, you can get that too, for a fraction of the cost.
In the end, a college consultant can’t promise that you’ll get into Harvard, but they can help you at every step of the application process to figure out the best possible school for you. The result just might be that you get into a school that you never thought possible, as countless students have. With plenty of options for consulting services, from the most intensive to the most attainable, the majority of students who use college consultants can easily look back and say: yeah, it was worth it.