Short answer: Maybe.

Here’s the main argument against using a private college counselor: Why should you pay for a service you could do yourself?

Of course, by that logic, you’re one step away from growing your own crops.

Not everyone wants to be—or even can be—a DIY college application family.

Let’s be perfectly clear: high school counselors are amazing. Each year they are asked to do more with less funding, and nearly every state has a student to counselor ratio of over 250:1. They are juggling huge caseloads of students with complex and varying issues while also helping students apply to college. Even with the best of intentions, there sometimes isn’t enough time to give every student the personal attention a counselor would like to be able to provide.

A private college counselor can partner with the high school counselor to provide additional support for families.

Here are five types of families that are ideal for seeking out a private college counselor.

    1. First College-Age Child

If this is your first rodeo, you’ll definitely want some support.

    First-Generation College Student

Perhaps your student is the first in your family to attend college. (Congratulations to all of you!) Or perhaps your student is the first in your family to attend an American university.

Talking to an insider, a professional who can easily navigate the ins and outs of the college application process, will give everyone the reassurance that you aren’t forgetting anything important.

A private college counselor will help your student find the right colleges, organize the application process, and help keep everyone calm during the journey.

    Oldest Child

The college application process is a lot more complicated than it was when you applied. Now that your firstborn is old enough to be thinking about applications, nothing looks familiar to you anymore.

Finding a private college counselor to coach your oldest through applications will give you a refresher course in applying to college so that you can help your younger children, if necessary.

    2. Applying to Competitive Schools or Programs

A huge percentage of Ivy League college students used a private college counselor. Why? Because the process is hard and the stakes are high.

    High Achievers

Students who aim to attend an elite college need to be sure that their applications are perfect. Sometimes that will involve writing ten drafts of an essay or stepping up in leadership roles in clubs and sports.

But mainly it will involve an airtight application with every form filled and every box checked. This is something that private college counselors know exactly how to help students accomplish in the most efficient way.

    3. Special Interests

A huge percentage of Ivy League college students used a private college counselor. Why? Because the process is hard and the stakes are high.

    Athletics

Your child has 3,872 practices, meets, and games between now and college.

Not only are college applications confusing in their own right, but when you also add recruitment offers into the deal, they can feel impossible.

You’d like your student-athlete to have the most promising college and career path, but you aren’t sure how to evaluate that. Fortunately, the private college counselor does.

    Other Special Interests

If your child wants to be a dancer, an engineer, a lawyer, or has any other specific, nuanced career goals, you’ll want his or her undergraduate school to support that.

As well, if your family wants or needs help understanding or applying for scholarships or financial opportunities, you’ll have access to resources that would have been time-consuming to find otherwise.

    4. Overwhelmed Families

You work full-time, and your child is involved in everything already. How can you add applications to that?

    College List Help

There are over 5,000 colleges and universities in the country. You could use some advice in narrowing them down.

    College Forms Help

Applications can take from 10 to 20 hours per college, and that’s excluding financial aid forms. Ouch.

    5. Transfers or Specific Needs

    Complex High School Records

Your child attended two high schools. Or three, with one out-of-state. Or out of the country. Or was homeschooled. Or took medical leave. Or repeated a grade. Or skipped a grade.

There are lots of situations for which a private college counselor could provide a lot of help with handling complex high school records.

    Students with Learning Differences

Young people with documented learning differences will need extra coaching not only to understand their rights and responsibilities for accommodations as legal adults but also to find universities that will foster their success. Read more about that in our post about the college search for students with LD.

    Low Motivation

If your child really wants to go to college but doesn’t know how or where to start—or isn’t showing the motivation to assemble the pieces of the application—then obtaining the services of a private college counselor could make a huge difference.

(Having someone who isn’t a parent explain what is needed to your student can often light the spark of motivation.)

    Conclusion

Be wary, however, of those without experience or expertise who claim to be counselors. Ask about professional memberships, certifications, continuing education completed, and references.

While most families could benefit from hiring a private college counselor, some might consider it more strongly than others.

Peace in the household is always one of the best reasons to seek a private college counselor. Learn more about our College Counseling Solutions.