Parents Countdown to College Coach: Are College Coaches Worth the Money?

Learn about what a college coach does and how their services can help you improve your chances of getting into the college of your dreams.

Parents Countdown to College Coach: Are College Coaches Worth the Money?
Juan Ramos

For high school students and their parents, preparing for the whole college process — from taking the SATs or ACTs to researching the right colleges to figuring out how admissions and student financial aid work, and much more. It has become increasingly competitive to get into a lot of colleges, especially in comparison to the past. At many colleges, undergraduate acceptance rates have tightened up, producing several colleges with admission rates below 10%. Added to all that is the rising costs of college, making it unsurprising that the entire process provokes a lot of anxiety for American families.

Therefore, it’s very understandable, granted all the pressure placed on high school students and their parents to get them into academically strong colleges, that many turn to hiring professionals to aid them in improving their odds. Besides providing assistance for students across a range of key college-related areas, most college coaches also help their parents understand and find their way through the labyrinth of college administrative practices, like applications and admissions. In this BrokeScholar article, we’ll discuss what college coaches do, how they can potentially benefit your high school student in forming a strong college candidate, and if they are worth the money to help get your kid into the college they’re aiming for.

What Is a College Coach?

A college coach, often also referred to as an independent education consultant or college admissions consultant, is a professional who assists students in navigating the complexities of the college admissions process. This begins with understanding a student's academic strengths, interests, and goals to identify colleges and universities that are a good match. The coach provides guidance on course selection in high school to ensure that students meet admission requirements and become competitive applicants. They also assist in organizing and managing deadlines, such as those for standardized tests, application submissions, and financial aid paperwork. They often provide resources and strategies to boost a student's profile, such as suggesting meaningful extracurricular activities, leadership roles, or community service projects that align with the student's interests.

In addition to academic planning, a college coach supports students in crafting their personal statements and college application essays. This often involves brainstorming sessions where the coach helps students identify their unique stories, experiences, and perspectives, and how best to articulate them. The coach can also provide editing and constructive feedback, ensuring that the essay conveys a compelling narrative that stands out to admissions committees. The goal here is not just to have an error-free essay but to have one that truly represents the student's personality, achievements, and aspirations in a way that will resonate with the college's values.

A college coach may also guide students and their families through the financial aspects of college admissions. This could include explaining the intricacies of financial aid applications, identifying scholarship opportunities, and assisting with appeals for more financial aid. They may also educate families about the likely return on investment of different schools and degrees, aiding in the decision-making process. In essence, a college coach aims to demystify the often daunting college admissions process, providing personalized advice and support to students and their families to help them make informed decisions about higher education. They play a critical role in helping students navigate this life-changing transition with less stress and more confidence. 

What Else Do College Coaches Do?

Granted, the assistance you may get from one college coach to another, in general, college coaches can assist in multiple aspects of the college application and admission process:

  • College Selection: College coaches can provide guidance in identifying and selecting colleges that best match a student's academic interests, extracurricular pursuits, and overall goals.

  • Course Planning: They can provide advice on high school course selection to ensure students are well-prepared academically for the colleges they aspire to attend.

  • Deadline Management: They help students stay on track with multiple deadlines for applications, essays, recommendation letters, and financial aid forms.

  • Essay Assistance: College coaches aid in brainstorming, drafting, and polishing application essays and personal statements that will make a strong impression on admissions committees.

  • Test Preparation: They can provide strategies and resources to prepare for standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT, and also advise on when and how many times to take these exams.

  • Extracurricular Strategy: College coaches help students identify meaningful extracurricular activities that will enhance their college application and align with their personal interests and college goals.

  • Interview Preparation: They prepare students for college interviews, providing guidance on how to effectively communicate their interests, experiences, and ambitions.

  • Application Review: They conduct comprehensive reviews of applications before submission to ensure they are accurate, complete, and compelling.

  • Financial Aid Navigation: College coaches guide families through the financial aid process, including the FAFSA, scholarship applications, and understanding financial aid award letters.

  • Decision Support: Once acceptance letters arrive, college coaches can provide objective advice and support to help students and families make informed decisions about which college to attend. 

One of the key advantages of employing a college coach is that they operate almost like a high school counselor but with all (or most of) their time focused on your high school student. With so many full-on adults employing life coaches, the argument for hiring a college coach to help your student get into the college they really want to attend makes a lot of sense.

Parents Countdown to College Coach and Other Programs

There are several consulting services that provide exactly the kind of college coaching mentioned above, in addition to the plenty of other individual college coaches out there. A particularly notable one of such college coaching programs is the “Parenting for College Crash Course” offered by Parents Countdown to College Coach. This course helps families prepare for the whole college process by:

  • Guiding them through the college application and admissions process

  • Supplying templates and spreadsheets to help families to stay organized, especially when it comes to key college deadlines

  • Leading families to the best resources they might need to help navigate the process

  • Making sure teens bound for college choose the right school for them

  • Helping high schoolers compose their application and ensure it stands out from the thousands of other applicants

  • Instructing families on how the all-important student financial aid process works

Even if it doesn’t mean your child gets a personal college coach, courses like these have connected parents and high school students with the college coaching industry. And while, of course, hiring a college coach to help your student costs money, it can be a rewarding move to make. Here are a few examples of college coaches and businesses that provide college admissions consulting services:

  • IvyWise: Founded by Dr. Kat Cohen, IvyWise offers a comprehensive range of services, including college counseling, test preparation, research guidance, and tutoring. Their team consists of former deans and directors of admission from top-tier universities.

