How the consulting process worksAlan Haas, president of Educational Futures in New Canaan, Conn., an hour north of New York, has 25 years of experience as a college consultant. This former high school principal says parents may have to spend money to save money.
"The objective is to make the right match so that the greater investment and the financial and educational future of the child are preserved," Haas says.
Haas says a family must determine if, by hiring a consultant, they can feel more confident that the educational needs are filled and the financial investment is sound.
"We offer an initial personal consultation. At the end of the session, if I do not feel we can be helpful or the investment is necessary, I inform them. A legitimate consultant is an educator first, and second of all a business person," Haas says.
Haas meets with the son or daughter and parents, for a two-hour discussion that costs $600. Then he writes a detailed report that can be used as a road map, with advice for standardized tests, time management, use of leisure time, summer-vacation options and strategies for teacher recommendations. These options are what a student needs to take control of the process himself, Haas says.
"If I feel we could be helpful, the parents want to make the investment and the child wants to work with us, we then contract for our comprehensive college program. Ideally, we would like to begin the formal process early in the junior year, when it really starts to count. Our fee is currently $7,000 to $8,000 over two full years," he says.
Haas works in three phases with his students. The first phase is "assessment and recommendations," involving an online questionnaire and several self and career exercises. The purpose is to have the students think about two of the three fundamental questions of life: "Who am I?" and "Where am I going?"
This is the foundation for making the best choice of a college. "Our participation would be to guide them along the path from where they are now to where they want to be," Haas says.
Haas says together with the academic and testing records, writing samples and the initial interview, this information is evaluated and developed into a "future planning report," which contains the results of the assessment and a college search work sheet. The work sheet contains an initial list of 12 colleges and universities that Haas recommends for the student to research, although the list evolves during the search.
Phase 2, which normally takes place during the summer before the student's final year, includes Haas' version of preparation for the SAT which he says can cost thousands of dollars elsewhere. He also works with the student on development of model college applications and essays, with an eye toward completing this part of the process by the beginning of senior year.
During the fall of senior year, the final phase involves preparation of college documentation and the actual entrance applications.
"It is definitely a mentoring program, as we like to start as early as possible. That is why the fees are up there. We are involved in the decisions until they settle into college. It is an ongoing counseling product, not just placement," Haas says.
Where to find a plannerTo find a planner, you can start with the international directory of educational consultants, which has been compiled by the Independent Educational Consultants Association. In it, consultants are listed by region and specialty, so parents can find the right help for their needs.
You can receive a complimentary copy of the directory by calling the association at (703) 591-4850, or via e-mail at Info@IECAonline.com. You may also search its online directory at the association's Web site under the "Info for Parents & Students" section.
In addition to the directory, the association does periodic training to keep member consultants up to speed on changes in financial aid, scholarships and admission at U.S. colleges.
"The average member of our association has traveled to and evaluated between 150 and 200 colleges," Sklarow says. "They speak to college admission deans regularly to better understand what type of student succeeds (at their) college and what the college may be looking for in this cycle (of admissions)."