Carolyn Z. Lawrence Educational Consultant

Frequently Asked Questions About Working With A Private College Counselor

What should we look for when choosing a private college counselor? First and foremost, choose someone who will assist your child in the most positive manner possible. A good private counselor will focus on each student's unique strengths and talents and seek to help students find college choices that are a good match for the student's admissions profile, learning style, personality, and interests.  The best private counselors will regularly attend professional conferences and personally visit college campuses. Ethical private counselors do not promise or guarantee admission to specific colleges.  They also do not write essays or prepare application materials for students.  The most experienced private counselors will belong to one or more professional associations, such as the National Association for College Admissions Counseling or the Higher Education Consultants Association, which require members to abide by professional ethics standards in their work with students.  An experienced private counselor should also be happy to provide references of former clients.

Who should hire a private counselor? In truth, millions of students successfully apply to college each year without hiring a private counselor.  You may not need to hire a private college counselor if you or your child attends a high school with strong college counseling, if you've recently been through the admissions process with a sibling or another child, or if you and your child are committed to researching colleges and the admissions process on your own. On the other hand, a skilled private college counselor can be appropriate for:

  • Students who attend high schools with high counselor-to-student ratios or high schools without adequate college counseling available
  • Students who could benefit from extra one-on-one support during the college application process
  • Students who might need help identifying appropriate college choices due to having a unique admissions profile, special needs, or specific academic interests
  • Students who will be the first in their family to apply to or attend college
  • International students who are unfamiliar with the admissions process at U.S. universities

Not sure if you should hire a private college counselor?  Please feel free to contact me to discuss your college plans and whether hiring a private counselor makes sense.

When do you begin working with students? I begin working with students on college planning in their junior year of high school.  However, many families find that it is useful to meet once or twice with me in freshman or sophomore year to make sure that their child is on track in terms of taking appropriate college preparatory courses and to discuss college planning in general terms.  In order to provide highly personalized service to each student, I work with a limited number of students each year.  In most years, my spaces for juniors are completely filled by January.  Except in rare circumstances, I do not accept high school seniors as clients.  So, if you are interested in having your child work with me on college planning, please plan to contact me no later than the Fall of your child's junior year.

What services do you provide? I custom-tailor an advising plan based on each student's needs, but my standard college counseling services include:

  • Advice about high school course selection
  • Standardized test planning (note: I do not offer test preparation tutoring)
  • Evaluating each student's admissions profile
  • Helping students identify appropriate college choices based on their interests, learning style, and personality
  • Researching college options for students, based on individual admissions profile, academic interests, and other college preferences
  • Developing a college application plan to help students stay on track with college applications
  • Advice and information about financial aid and college merit scholarships
  • Guidance on completing college applications
  • Guidance on how to write effective college application essays as well as review of college application essays

What are your qualifications?  Are you experienced? I am an experienced private college advisor, who has helped hundreds of students and their parents navigate the college admissions puzzle.  Learn more about my qualifications and experience

How much do you charge? Unlike many private counselors, I do not charge a flat-fee package rate.  Instead, I custom-tailor a plan of services based on each student's individual needs, the application requirements of the colleges they'll be applying to, and the family budget. I then charge an hourly fee for all work with the student in junior and senior year.  Families must purchase a minimum of six hours of service; this minimum purchase is paid before the start of junior-year services as a retainer to hold the student's place.  For high school freshmen and sophomores, I also offer a one-time planning session that covers curriculum and general college planning issues for younger students and their parents. For my current rates, please contact me to discuss your child's needs. 

Do you meet face-to-face with students?  I am located in East County, San Diego.  Students are welcome to travel to meet with me face-to-face, but most students find that it is more convenient to meet with me from the comfort of their own homes using online technologies.  As time allows, I do sometimes travel to meet with families in their home for initial consultations.  However, the majority of my work with students is provided online. Learn more about working with me online .

What are your office hours?  I am available to meet with students Monday through Friday, from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. PST.  With advance notice, I can schedule evening meetings with students, but my last available appointment of the day is at 6:00 p.m. PST.  In the fall, I also schedule several Saturdays for meetings with high school seniors. 

Can you provide references of former students/parents that we can contact about your services?  Yes! I will be happy to put you in touch with former families who can tell you about their experiences working with me. You may also be interested in reading some comments from my former students about working with me.

How do we get started working with you? First, please contact me to discuss your or your child's college planning needs, my fees, and to check on my current space availability.  Once we have determined that working together makes sense, we will schedule an initial appointment as the first step in getting started!

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