I never used one when I grew up and I've always like the "DIY" mentality that is actually favored by colleges/admissions when they talk to students, but now in retrospect and I see with adult eyes how the world works, I think that for something like college, if cost isn't an issue, you really should seriously consider a GOOD counselor, and as early as possible, as advised as above.rrppve wrote:Going through the college applications process now with my oldest. Son is also in a very good public school, which simply doesn't have the counseling resources of a private school. If the expense is not an issue, I would hire one as early as possible during high school. It's not just the academics, but encouraging your kid to have an intense enough extra-curricular experience to support their application. Another key benefit of a counselor is keeping your kid on track with the process. Sometimes they listen to others more than the parents, at least in our case.
I'd also look for a counselor who had experience as an admissions officer at an Ivy or other highly selective college, not just a former guidance counselor.
For us, we only hired someone to help with his essays and we didn't do it early enough, but it was still helpful. Also, if you're kid is a recruited athlete, you'll have a lot of advantages in getting a decision earlier, but you will also likely be pressed to make an earlier decision in choosing a college.
Anyone who thinks that kids who aren't coached specifically to get into college don't have anadvantage against completely uncoached kids, is being naive. Coaching, in every activity, be it test-taking SATs, getting into college/schools, or makng sports teams cuts, has a significant impact. I firmly believe this despite well-meaning articles like the NYT article that try and reassure parents that it doesn't matter - those articles tend to overlook the huge selection bias, meaning that those kids they consider 'equal' often have enough resources that they in effect have coaching for college prep very early on between their peers. But just look at inner city/poor school district applications rates pre-post coaching, and you see big differences, so big that the ivies and others are actively encouraging coaching for the economically disprivileged.
The effect of a college counselor/coach will be small, sure. It won't compensate for underperformance academically or laziness. But for someone with the talent and hardworking drive to get it done, it can make a significant difference. College isn't at all the be-all-end-all, but I do believe that if you have the drive and ability to plan enough to get into a good college, those are incredibly valuable life skills.
I was fortunate to live in a upper-middle class neighborhood where a lot of the college admissions advice was well known to the students even before counselors, but in retrospect there are clearly things I could have done much, much better, not just in terms of getting myself into college, but for better understanding myself and my goals/personal development and how that meshed with the college plan. (In retrospect I was one of those unusual uber hardworking HS students who actually sacrificed too much for that brass ring of a top notch college, but it's hard to get that perspective when you're 17.)