Here are answers to some of our most frequently asked questions. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any other questions that we can answer.
Q: My older child applied to college five years ago and I already learned about the process from that experience. Why would I need to hire someone to help?
A. The world of college admissions is constantly evolving. Even from year to year, there are many changes that occur. For example, several years ago, early applications were broken down into three categories: rolling admissions, early action, and early decision, and each school offered one such option. It was very straightforward.
In addition to the aforementioned three categories, students now face many additional choices. These include restricted early action, single choice early action, “VIP” or “Priority” applications, a choice between early action and early decision at the same school, early decision on a rolling basis, single choice early decision, and more. There is no question that this process is confusing to the most educated of individuals, and the sheer amount of time involved in researching these kinds of things can be overwhelming and even impossible. We can step in and quickly educate your family about the process in order to move on to the more important task at hand – helping your child gain admission to these institutions.
Q: Are there any payment options that make it affordable to work with DC College Counseling?
A: We offer a variety of options in order to meet the needs of our clients. Additionally, we are committed to serving students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, and work with several students each year on a sliding scale basis.
Most families are surprised to find that working with an independent college counselor can actually result in saving money. Though it does require an initial investment, our expert knowledge about financial aid and merit scholarships can result in a tremendous savings to your family.
Q: Some independent counselors have advertised that they can promise admission to certain schools. Can you ensure that my child will get into his first choice school?
A: Absolutely no one can ensure that your child will be admitted to a specific school. If an independent counselor or educational consultant makes a statement like this, the person is not being honest and this should raise a red flag. False promises like these go against the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) Statement of Principles of Good Practice. What we can do, however, is ensure that our clients present themselves as the best possible candidates for the schools to which they apply. The balanced list that we will help your family create will balance strategy with reality in order to best position your student for maximum results. Though we make no promises for the future, we can say that we have never once worked with a student who did not have multiple choices at the end of the college process.
Q: What can DC College Counseling do for my child that her school counselor cannot?
A: First of all, we cannot emphasize enough that it is very important for your child to have the best possible working relationship with her school counselor. The school counselor will write the official letter of recommendation that accompanies your child’s secondary school reports and transcripts, and he needs to hold your child in high regard. In no way do we recommend bypassing the school counselor in this process; we simply act to supplement the services that this individual is able to provide. In fact, we often work side by side with school counselors in order to serve your child best.
That said, school counselors are almost always overworked. They are burdened with caseloads that usually number in the hundreds, and there is no possible way for them to provide this kind of one-on-one assistance to all of their students. Writing the school recommendations is time-consuming enough; there is simply no time left to provide strategic, individualized advice about the college process. Since we limit the amount of students with whom we work during any given period of time, we are able to step in and comprehensively guide our clients through this challenging period in their lives. We are also able to provide many more additional services than a school counselor might; for example, hours upon hours of essay revisions, or our established interview coaching system.
It is also important to note that many school counselors have no formal training in the college admissions field, and were hired to act as guidance counselors and social workers in the school environment. Helping with college admissions is simply an added duty that comes with these positions. For the same reason that our clients would not hire an English teacher to provide their child instruction in calculus and physics, they feel that it is worth hiring an established college admissions professional with a track record of success to guide their family through the college process.
Q: Where can you meet with my student? Do parents attend meetings?
A: We have offices in Vienna, Virginia, and downtown Washington, D.C. We can also occasionally accommodate requests to meet at your home or another alternate location, such as a coffee shop or library. We know that it is difficult to deal with D.C. traffic, and do our best to try to make meeting locations as convenient as possible. Additionally, we meet virtually with many of our clients using Skype.
We feel that it is best for at least one parent to attend the initial meeting, if possible. This helps us agree on a course of action with mutual expectations. However, if this is not possible, we can make alternative arrangements that will meet your family’s need. Some parents choose to attend all meetings, while many prefer for their students to meet alone, in order to take ownership of the process. Parents are certainly welcome at all sessions.
Q: Which high schools do your clients typically attend?
A: Our clients come from a wide variety of high schools, both in and out of the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. From boarding schools, to independent schools, to public schools, to parochial schools, to charter schools – we have seen it all! Our highest concentration of students from public schools attend the following: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Madison High School, Langley High School, McLean High School, Oakton High School and Woodson High School. As far as independent schools, we work with a relatively sizable number of students from Flint Hill School each year, as well as a handful from a variety of others, including Potomac School, Madeira School, Georgetown Visitation, The Field School, Edmund Burke School, British School of Washington, Georgetown Day School and The Heights School.
Q: There are so many college counselors in the D.C. area! How do we know which company or individual is best?
A: More and more families nationwide are beginning to use college counselors in the application process. Since it is such a growing field, independent college counselors are popping out of the woodwork, and it can be truly difficult to differentiate between self-proclaimed experts with a fancy website and those with a longstanding track record of success.
Here are some questions to ask a potential college counseling service:
1. Does the college counselor with whom we will be working have direct professional experience in an undergraduate admissions office? In the college counseling world, there is absolutely no substitute for professional experience working in an admissions office. Just because someone is a good writer does not mean that they have the background necessary to be an effective college counselor. Working with a college counselor without this background would be similar to seeing a doctor that never completed his residency, or a lawyer that never entered a courtroom. Proceed with caution.
2. Does the college counselor with whom we will be working have direct professional experience in a high school counseling office? While this is not nearly as imperative as admissions experience, an individual with experience on the high school side brings an additional set of skills to the table that are quite valuable.
3. Is the college counselor with whom we will be working a Professional Member of IECA? The Independent Educational Consultants Association, or IECA, is the premier network of independent educational consultants. It has a demanding and rigorous application process, and only selects the best of the profession for membership. If a counselor is not an IECA member, it is probably for a reason.
4. Is the process and fee structure transparent? Working with an excellent college counselor is expensive; there is no doubt about it. As a parent herself, Colleen sacrifices for her own child’s educational opportunities, and is sensitive to the fact that many families sacrifice to be able to pay her fees, in turn. As a result, she is always up front from the start about the costs involved. She helps families pick the package that will meet their needs, while also paying close attention to their budget. Throughout the entire process, she remains cognizant of the number of hours used vs. the hours remaining, so that families do not exceed the number of hours for which they have contracted. She also gives regular advice about how to best allocate her services to provide students with the biggest impact. Be wary of counselors who do not list their fees up front, or who try to lure customers in with a price that sounds low at the outset. With DC College Counseling, what you see is what you get.
Please do not hesitate to send us an email if you have any more questions.