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A Helping Hand

This time of year, nearly all seniors wish they had started on their college applications earlier. Some are even starting to panic. Many Early Action and Early Decision deadlines have come and gone, financial aid forms are due, and heaven help the senior who is still working on higher test scores. The Class of 2017 has absorbed more changes than most: new ACT, new SAT, new FAFSA base year, new colleges accepting the Common Application.

Underclassmen may vow that their senior year will unfold differently, but they don’t really know how to avoid their older friends’ mistakes. Juniors watch the gyrations the seniors are going through and dread their own turn next year. Sophomores and freshmen may be aware of the free-flowing anxiety without any way to channel it.

It is commonplace to seek out coaching for dance, baseball, ice skating, physics or even wardrobe styling. The college application process – with hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake – is arguably much more important. The right college consultant can work with the student to keep things on track, finish applications by the holidays, and improve the odds of finding actual enjoyment in the student’s last year of high school.

Key to the process: beginning early; recognizing what needs to be done; and spreading out the work. I like to get to know the client – personality, interests and strengths – before even talking about particular colleges. With more than 3000 institutions of higher learning in the United States, it is more important than ever that the student recognize what he or she is looking for before wading in. Together we compile a balanced list, with enough challenge to motivate the student, but enough safety to reassure both student and parent that college is possible academically, socially and financially. To match a student to right-fit colleges, I draw on my extensive experience visiting institutions around the country and abroad, as well as wide-ranging contacts with other admissions professionals. We look for opportunities for “reach” schools to become “targets” for a student with a profile attractive to a particular college who also demonstrates his or her willingness to attend if admitted.

To be sure, not everyone needs the guidance of a college consultant. Students with straightforward ambitions – to attend Iowa State, for example – may be able to take one ACT, fill out one application and be done with it. But how can a student and his or her parents be sure ahead of time that Iowa State (for instance) is the best fit and that admission is assured? Parents on the North Shore of Chicago and Boston, where I primarily work, aren’t usually willing to leave this to chance!

The final months of application season are crucial. But with the help of a consultant, seeing the leaves turn lovely fall colors does not have to be panic-inducing. If you could use some help navigating a process that is constantly changing, give me a call at 847-660-8625 or click the "Contact Me" button at the bottom of the page.

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