College admissions consultants are indeed a diverse group. The field is still a highly unregulated with some, unfortunately, possessing minimal educational/professional qualifications.
Look for affiliation with the Independent Educational Consultants Association, a Master's Degree (or above) in Counseling, Education, or closely related field, the Certified Educational Planner credential (there are currently only 200+ in the U.S.), and a significant number of years of experience in higher educational settings.
Do not fall for savvy marketing techniques, false promises, ridiculously exorbitant rates based on scare tactics, promises of imparting "college secrets", dubious guarantees, or advertised success rates.
College admissions coaches are generally not current college students, tutors, or former business/marketing executives, attorneys, or journalists. They are seasoned counseling/educational professionals, with years of relevant experience, and educational credentials as well as a documented, sustained commitment to providing exemplary student services.
A $5,000 package for 1-2 years of multiple, in-person sessions, including unlimited access to email/phone/web follow-up for prescribed periods, are bargains when one considers the cost of just one college course at a private institution.
(An hourly rate of $300/hour is consistent with what counselors/coaches/psychologists in the tri-state area charge.
Excellent consultants :
- Impart valuable information, set goals/deadlines, interpret interest/personality inventories, counsel, motivate, and inspire.
- Assist with essay development, proofread, and ensure essays are well-written and highlight the student's unique essence.
- Clearly outline their services in the form of a written contract and address issues of confidentiality.
- Are reliable, professional, and readily available to students and their families.
College admissions consultants have assisted families with securing scholarships based on thoughtful, well-written essays and the savvy selection of best-fit colleges, netting families thousands of dollars in real savings.
For many students, the benefit of personalized, one-on-one counseling cannot be overstated.