How to Choose a College Consultant

Because college consultants are not high school counselors, they can offer a different kind of expertise and flexibility.  A consultant’s only agenda is the best interest and success of her students, so when looking for a consultant, just like when looking for a school, parents should look for the best fit for their child.

First, here are a few basics in choosing your child’s college consultant:

  1. Did the consultant complete a Certificate in College Counseling, work as a high school counselor or as an admissions counselor at a non-profit institution of higher learning?

  2. Does the consultant belong to professional organizations that serve their regions as well as independent educational consultants (National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and/or its regional affiliate, Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), Certified Educational Planner (CEP)?

  3. Does the consultant regularly meet with admissions counselors, participate in conferences, continuing education and travel to see colleges on their own?

 If the answer to any of these questions is NO, then stop right there.  You deserve to work with a consultant that continues their education, has a network of resources and understands current admission trends. 

Also, many consultant’s businesses are built on referrals. Check with friends and neighbors for names or ask for references.

Second, review the consultant’s website and contact them with questions to determine if their style, approach and fees sounds like something you think would be a good fit for your family.

Third, review your notes from the conversation with your son or daughter. 

  1. Do you feel like your child would respond well to the consultant? Is your child ready to engage?

  2. What was your gut reaction in talking with the consultant, sometimes that matters more than the words spoken. 

You ought to have a trusted partner in the college admissions experience: a partner with expertise and knowledge, and someone to help simplify the process while showing care and kindness. 

The three members of The College Crew have combined 30-plus years of experience, guiding more than 1,000 families through the college journey supporting both students and parents along the way. We feel privileged to be a trusted professional during such a pivotal part of a teen’s life!

  • Amanda Hirko, Hirko Consulting INC

  • Ellen Gaddie, Simply College Prep

  • Susan Monken, College Untangled

Denied or Deferred from College, Now What?

Early action and early decision responses have started, and it’s important to remember that what you hear may not be fair and may not make sense. It feels personal, but it’s not about you -- it’s business, the business of enrollment management. 

Enrollment management is used by colleges to shape their incoming classes. It is the great unknown and it changes yearly. It is based on so much that you cannot control, including: an institution’s needs and finances, programs chosen, faculty retention and acquisition and so much more.  This is all part of the holistic review that you will never know.  It’s not just test scores, GPA or whether you were president of mock trial or captain of a varsity sport; instead, it’s based on college priorities.

And this is why you applied to more than one school, why you had a balanced list, and why when you made your list, all of them had elements of things you liked or wanted. In time you will find that many students are not at their first-choice school, but they are happy and thriving and can’t picture themselves anywhere else. Just like you will feel on the campus where you land.

Keep in mind, how you handle this disappointment IS about you. Right now, you’re hearing back early, so you have time to let the result settle and then move on. Use this time to revise, regroup, reflect and remind yourself that there are other colleges that will appreciate your time and talents.

This blog was written in conjunction with my colleagues from the College Crew.

Finding College Scholarships

Parents often ask us where their teen can find college scholarships and in our opinion this is the one area we recommend parents take an active role. Searching for and applying for scholarships is time consuming and many students avoid it.

What you need to know is all college scholarship sites are not equal. Many aren’t legitimate or are little more than sources for gathering your data. It’s a given you will get some unsolicited emails and you won’t want to overload your college application or your personal email accounts.

Tip #1:     Set up a new email to be used only for scholarships.

Tip #2:     Never pay for a scholarship search.

Tip #3:     Start local; places to consider are employers, local service organizations (Elks, Rotary, Lions, etc.), school foundations, high school counseling department, and PTA.

Our top 5 scholarship sites are:






On each site be sure to:

·      Fill out the student profile 100%, leaving no blank spaces or unchecked boxes.

·      List all possible majors for the most scholarship matches. If you are unsure of your major check the boxes for anything that interests you.

·      Update your information regularly, as different scholarships are offered for different grade levels.  Also, more matches may occur if you join clubs, volunteer, learn new skills, and take part in different activities.

Bonus Info: At the time your student is submitting admissions applications, parents of seniors can research the financial aid page for each college. There you may find additional information on institutional or departmental scholarships and whether a supplemental application is required. Not all schools offer departmental scholarships for incoming freshman, but if they do, you don't want to miss out!

4 Steps to Great Letters of Recommendation

Colleges ask for letters of recommendations because they value the information a well-written recommendation letter says about a prospective student. Letters reveal things about you that static grades and test scores cannot, provide personal opinions from a professional and can reveal positive aspects of your character.

Step 1: Know what you need.

  • The University of California, California State Universities and many other large public institutions do not accept recommendation letters.
  • For schools that do, plan on a minimum of two letters from teachers and one from your high school counselor.  There are a few schools that might require three.
  • Sometimes the letters are optional and sometimes not even required. Our suggestion is to submit one if you have a strong relationship with a teacher.

Step 2: Who should you ask and when?

  • Don’t automatically pick the teacher in the class in which you have an A. Some of the best letters come from teachers you had to ask for help during lunchtime or after school. 
  • Think about your areas of interest. For example, if you are planning to major in a STEM field, at least one teacher should be from that discipline.
  • Having a balance of one math or science and one English, history or foreign language teacher is a good idea for most students.
  • Consider asking teachers you’ve had more than once—a freshman and junior foreign language teacher can speak to your development as a student and a young adult.
  • If you’re an arts student, consider asking your band, choral or theater teacher.  Many schools allow non-academic, optional recommendation letters. If you have a job or are an athlete, including your boss or coach is also appropriate. Remember these people are in addition to, not a replacement for, the required recommendations.
  • Ask your teachers politely, in person and in late spring (May) of junior year.

Step 3: Follow your school’s protocol.

If your school uses Naviance, check under the “About Me” tab to see if there is a specific survey that needs to be filled out by you and possibly, your parent/guardian.

If your school does not have a packet or questionnaire of their own, it’s your job to give your teachers enough information to be able to write you a letter.  We suggest providing them with a note that includes one or more of the following:

  • Why you selected this particular teacher;
  • Highlights of your class achievements, or areas you worked to improve;
  • A description of a meaningful experience in the course, and how it impacted your work;
  • What you plan to study or your interest areas; and anything else they should know about you. Be sure to include an expression of thanks!
  • When you ask the teachers, be prepared to give them a copy of your note or questionnaire, and a résumé or extra-curricular activities list so they get an idea of all that you do outside of the classroom.
  • Provide them with the application deadlines for the schools to which you are applying.

Step 4:  Thanks

  • Thank them, thank them and thank them. Be sure to express your genuine appreciation for the work they’re doing on your behalf.