Top 10 Reasons to Work with an Independent College Counselor

Top 10 Reasons to Work with an Independent College Counselor

Over the last three years, the college admissions process has been shaped by significant changes in our world which is changing how students apply to college. At PrepMatters, we stay current and informed on both the substantial and the subtle changes in order to help students create a strong admissions plan as they embrace the college application process. 

Now more than ever, students and families need help with navigating the admissions process and finding the right college – which is why we developed a list of the Top 10 Reasons to Work with an Independent College Counselor, also known as an educational planner or college planner. 

What has changed in recent years?

Recent shifts in admission include colleges moving to test optional or test blind standardized testing policies. A few colleges have indeed returned to requiring test scores, but test optional policies, and now test blind policies, live on. Students now need a firm plan on whether or not to share scores with schools that are test optional. In addition, a Supreme Court decision, in June of 2023, ruled that including race and ethnicity as a factor in college admissions is unlawful (Chung and Kruzel). Colleges and universities are still defining how this ruling will alter the admissions protocol of their institutions.  As professional educational planners, we understand that essays and letters of recommendation may be the place to share diverse perspectives and experiences and to establish the context of one’s life.  

In addition, as colleges refine their business operations and set goals for managing their enrollment, their own institutional priorities have become part of their college planning discussion. Understanding if the school has its sights set on building a stronger visual arts program, for example, and/or adding a larger cohort of engineering students can sometimes identify places of opportunity for applicants. 

An unpredictable landscape

These days, admission decisions for students have become unpredictable — and students need help with creating a plan that will be relevant to their personal strengths and goals. Here at PrepMatters, our team of professional counselors know that being an informed applicant is more important than ever. Applying to college is not a simple exercise; it is a complex endeavor.  We will help you to understand what colleges are looking for and will work with you to build an application that makes you stand out. 

An independent college counselor or educational planning counselor can support you through the college admissions process by offering the benefit of one-on-one instruction, a tailored plan, and keen insight that will put you in the best position for selecting and being admitted to a college that is right for you.  There are many reasons to team up with an educational planner, and the top ten are included below. 

Top 10 Reasons to Work with an Independent College Counselor (aka College Planner):

Number 1: Counselors have years of experience

Many parents are relying on information from 20+ years ago, and most students are applying to college for the first time. An educational planning counselor has years of experience of working with thousands of students. We attend national conferences, collaborate with regional counselors, offer seminars to parents and students—all to keep active and informed. Our counselors are not outsiders; we work in the center of the mix and the current flow of college counseling. Counselors soften the parental role by listening to both student and family goals and can share pertinent and current information related to college admissions.  As professionals, we can share insights on the latest trends in college admissions. We work to create options for you by suggesting a list of colleges that offers a balanced list of reach, target, and likely schools. We help manage your outcomes –of acceptance, deferral, and denial –and of the nuanced position of being on a wait list.  

Number 2: Counselors plan for success through process

A focused planner listens to the personal interests and strengths of students and helps them to make good decisions in areas such as choosing extra curriculars, selecting courses,  and even identifying appropriate teachers for college recommendations. 

For example, our counselors begin the counseling experience with a comprehensive Counseling Assessment. This two-session process gives the counselor, student, and parents, the opportunity to discuss the plan for the remaining time in high school, courses, interests, activities and more– and helps students to build and articulate their college preferences and goals.  Our discussion-based session allows us to collect information and learn about you. Then, we then think carefully and critically about your experiences and develop a Road Map (a personal plan).  We focus on suggestions for moving ahead and provide a framework that highlights the milestones of college planning. The Counseling Assessment allows us to get to know the student and family so that we can provide guidance from a place of understanding and knowledge. 

Number 3: Counselors are supportive listeners

A supportive listener assists students in identifying college preferences such as size, location, campus life or academic offerings in addition to developing a list of colleges that match a student’s vision. He/she encourages both reflection and research by asking students questions about their ideas and goals and inspiring them to go out, visit, and seek more information about colleges and the four-year experience they hope to have.  A counselor can also assist parents by addressing their questions and concerns.  As students begin to speak about their ideas, parents can share their own thoughts of support or even exercise a voice of disagreement. For example, several years ago, while talking with a family, a student announced that she would be majoring in theater while attending college. Her dad quickly added – “Not if I am paying for this!” Fortunately, there was a meeting of the minds later, but our conversation initiated an important discussion for this family. 

