How to Find a Good Admissions Coach
In the world of college admissions, there is a lot of noise, but very little signal. A quick Google search will reveal myriad options for an ‘admissions coach’ without offering much clarity on who is providing genuinely useful services. So how do you determine who to hire to help your child?
If you’re reading this article, you’ll know we’re one of the companies offering college admissions coaching services. Our purpose here is to lay all our cards on the table and explain our business as we see it. We’ll cover why you may want to hire an admissions coach, what to avoid and be wary of in your search, and finally, how to find a good admissions coach to help your child.
Why Hire an Admissions Coach?
For the sake of brevity, let’s cover the top three reasons: essay help, expert oversight, and a neutral third party.
College essays are like nothing students have written before, and unlike anything else they’ll write again. This is why students come to us: for guidance navigating the unique contours of this singular challenge.
Normal academic essays for school have students make a point and provide evidence to support it. They’re graded against a rubric, with essays that follow all the rules receiving full credit. In contrast, college admissions essays seek to understand the core of a student: who they are, how they think, and what makes them interesting. They’re “graded” by an admissions committee looking for impressive, unusual candidates who break the mold. These two different essays require very different approaches.
A great college essay doesn’t just require great writing on the page, but introspection and reflection before anything gets written down. A strong essay reflects a strong sense of one’s identity. This is where a coach comes in: a college essay coach is a sounding board, a mirror, for the thinking process. A good coach helps applicants write essays that show them in the best light, highlighting their accomplishments and minimizing potential shortcomings.
Applying to colleges is finicky: each college application seems to ask for something different in different ways. Even universities that appear to ask similar questions will often want to hear different answers.
The complexity of all the different requirements is one of the most common reasons students come to Ivy Scholars. It is easy to get lost in the weeds of an application and rush to finish some detail left unattended. The best academic coaches guide students through every step of the process, making sure none of the details get overlooked, and the parts of the application students might miss or put off are dealt with efficiently.
High school students often have trouble taking advice from their parents, and parents often worry that the advice they give to their child might miss some critical detail. The parent-teenager dynamic can be frustrating when trying to help them with college applications; often, a good coach is also a mediator and neutral party, helping keep the process running smoothly.
Admissions coaches, who are often closer in age to students, can take much of the emotional burden off of the parents, and provide professional guidance towards their students.
What to Avoid
There is a lot of advice out there, and many companies offer admissions consulting services. How do you know which are legitimate and which are only in it for a quick buck? Here, we’ll present a selection of bad advice and misconceptions about how to find the best admissions consulting companies.
Myth: Admissions Experience is Critical
The best sports players are not automatically the best coaches, and the same principle applies to college admissions. While former admissions officers can offer helpful insights, and some are good coaches, not all good admissions coaches have experience working at a university, and former university admissions officers are not automatically good admissions coaches. Be particularly wary of former admissions officers who emphasize using their insights to improve your child’s admissions chances over understanding your child as a person to see their student-college fit. It’s too easy to wind up with objectively sound advice but doesn’t fit your child.
Myth: Good Statistics are Everything
All admissions companies should offer detailed analytics on how their approach affects students’ college acceptance outcomes. When you review these statistics, I encourage you to look deeply at how data is presented.
There are many ways to massage the admissions rates a company reports. Perhaps they only work with students they know can be successful. Perhaps they work with so many students they only need to report the number they helped into top tier schools to appear prestigious. While great statistics are necessary, they are not enough on their own to show that a company is successful.
Be wary of coaches who always push for students to get into the most prestigious schools possible without considering whether those schools are the best fit for the student. These coaches may be valuing their company’s performance over the best interests of your child.
Myth: Bigger is Better
While this is a commonly accepted piece of wisdom, the opposite is true for admissions consulting companies. Larger companies frequently take as many students as they can to maximize revenue to cover their expanded costs, and in so doing, let students slip through the cracks.
While smaller companies are not automatically better than large ones, they can avoid many of the shortcomings that befall larger companies. A company’s executives should ideally be thinking about every student, rather than spending all of their energy on HR, payroll, and marketing concerns. The larger the company, the further removed those running the show are from the students, and the less they have to care about each student’s needs.
There is a greater opportunity to build a relationship between mentors and editors and the student at a smaller company.
Finding a Good Coach
There are many things not to look for, but what are the signs that a company will be a good fit for you and your student, that they will truly strive to help them succeed? In this section, we’ll cover the ways you can spot a good company: focus on the person, check their writing samples, and know what you’re paying for.
Focus on the Person
The most important way you can evaluate an educational consultant is by focusing on the person who is your first point of contact. Almost every company will offer a free consultation; this is your chance to see how the company works, who the student will be working with, and their ethos.
Within the first thirty seconds of the meeting, you should be able to determine if you’re interacting with someone who truly enjoys their work. While much of the economy revolves well with people who see jobs as naught but a means to a paycheck, you want more than that from an educational coach. This position is a gift, getting paid well to work with interesting students and help them achieve their dreams.
Consider whether the person you met with did the following:
- Made you feel listened to.
- Seemed excited and engaged by their job.
- Presented their ideas clearly.
These are the three traits you want to see in a good coach. The first enables them to connect and work with students well. Their excitement and engagement ensure the quality of their work. Being able to present ideas clearly is very important for this job, as explaining difficult concepts that high school students can understand is a key part of working with high school students.
The admissions coach you meet with should explain their process and potential pitfalls of the college application system without overwhelming you or resorting to fear tactics. You should leave the meeting informed and confident about any decision you make.
Check Writing Samples
Almost every company which offers these services will have examples of student work on their site (you can find ours here). Read through the essays and ask yourself if these are the kinds of essays your child would enjoy generating, in style and tone (not necessarily topic). If the answer is no, you have found a good company which may not fit the style you need.
This is another topic to inquire about in a meeting, to see if the company has other mentors or coaches with different styles who may be better suited to your child’s needs. At a tightly knit company, whoever’s running the meeting will know the styles and strengths of all the other employees and match each student with the mentor who will work best with them.
What are you Paying For?
Companies that bill you by essay or by package can provide comfort by setting all services’ total cost at the very beginning. This comfort can be deceiving. Companies that bill by package often pressure their employees to finish a given service as quickly as possible. This rushing results in slipshod work and, more critically, can end up overlooking your child’s unique qualities in an attempt to reduce hours spent coaching your child.
You want a mentor who will guide your student through the process and ensure they have the tools to succeed every step of the way.
Finally, determine what companies are promising for your money. Anyone who guarantees success is not to be trusted. Companies that do make such promises are often ethically compromised or engage in other suspect dealings.
College admission coaches are more than tutors, though they share some traits. A great admissions coach seeks to help each student grow personally, as a scholar, writer, and individual. While college admissions are very focused on the ends, how they are reached is equally important and a valuable learning opportunity.
If you want to know more about how Ivy Scholars works to be the best possible admissions coaches and how we can help you, set up a free consultation. We’re always happy to hear from you and eager to help students find the college that will work best for them.