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How can you be certain you are choosing the right college counselor for your child?

The private college counseling field is teeming with options. How can you judge the quality of one consultancy from another in an objective, analytical way?

Choosing the right college counselor can be a daunting task for families. To ease this process, we’ve compiled essential questions for you to ask every independent counselor you interview so that you come away from your initial conversation with solid information for making this momentous choice.

Below are specific questions to ask in four key areas:

  • Essay editing

  • Hiring and training counselors

  • Counseling approach

  • Emergency planning

The Essay Editing Process

An essential part of the college application process are the admissions essays, and so you will want to get information about the quality of editors on the counseling team, the extent of their training, and the nature of their training

If you’re interviewing a solopreneur or small firm, ask:

  1. Do you handle the essay edits personally or hire outside editors?
  2. If you handle the edits personally, what is your background and training in writing/editing?
  3. If you hire outside editors, who is doing the editing and how have they been selected?
  4. To be more specific, do you:
    1. Hire different editors each season and start with a fresh team each year?
    2. Work with the same editors over long periods of time?
    3. Hire back-end editors on-demand editors through an outside company on an as-needed basis when overloaded?

For larger companies, ask:

  1. Do you use part-time and/or seasonal editors or backend editing services?
  2. If so, who has ultimate editorial responsibility for the success of the essay?
  3. Will the person editing the essays meet with my child? If so, how often?
  4. What is each editor’s caseload?
  5. How many rounds of editing are there? Is it unlimited until the essay works?
  6. Do you edit for more than grammar and style?
  7. What’s your strategy for helping students write essays unique to them?
  8. Do you have company guidelines for your editing team so that the editing is consistent across the team, or does the talent vary based on individual cases?
  9. Who ensures quality control and what are their qualifications?

At Blue Stars, we offer a support team designated just for you and your child. Your counselor, who is extensively trained through a multiyear proprietary apprenticeship program, is your main point person, collaborator, and strategist who regularly meets one-on-one with your child. In addition, your child receives input from a second reader and senior editor on all admissions and summer application essays, plus a proofreader to assure a polished final product, and additional guidance and advice from Laura Schadler, Student Outcomes Director and college coach of over 20 years, on topic determination and strategy. We keep our admissions cohorts small so that each student gets individualized editorial advice specific to their unique story.

Hiring and Training Editors and Counselors

The selection and training of editors and counselors is a significant factor in ensuring the quality of service. It’s not uncommon for companies to hire editors based on their prestigious alma mater. Still, this doesn’t guarantee their skills as a writer and editor. Some companies hire former admissions officers, which may sound appealing, but their knowledge might be based on outdated admissions trends or insights specific to the schools where they worked. Also, their expertise may not necessarily translate into superior writing or editing skills.

To learn more about the credentials of who will be working with your child, ask:

  1. What is your hiring process? What do you look for when selecting your editors and counselors?
  2. How do you train your team and what types of professional development do you offer?
  3. How long does it take to train your team members? What does the process look like?
  4. Is there a set of common best practices among the counselors or editors or does each person work more independently?

At Blue Stars, we are a close-knit team of full-time practitioners who collaborate for optimal student success. To become a Blue Stars team member, each counselor goes through an extensive interview process (not unlike college applications, with writing samples and multiple rounds of interviews) and a months-long training program with Dr. M, founder and CEO, and Laura Schadler, Student Outcomes Director. A stand-out feature of the Blue Stars approach is the one-on-one apprenticeship with Dr. M and completion of the Blue Stars certification process, a rigorous multi-year program of professional advancement based on Dr. Amy Morgenstern’s proprietary methodology, which combines academic and life coaching holistically so that students thrive at college once they get there.

Approach to College Planning and Advising

Every counselor has a different approach to college planning and advising, so you will want to make sure to ask:

  1. How do you keep up-to-date with admissions and college planning trends?
  2. How much time will you spend with my child?
  3. Will there be one counselor who works with my child over the years and gets to know them?
  4. What are the key principles of your methodology?

At Blue Stars, personal growth leads the way, and your child will benefit from the most up-to-date support. Our team meets regularly to share trends in admissions, information from professional conferences, networking relationships, and more. Information sharing and continued learning are key parts of our practice. Blue Stars students have access to a wealth of resources gathered and vetted by the entire Blue Stars team. All counselors contribute to and have access to our extensive database of academic programs, summer programs, as well as volunteering and internship opportunities. Dr.M also regularly presents to the team on new issues impacting teens, college planning, and admissions. We are constantly evolving our work with one other, and with you.

Emergency Plan

Finally, it’s essential to ask about each counselor’s plan for their own personal emergencies. Unforeseen circumstances can arise, and having a contingency plan in place is necessary.

Questions to ask:

  1. If my child’s editor gets sick or can’t complete the admissions season, what systems are in place to ensure the process isn’t disrupted? This is especially important if you’re considering a one-person consultancy, or solopreneur. If they’re unable to complete the season, you might end up scrambling to find a replacement or even have to finish the admissions process on your own.
  2. What systems are in place to address other unforeseen circumstances?

At Blue Stars, we offer a steady, reliable service. Should something arise with one counselor, such as an unexpected illness, there is no interruption of service. Blue Stars counselors are committed team members dedicated to the Blue Stars practice, and not part-time contractors. With a multi-counselor team consisting of counselors who work closely together – and enjoy their work together, as a team – there’s never a worry about interruption of service or scrambling to find admissions support.

We hope these questions help guide your search for the perfect college counselor! With so many to choose from, Blue Stars stands out as a boutique firm with both the personal touch of a one-person consultancy and the systems and assurance of a larger company. We provide a perfect balance of personalized, continuous service from our highly trained, full-time editors who are committed to Blue Stars students and families!

We can’t wait to meet you and your child :)

Free Workbook for Students

Blue Stars College Planning Foundations Workbook

Start today! Go through these strategic exercises to help you sketch out your plans for all four years of high school.

  • Learn key traits important to top colleges.
  • Write your first personal narrative
  • Branch out, exploring interests and defining activities.
  • Set goals and create your 4-year college planning timeline.

Fill out the form to get the workbook.

About the Author: Amy Morgenstern

Dr. Amy Morgenstern, affectionately known as Dr. M, is the founder and CEO of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting. She holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and an MFA in contemporary art. A former professor of philosophy, honors program associate director, and assistant to the director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, Dr. M brings a wealth of academic and multicultural experience to her practice.

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