Local consultants help students do their homework when it comes to college planning
For some young men and women, the high school degree is only the first certificate they earn in their journey to figure out their careers. Walking across a stage in a cap and gown is sometimes just a step towards another education experience at a university, college, or tech school.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 19.9 million students were projected to enter a college or university in 2018. The majority of those students likely had several options for school. But sifting through the choices and determining the right fit can be overwhelming for many future college freshmen.
For some high schoolers, the decision is reached through extensive personal research, but others use college planning consultants to streamline the process.
“The truth is every student needs different help to get into college,” said College Planning Center founder Christopher Parsons, a part-time Daniel Island resident. “We work on every aspect of the college admissions process from building a college list to helping with the application process.”
Consultants and counselors help future college kids by becoming experts in the student and schools around the nation, then building a list of schools that they could thrive in based on the pupil’s interests and personality.
Often, questions are posed to students about the size of the institution they want to attend, the look of the campus, geographic regions they will travel to, and requirements to get in to a school.
“We really are trying to find a match between what a kid wants, what a family can afford, and what schools are going to fit those desires,” Parsons said.
In Mary Sudzina’s view, reading a student’s transcript and resume is a great place to start. Sudzina, a Daniel Island resident, works with college consultants Sudzina & Associates, LLC.
“It’s really important to find out how they see themselves and the kind of environment they think would help them achieve their goals,” Sudzina explained. “And my job is to help them suggest schools that would fit into their criteria.”
College counselors and consultants usually do some form of assessment to learn about a student’s strengths and personality.
For Certified Education Planner Claire Law, also of Daniel Island, psychology is an important aspect of the process.
“I use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and sometimes I use the Strong Interest Inventory,” Law said. “Sometimes, just a very simple Educational Interest Inventory. And once I’ve helped the student identify those better developed personality preferences, then we’ll talk about that.”
The psychological aspect is one of the most crucial steps to Law’s process at her college advising business, Educational Avenues.
“In my opinion, understanding a teenager and all that the teenager is—the teenager’s personality and learning style—these are very important first steps in developing an ideal college list,” Law added.
But, knowing a student is only able to travel so far, many consultants tour schools themselves to better understand where people are being sent.
“I visit about 30 schools a year,” claimed Parsons. “My job is to know the schools well enough, that when I get to know the kid, I can suggest schools that I think fit their personality and their professional and social desires, as well.”
Consultants are usually knowledgeable on freshmen retention rates and four-year graduation rates, but Parsons described a more grassroots approach to learning a school.
“I like to just walk around campus and talk to kids,” he said. “I get a feel for what made that decision the right one for them, where else they applied.”
Obviously, cost is always a point of heavy consideration for each student and their family, adding another layer of strategy.
“I’m very concerned about college affordability,” said Law. “I don’t like to see these kids graduate with a big noose around their neck and it’s called the debt burden.”
Law defined affordability as “getting a good education and getting the most value for your money.”
Some consultants are also just as concerned about the admissions process as they are with creating a list of schools to apply to.
Sudzina describes her job as helping the student present themselves in the best light.
“I do know what colleges are looking for, so I have a sense of ‘let’s find out what’s unique about this person’ or ‘let’s find out what would appeal to colleges and let’s find out what their interests are,’” she said.
“I see it as a puzzle,” Sudzina continued. “How do I help this person find out what’s unique about them and write about themselves in a way that the people who read these essays are going to say ‘wow, I want to meet this student.’”