Using paid college planning advisors certainly has its benefits but it’s not necessary for everyone. Some students manage to get clarity on college planning by researching online resources. However, others find that sifting through the amount of information available on the internet can be overwhelming. That’s not entirely surprising considering the number of colleges scattered across the U.S.
The truth is, you could spend hours online reading about the what and how of the college admissions process and be no nearer to determining which colleges to apply to or how to proceed. This is where college planning advisors come in.
What Do College Planning Advisors Do?
College planning advisors help high school students navigate the complex college process, from identifying a suitable school to submitting a competitive college application. These professionals have expert knowledge of the college planning process, which is honed further through years of experience dealing with high school students applying to college.
While the way they operate may vary, most college planning advisors will first want to get to know you better. They’ll want to read your high school transcripts to assess your strengths and weaknesses. They will also set up an interview to learn more about your interests, specialized skills, academic and non-academic accomplishments, and your long and short-term goals. Based and what they’ve learned about you, they make deliberate recommendations about the best colleges for you. They may also help you navigate the college application process and offer advice regarding financial aid.
Of course, the help of a paid college planning advisor comes at a price and this is where most families hesitate. With most information freely available on the internet, is it really worth paying someone for advice? Understanding the benefits of hiring a paid college advisor can help you make an informed decision if you’re not sure whether or not this is the right option for you.
Benefits Of Hiring A Paid College Advisor
1. They’ll help you identify colleges that are the right fit for you
There’s a lot riding on choosing the right program and the right college. You want to find a college that’s affordable while also offering the program you’re interested in and the right environment for you to thrive in. Identifying a college that ticks all the boxes for you is not easy. With over 4,000 colleges to choose from, there is a risk of making the wrong choice. Using a college advisor reduces the odds of you making a mistake.
When you hire a paid college planning advisor, they go to great lengths to get to know you better before recommending colleges that are a good fit academically, personally, financially, socially, and geographically. The difference between the DIY approach and the paid route is that these professionals have vast experience in this area. They’ll use valuable insight gained from years of experience to guide you toward making the right decision at every step.
2. They stay updated on the latest news regarding college admissions
The college application and admissions processes changes almost constantly. Take for instance the SAT test. A few years ago, almost all colleges wanted to see your SAT or ACT scores to assess your application. Today, a large number of colleges are test-optional, which means you can send your test scores if you want to, but your application won’t be dismissed if you don’t submit SAT/ACT scores.
Staying on top of these ever-changing rules, regulations, and requirements is almost impossible for students. For college advisors, this is part of their job. They stay updated on the latest changes so they can offer their clients the best advice based on the latest requirements.
3. They’ll help you develop a strategic college application plan
Once you’ve created your shortlist of schools, you need to start sending out your applications. Putting together a strong college application that’s sure to beat the competition can be just as challenging as identifying which colleges to apply to. A paid college planning advisor can help you develop a strategic plan to increase your chances of getting into your top choice school. They will give you invaluable tips on how to showcase your academic and extracurricular accomplishments and demonstrate your individuality while also emphasizing your interest in the school you are applying to.
4. They’ll help you navigate financial aid
Affordability is one of the biggest challenges students encounter while shortlisting good-fit colleges. Very often, a school may have the program and facilities a student is looking for but the cost of attending may be out of their budget. For many students, affordability is the deciding factor in their choice of school. A college advisor may be able to help you explore the various sources of financial aid available to students, enabling you to afford the cost of your preferred college.
Overall, hiring a paid college advisor can reduce the stress and tension that often arises during the college planning process. But before you hire an advisor, you should spend time doing your own research. This will help you get clarity on what exactly you need help with. As you start your search on the internet, you’ll find plenty of helpful resources that are available for free.
What You Can Do On Your Own For Free Before Hiring A Paid College Advisor
1. Research colleges
Every college has its own website with information regarding the programs they offer, the cost of tuition, campus facilities, and eligibility requirements. This will give you an idea right away of whether or not that is a good fit for you and whether it should make it to your shortlist of colleges to apply to.
One way to research colleges and find schools that fit you is with our free college match tool. If a paid advisor is too expensive (or you just don’t want to go there), this tool is an amazing alternative. All you do is input some basic information and the tool spits out colleges that match you based on GPA, intended majors, location preferences, test scores, and culture.
2. Research financial aid
The Federal Student Aid website has all the information you need on the different types of federal financial aid offered to college students. You’ll also find information on how to apply and the terms and conditions of getting free financial aid as well as low-cost student loans.
3. Apply for scholarships.
Plenty of organizations offer scholarships to help college students. These may be awarded for a variety of reasons from academic accomplishments and athletic achievements to community service and demographic factors. You shouldn’t have to pay anyone to find scholarships. This information as well as the application forms are all available freely online.
4. Use free tools and resources
In addition to College Raptor’s free College Match tool, there are tons of free tips and resources on our site (and others). Look for resources like:
- How to write great essays (for scholarship applications and admissions).
- College Planning guides and checklists.
- Important deadlines (for example, early action deadlines).
- Guidance on FAFSA.
- And much, much more!
Using college planning advisors is an entirely personal decision. But just remember, there are tons of free planning resources out there if you don’t go in that direction. Happy college planning!