At a time when President Barack Obama is pushing more and more Americans to get college degrees, the students who are already planning on going are trying harder than ever to position themselves for the most selective colleges — and hiring pricey college consultants who may charge more than $40,000 a year to help shape their applications and essays.
The number of families who are hiring such counselors has grown so much that some 26 percent of all high-achieving students use outside counselors, according to a story in Inside Higher Ed that also appeared in USA Today. The growth may have to do with how hard it has become to get into the top U.S. colleges, as applications to elite schools have surged in recent years.
But do these counselors promise more than they can deliver? Because the world of independent college counselors remains unregulated, the Higher Education Consultants Association has just adopted a detailed ethics code and outlines what they will and will not do. For example, one thing private counselors cannot do is take payments from colleges for placing students in certain schools — nor can they promise they will get them in.
Much has been written about the use of private college consultants, a story that provides a window into the hyper-competitive world of college admissions. The more urgent and important story, however, is the lack of guidance counselors to help students who really need free advice on how to get into college — even into community colleges.
The recession is causing guidance counselor layoffs, and parents are objecting across the U.S. Too many don’t have the means to afford independent counseling services. Will that mean fewer college applicants?