USA Today published this article last week about a venture capital backed college counseling firm and of course, a dozen people forwarded me the link.
First, you should know that the 23-year old New Zealander who founded this company DID, in fact, use an independent educational consultant during his college application process.
And second, I’ve read and re-read this article and I cannot, for the life of me, understand why a college counseling firm would seek or need $20 million in venture capital funding.
What am I doing wrong? I thought at first. What would we DO with $20 million in venture capital?
Would we hire college students all over the world and hold them out as expert tutors and college counselors? Maybe we’d pay for office suites in 24 cities across the globe and send out automated e-mail messages three times a day with subject lines that scream “How to Get Into Yale” and “How to Get Into The Ivy League.” Being indebted to shareholders, we’d obviously have to charge outrageous prices – this company charges families in the low to mid-five figures for their college students or recent graduates to walk international students through the process of applying to US universities, although apparently reading a company training manual is their only expertise.
Aha! I know what we’d do – our videos would look stellar – we’d film hundreds of them, professionally produced – but if you check out our YouTube channel, instead you’ll see me, sitting at my desk with some college pennants on the wall behind me, filming myself with my iPad, and then edited by a former client who’s now a college student.
We don’t need venture capital. Our team of college counselors work with anywhere from three to twenty-five students each. Our clients pay us anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, stretched over two to three years. Our services are very personalized. Nothing is automated. There’s no app. We write our newsletter and blog articles ourselves. We sometimes go to clients’ homes and get stuck in traffic. We spend weeks and weeks on the road each year visiting colleges, so we can help our clients, who don’t have time to run around the country talking to college admission officers, create balanced lists of colleges that fit them well. The write-ups and photos from these visits are our own original work. Yes – we have a toll-free number – but when you call it, you’ll either get one of us personally, or we’ll call you right back.
The company profiled in the USA Today article, which was originally more about the VC funding than the quality of the company’s training, employees and work, may or may not be your ideal partner. Unfortunately, in an unregulated industry, their model is on the brink of unethical but doesn’t breach any standards – because there aren’t any. That means YOU need to be an educated consumer. Instead of clamoring for headlines, our college counselors invest our time and effort into being well-trained and partnering with each family who hires us to find the best college fit for their child. We tell prospective families that they should interview multiple college counselors before hiring one, and ensure anyone they consider is trained and committed to ongoing professional development through membership in at least one professional college advising-related organization (here’s more information, including questions you should ask).
As always, please feel free to give us a call (at that toll-free number in the upper right hand corner!) if you feel like you’d like some expert guidance as your child moves towards the college search process.