As I was reading messages on the listserv of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) last week, I came across a message from a high school counselor from Michigan that referenced this report:
Although this report is specific to Michigan – it dissects public opinion on the biggest issues and barriers to higher education in that state – some of the issues are universal.
I was most interested in the three pages of the report (pages 4-6 of the report) that discuss college counseling in the public high schools, and possible solutions for improving it (since the overwhelming impression was that it was “lousy” or worse). With even higher student-to-counselor ratios in California, and no specific college placement training required, California high school counselors are overwhelmed, overworked and constantly putting out fires. They actually have three jobs: they are academic counselors, personal guidance counselors when needed, and lastly, college advisors. They simply don’t have the time to give each student quality college counseling attention. [You’ll find some additional statistics in this downloadable flyer from IECA.] This is frequently why families turn to independent educational consultants (IECs).
This article in yesterday’s New York Times sort of sums it all up: you don’t think you need an IEC. You are sure you can help your child through the process! You wonder why your friends seek outside help but then – you have just one question. So you ask your friends for the name, or you do a web search for a college counselor in your area and Magellan’s website pops up. You call and we spend 20 or 30 minutes on the phone, talking about your child, his academic performance, his extra-curriculars, his dream school, and by the end of the conversation we’ve given you a few thoughts about colleges we’ve visited (that you’ve never heard of) and a resource to help you get started determining how much colleges will expect you to pay. And you realize that it would actually be great to have ongoing support and advice from someone who thinks about college, all the time.
That’s how most of our clients start!
The best advice we can give you is to call early! The difference between starting in the junior year and starting in the senior year – when you have just a few months to get everything done – is tangible. Stretching out all of the things your student should be doing – course selection, extra-curricular activities/leadership, summer programs, testing, college visits, essay brainstorming – over the course of two years instead of just a few months makes them ALL so much less stressful. For everyone in the household. This is our approach. You can see what clients have said about working with us on our Acceptances and Success Stories pages (all of our testimonials, by the way, are unsolicited).
A word on professional development – that Michigan report I linked to at the top noted that people want their college counselors to have some specific training in college advising. This not a requirement for public school counselors in any state, at this point. Evelyn is a member of both IECA and HECA – here’s IECA’s list of 10 ways IECA members are different than other independent educational consultants. Suzie, Diana and Debbie are all active members of HECA, which also holds members to high ethical standards and provides ongoing professional development opportunities. The three of us are members of WACAC and NACAC and we each have our Certificate in College Counseling from UCLA. Jennifer is a member of NEACAC and both she and Briana currently advise engineering students at Tufts University. Among our team, we’ve visited over 200 college campuses in the past five years. Professional development is a crucial part of what allows us to do what we do successfully.
Let us know if we can be your trusted advisor as you go through this stressful process.