Does It Really Take a Village?
As an Independent Educational Consultant in private practice, I work with distinct types of clients.
Some, after signing up to work together, proudly announce: “We are so happy to welcome you to our team! We already have an SAT tutor and tutors for all three AP classes. Also, we found a great essay editor who comes highly recommended by our neighbor. The therapist we recruited for our student is on board with our goals too and has been very helpful. Plus, we will be meeting with the school counselor next week and have a whole list of questions ready for them. We really think you will be a great addition to our team.”
Others contemplating using my services, ask: “Do I really need to hire someone like you to apply to college? Can I not just do it by myself?”
While these examples may be two extremes, they do make me think.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” so the saying goes. But does it take a village to get a child into college too?
How many people does it actually take to help a typical high school student apply to college? Is the team approach the best way or even necessary? Or can you do it alone?
I personally believe that the answer lies somewhere in between.
The Solo Approach
Can you apply to college, doing everything alone? Yes, you can.
There are online applications a student can fill out, which provide detailed directions. They also generally include help menus and FAQs where applicants can get answers when they are stuck.
To obtain letters of recommendation, transcripts, or other required documents, students just need to talk to various people at their high school. And they can even order test scores online these days.
So, yes, it is absolutely possible to apply to college by yourself.
My question is: Why would you want to?
Applying to college is an important and meaningful rite of passage into young adulthood—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Why would you choose to do it alone when there are so many steps that require decisions for which good advice along the way could be helpful and result in a better experience and a better outcome?
Of course, the specific questions that will come up are always different for every student. And some questions can be quite surprising.
However, a knowledgeable counselor or advisor who knows the answers to a wide range of issues that might come up is invaluable during this journey. They can, for example, answer questions about which colleges to apply to or the cost of college. Also, they can assure that a student applies to the colleges that make financial sense and those that will result in a good foundation for their future career goals.
All of these things (and more) need to line up.
The Team Approach
Is having a team of experts that can help you apply to college a better approach? – Not necessarily.
As the old saying goes, “too many cooks spoil the broth.” So when a student and their family add too many people to their team, it can actually make a mess of the whole process.
Why do I say this?
First of all, when you have people on your team who do not have specific training and experience with the college admission process (family, friends, laypersons or other “experts”), they can often get things wrong. Their intentions may be good, but many times their information is not up-to-date or even completely correct.
The college admission process is complex, and related information changes all the time. It would be nice if it would not be so difficult, but it is complicated in many regards. A trained professional can make certain difficult parts less complicated. Plus, they can help the student and their family prioritize—organizing what are the important parts of the process, what are the less important parts, and which parts not to worry about at all.
Second, even if only professionals are on your team, having too many people at the same level will probably produce conflicting advice. It is sort of like having a primary doctor and adding another one. It makes no sense.
Yet, a primary doctor calling in a specialist for a specific situation does make sense. Thus, it can make sense to add a tutor for a student in a specific field for SAT or ACT testing or for added support if they are struggling with a high school course. Generally, when it comes to the college application process, it is best to have one very good source of information.
Who Should Be Involved?
My recommendation is:
- The student – They are the biggest part of the puzzle.
- The student’s immediate family – Those who are closest to the student, supportive, able to answer questions the student may not know how to answer (such as the scope of the family’s financial abilities), and even help do some research.
- A trained professional educator – Someone who is very knowledgeable about the college admissions process and has specific training and experience helping students deal with this process. This should be a school counselor or an Independent Educational Consultant, not just a high school teacher or a friend who has attended college.
I am an Independent Educational Consultant with many years of experience in my field. If you would like to know how I can help you with your college admission, please learn more HERE.