Some families wonder if they should hire the services of an independent college consultant. While we understand the pressures of the college search process and are sympathetic to special needs that may arise for students, we believe that Concord Academy students do not need such services. The professional experience of the CA college counselors, combined with the support of the advisors, faculty, and administration ensure that our students are receiving personalized, abundant, and accurate guidance tailored to the individual student throughout the college process.
The following advice, therefore, is specific to the CA community: We know there are professional and skilled independent consultants or writing coaches who serve an important educational role for students who do not attend schools such as ours and do not have access to adequate college counseling resources in high school – CA students are not those students. Please carefully consider the following before deciding to purchase additional college application services for your student.
Perhaps, a bit of history might be helpful. Independent college consultants came into existence as the result of inadequate college counseling resources at public high schools. There was, and is, a clear need for many students and their families to find information about the college process outside high school, especially in California where the average student: counselor ratio is 945:1. But, in more affluent areas, independent counseling has developed into a perceived commodity, fueled by some combination of media frenzy, guilt, and social pressure. Even though the student: counselor ratio at CA is less than 90:1 (for the senior class it is currently less than 45:1) and Concord students have extraordinary college choices each year, we sometimes hear some version of: “If I don’t pay for an independent counselor, I am not supporting my child.” “Our neighbors have hired a private counselor, so we’re going to have to as well.” “I don’t know anything about the college search process; we need more help!” “More coaching is always better…” And so on.
Concord Academy has college counselors, academic advisors, and associated academic staff dedicated to working with your student throughout his or her college process. The CA CCO provides focused, individual attention as well as small and large group sessions, such as junior seminar and class meetings, throughout the academic year. To be perfectly candid, comprehensive college counseling resources – personalized support and a relationship with an experienced admission professional – is included in CA’s tuition. We have college counselors, academic advisors, and associated academic staff dedicated to working with your student throughout his or her college process. The CA CCO provides focused, individual attention as well as small and large group sessions, such as junior seminar and class meetings, throughout the academic year. Our staffing level allows us to meet multiple times with each senior throughout the fall semester. In addition, we have extensive experience working with students with a variety of special circumstances, whether athletic recruitment, the visual and performing arts process, or learning differences. In addition, we engage in ongoing professional development that keeps us fresh and knowledgeable about the college admission landscape and we have years of professional, selective admission experience on the college side reading and evaluating thousands of applications.
The Concord Academy College Counselor is your student’s primary and best-resourced advocate in the college process. We can function in a way that independent college counselors cannot: we have full access to school records, teachers, coaches; we are the person contacted when a college has a question about an applicant; we write the school recommendation letter; we have deep knowledge of CA, its students, and Concord Academy’s applicant history; and we have the ears of college admission officers throughout the country. We are dedicated to supporting your student throughout the college search. Independent college counseling takes up time that your student could be using to study and earn good grades, to participate in an activity your child loves, or to spend more time with the family.
We will keep your child informed about due dates, and we will meet and communicate regularly and often with the students about upcoming major “deliverables” connected to the college process. However, in keeping with our counseling philosophy regarding empowerment and developing decision-making skills, we will not “nag” or track down or complete work for any student. For a true procrastinator or a student with severe organizational struggles, and if the family dynamic doesn’t lend itself to parents serving as the moderator, then working with an outside person might be a way to proceed, if the independent counselor understands that is the service you are purchasing. If you believe you fall into this category, we ask that you talk to your CA college counselor and carefully review the resources and recommendations of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) before you sign a contract with someone outside Concord Academy.
Employing an independent counselor will not hurt our feelings, nor will it cause us to work with your student any differently. If you do employ an outside counselor, please let us know and grant permission for us to communicate with that person. We do not want your student to feel uncomfortable with conflicting advice from a CA college counselor and an independent consultant. We do not want students to start the college process earlier than necessary and “burn out” before the actual process must begin. Most importantly, we do not want students to mistakenly learn that college preparation is an activity in and of itself rather than the natural next step in the educational path. To that end, what we all want the best for your (and our) students.
A few years ago, Frank Sachs, the former president of our professional organization, wrote, “College admission is a match to be made, not a prize to be won.” College admission is also not a consumer commodity to be bought; it is a process to be savored and through which your student will grow, if allowed to do this. No college counselor can guarantee a specific outcome, but we can promise your student will have the best information and attention possible. As with all things at CA, the college process is an educational journey, one which, with the help of the CA college counselors, will teach students how to research, how to make choices, and how to come to know thyself better, how to develop lifelong skills, and how to attain a well-deserved sense of pride and accomplishment when offered admission.
National Association for College Admission Counseling, www.nacacnet.org
Independent Educational Consultants Association, www.iecaonline.com
Higher Education Consultants Association, www.hecaonline.org
American School Counselor Association, www.schoolcounselor.org
Thanks to our friends in the College Counseling Office at Castilleja School in Palo Alto, for creating the foundation for this note.