Number 4: Counselors have mastered the art of match-making

Educational counselors practice the art of match-making by sharing insights on colleges and universities (both their culture and academic programs), takes a student’s learning style into account, and looks for a list of “best fit” schools. 

The student who is looking for spirit, football games, and a robust Greek Life may find a fit in a large university rather than a small New England liberal arts college.  College visits are a great way to predict a strong fit, so, if at all possible, head to campus to check out the vibe  in addition to the biology lab, art studio, or computer science lab.  Greenspace, Greek life, athletics, spirit, small community, or urban density, abroad opportunities –may be just a few of the points to consider because good fits come in a variety of descriptions. 

Keep in mind that knowing yourself and keeping your priorities aligned is key. Wrong fits also come in different forms and can result from a misshaped plan or over-emphasis on one factor  — accepting, for example, a spot offered by NYU to attend the Shanghai campus when lacking the language skills and genuine interest in attending college in China, only accepting because you were desperate to report that you will be attending NYU.

Number 5: Counselors are strategic thinkers

A strategic thinker is up to date with current Information and trends and is able to think objectively about all aspects of college admissions, including application policy strategies such as early decision, single choice early action, regular decision, or rolling policies and whether or not to send standardized test scores. 

A college educational planning counselor can help suggest when an early decision application would be your strongest application – perhaps when applying to a reach school — or can assess when your reach school has moved into the unlikely category. It is also important to strategize on the timing of applications while, at the same time, applying to a wide range of schools – colleges from reach, target, and likely categories.  Having an insurance program – or several likely colleges on your list — is always a wise move. 

Number 6: Counselors know that myths are made to be busted

Far too often, students and families can get distracted by a large number of rumors and myths they have overheard at gatherings or from a small clip on the internet. Educational counselors bust myths by taking the stories you hear and translating them into real terms. Here are a few common myths.

Myth: Standardized test scores can make or break the chance of being accepted. 

Fact: A student’s academic record and the rigor of their coursework are the most important factors when it comes to college admissions. 

Myth:  Teacher recommendations should come from teachers/courses where you earned an A+.

Fact: A student should ask for recommendations from teachers who will add to their narrative by speaking to the student’s character, accomplishments, and how the student interacts with others in the classroom.  The best choice is the teacher who knows you well and can speak to your ability to do well and to weather storms. 

Number 7: Counselors are creative partners

Educational counselors are creative partners who help brainstorm essay topics and suggest narrative themes that would help you present your strongest self.  Our educational planning counselors and essay specialists are genuinely interested in your story.  We are also storytellers — working one-on-one with students and opening conversations that will inspire you to expand your own tale. 

At PrepMatters, we look for ways to share and develop ideas – and we offer coaching sessions, seminars and webinars to help you share insights and set you on your storytelling path. 

Number 8: Counselors create safe spaces

Educational planning counselors create comfortable, safe spaces  for  describing one’s hopes, dreams, fears, and aspirations, which helps students talk about themselves and become comfortable with sharing information through an interview or essay. 

Choosing a college is an opportunity for teens to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their goals. Supporting a student’s decision-making skills helps them to make sound decisions.  Often, part of the process is talking through high school decisions with students: Is it time to leave the band? Should I take the most challenging math class next year? How do I want to spend my time this summer? Exploration and discovery are part of our plan at PrepMatters.

Number 9: Counselors are trusted advisors

Educational planning counselors become trusted advisors by having a collaborative approach and proven process that has been demonstrated through years of experience in helping thousands of students.  As educational planning counselors at PrepMatters, we know that being honest and reliable is very important.  We build trust with clients by being consistent, informed, and compassionate – throughout the college admission process. 

Number 10: Counselors are stress reducers

The college application process requires students to navigate a series of important decisions and choices, and the transition from high school to college can become a very stressful time for students and parents.  Feeling confident and in control is important as students navigate the path that lies ahead. Making the right choices for themselves, when facing the twists and turns of timelines, deadlines, essays, college lists and applications, is the key to lowered stress and a happy college choice. 

Getting started with an educational planning counselor

We are here to help you through each step. Freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors – and parents, we’ve got this! Please contact PrepMatters today to speak to our placements team who will match you with an educational planning counselor.

Work Cited
Chung, Andrew, and John Kruzel. “US Supreme Court rejects affirmative action in university admissions.” Reuters, 29 June 2023, Accessed 5 September 2023.

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