We had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with Brianne Flannagan, a seasoned college admissions consultant, and learn all about her tips and advice for students who are on the college search journey. Recognizing that not all students will be able to work with her directly, Brianne generously shared some of her top tips to assist you on your unique college journey.
Brianne has extensive experience in the college admissions process. She attended Colby College for her bachelor’s degree and then Harvard University (this year’s number 1 best college in the US) for her second master’s degree.
While obtaining that degree she worked in admissions, financial aid, and alumni relations at Harvard GSAS (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences), the Political Institute at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, and the Harvard GSE (Graduate School of Education).
She worked for four years as a college essay editor for College Planning Strategies and then for an educational consulting firm for another three years as an Educational and College Consultant.
Now, she’s been working independently with families and helping students get into their dream schools since January 2017.
What Does Brianne Do as a College Consultant?
“I help kids get into college,” she says.
Brianne helps students get into college and college students get into grad school. She also supports other aspects of the college journey from essays to scholarships to applications. Her clientele largely grows through word-of-mouth referrals from her current students.
Regardless of where you currently stand in the college planning and application process, a consultant like Brianne can be a valuable resource. Whether you already have a college list or are starting from scratch, Brianne—and college consultants like her—is ready to assist you at every step, regardless of your location in the world.
Benefits for Parents
College consultation is not just for students; it’s also for parents. There is a lot of stress that comes with searching for and applying to colleges that impacts both parents and their students.
Brianne, as a college consultant, serves as a buffer between parents and their children during times of stress. This alleviates the pressure on parents who may feel the need to constantly check on their children regarding applications and studying. Instead, they can take a step back, allowing Brianne to organize and navigate this aspect with their student.
Brianne encourages parents to “go with your child on the journey instead of pushing them into it.” Acting as a micromanager, she handles the details so parents don’t have to. Brianne is also there to remind her students that parents are offering opinions and, ultimately, have their best interests at heart.
Benefits for Students
A college consultant, such as Brianne, also plays a crucial role as a strong support for students. She starts every relationship with her students by acknowledging the inevitable stress, saying, “It’s going to be stressful; you’re going to be stressed, and that’s normal.”
Essentially, Brianne imparts the understanding that it’s okay not to have all the answers and perfectly normal to seek guidance. Offering valuable advice, guidance, and organizational support, she works to alleviate the stress students may experience. Brianne becomes the advocate for students, understanding their desires for college and actively assisting them in achieving those goals.
Navigating college choices while also considering parental opinions can be challenging, as it may be difficult not to align with their suggestions. This is where Brianne steps in, serving as the voice for the students. She ensures that their preferences are heard and helps them articulate their needs, even in the face of parental input.
2 Most Challenging Things for Students When Applying for College
1. Interference from Parents
When questioned about the most challenging aspects students encounter during the college application process, Brianne pointed out that “parents are the hardest part.” The influence of parents and external voices around students can intensify the stress of the college journey.
2. Succumbing to Stress
Brianne also observes that this increased stress can lead students to hinder their own progress. She emphasizes that the college application itself is not inherently difficult and should not be a source of fear for students. Instead, she advises that success lies in starting early and overcoming the initial intimidating hurdle of simply opening the application and beginning the work.
Brianne recommends starting the college exploration process by simply looking at different colleges. This initial step can ease you into thinking about what you might want in your college journey. With colleges scattered all around, even if you aren’t considering them for application, visiting can provide insight into the feel of different campuses.
Since there’s a wide variety of campuses and colleges, taking a peek around can spark your interest and excitement, ultimately aiding you in discovering the best-fit college for you.
4 Best Pieces of Advice for Students on their College Journey
By now, if you haven’t already experienced it, you may be able to see that the college search journey comes with stress. Which is why Brianne shared these three pieces of advice to help alleviate stress and get you on the right track to apply for and get into college.
1. “Make a big [college] list.”
Brianne’s initial advice is to create an extensive list of colleges that capture your interest. For the first round of ideas, feel free to keep the list as long as you want. The goal is to cast a wide net initially, as you’ll likely be able to narrow it down later by considering academic programs, financial aspects, and specific campus details.
Additionally, Brianne suggests talking to friends and teachers for recommendations. If a college featured on TV, in movies, or on social media catches your attention, don’t hesitate to add it to your list.
2. “Visit early, even if it’s virtual.”
She suggests visiting schools as early on in the college search process as possible. If they have virtual tours, start taking those and getting a feel for different likes and dislikes. Visiting colleges is very important because you can get a sense of if it’s going to be the right place for you.
3. “Do everything early.”
And lastly, start as early as you can. Brianne explains, “It’s not as scary as it seems.” Open the applications and start. You will want to be done early, to be prepared and ahead of things. It will give you peace of mind, and it shows admissions that you love their school so much that you had to apply right away.
4. “Ask for help.”
There are people all around you, such as English teachers, college counselors, school faculty, and principals, just ask for help! The people who work at your high school are there to see you succeed and want what’s best for you.
Brianne empowers her students to take the lead and assume the driver’s seat in the college application journey. She often encounters concerns from students who fear that hiring an advisor might make their parents seem less involved or worry that the advisor will take control.
Brianne, however, positions herself as a guide and navigator, ensuring that her students make the ultimate decisions while parents remain in the backseat. By adopting this approach, she enables her students to chart a path aligned with their genuine desires and creates an environment where they can thrive.
Unsure how to start your college search or looking for more colleges to add to your big list? Check out College Raptors’ College Match tool to find colleges that fit what you’re looking for based on your own statistics!