  • College Coach: College Coach provides personalized college admissions counseling from professionals who have admissions experience at various universities. Their services also extend to financial aid counseling and assistance with college essays.

  • Top Tier Admissions: Top Tier Admissions, founded by Dr. Michele Hernandez and Dr. Kristin White, offers college admissions consulting services. They provide assistance with college selection, application strategy, essay coaching, and interview preparation.

  • Veritas Prep: Veritas Prep, now part of Varsity Tutors, offers both college and graduate school admissions consulting. Their team of consultants includes graduates from Ivy League and other top-tier universities.

  • Accepted: Accepted provides admissions consulting services for both college and graduate school applicants. Their services include essay editing, interview preparation, and comprehensive admissions consulting.

  • Stacy Blackman Consulting: Although primarily known for MBA admissions consulting, Stacy Blackman Consulting also offers college admissions consulting services.

These are just a few examples, and there are many other qualified and reputable college admissions consultants out there. If you decide to hire a consultant, it's important to ensure that they are a member of a professional organization, such as the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) or the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), both of which have ethical guidelines and standards for their members. Furthermore, it isn’t a bad idea to request references and read reviews before making a decision.

How Much Does a College Coach Cost?

The cost of hiring a college coach, or independent education consultant, can vary widely based on several factors, including the depth of services provided, the consultant's level of experience, their location, and the duration of the engagement. Some consultants offer comprehensive packages that cover all aspects of the college admissions process, including school selection, application assistance, essay review, interview prep, and financial aid guidance. Typically, these package services can range anywhere from $1,000 to over $10,000, with premium packages from high-demand consultants in competitive markets reaching over $25,000.

Many college coaches also offer hourly rates for families seeking more targeted help with specific elements of the process, such as essay editing or interview preparation. These rates can range from around $100 to $500 per hour. While this can initially seem more affordable, the costs can add up if numerous hours are needed. For some families, this a la carte model may be more manageable and can allow for targeted assistance in areas where the student needs the most help.

Bear in mind that there is financial aid consulting support available for low-income families who can't afford these services. Non-profit organizations often provide free or low-cost college admissions counseling. Some independent consultants also offer pro bono services or work on a sliding scale based on family income. For both the parents and their student children, it is essential to remember that while a college coach can provide valuable guidance and potentially increase a student's chances of acceptance into their desired schools, hiring a consultant is by no means a requirement for college admissions success. Many resources available online, at libraries, and through school counseling offices can guide students and families through the college application process.

Benefits of Getting a College Coach

Hiring a college coach can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the college admissions process can be overwhelming, complex, and filled with deadlines that vary across different schools. A coach can help manage this process, ensuring that every aspect of the application — from the primary application to supplemental essays, letters of recommendation, standardized test scores, and interviews — is completed in a timely, organized, and less stressful manner. They can also provide useful insights into the unique requirements and expectations of different colleges, helping students tailor their applications effectively.

Secondly, a college coach can be instrumental in helping students discover and articulate their unique stories and strengths in their applications. One of the most important parts of a college application is the personal statement or essay, which should encapsulate the student's personality, passions, achievements, and aspirations. With their experience and understanding of what admissions committees are looking for, a college coach can guide students in crafting compelling narratives that set them apart from other candidates. They can help students reflect on their experiences, identify significant themes or moments, and shape these into persuasive narratives.

Thirdly, college coaches can offer valuable assistance when it comes to selecting colleges and academic programs. They are often well-versed in the strengths and specialties of various schools, helping students align their interests and career goals with appropriate institutions. For instance, they can help you determine if it’s a better fit for you to attend a private college versus a public college (like a big state school). This can be particularly beneficial when considering the vast number of universities and colleges in the United States and internationally. The match between a student and a college is critical, and a coach can help students find schools where they will thrive both academically and socially.

Lastly, for families unfamiliar with the college admissions process, especially those without a college-going tradition or for whom English is not a first language, a college coach can provide essential guidance and support. They can demystify financial aid, assist with the interpretation of complex admission-related documents, and help families understand the expectations and culture of higher education in the United States. This can make the process less daunting, increasing students' chances of applying to and being accepted by colleges that are a good fit for them. In these ways, hiring a college coach can provide valuable advantages during the college admissions process.

College Coaches Are a Good Option But Not Necessary

While hiring a college coach can offer numerous benefits, it's equally important to point out that it is by no means a necessity for all students. Many students navigate the college application process successfully without the assistance of a college coach. High schools typically have guidance counselors who can provide advice about college admissions, including course selection, standardized testing, college fit, and more. Although their time might be more limited due to the high student-to-counselor ratios in many schools, they can still provide valuable guidance throughout the process.

Additionally, there is a wealth of resources available for free or at a low cost to students and their families. These include online platforms offering guidance, such as Chegg, on every aspect of the application process, from identifying prospective colleges to crafting compelling essays. Numerous books provide detailed guidance about applying to college, and several organizations offer free workshops and webinars. Some community organizations and non-profits provide college counseling services at no cost, particularly for students from low-income families or those who will be the first in their family to attend college.

Finally, independence and self-motivation are crucial skills for success in college, and navigating the admissions process can provide an opportunity for students to develop these qualities. By researching colleges, managing deadlines, and creating compelling applications on their own, students can gain a sense of ownership over their college journey and build essential skills for future success. While the process may seem daunting, handling these tasks independently can give students valuable experience in managing complex projects and deadlines, making them better prepared for the demands of college and beyond.

The Bottom Line on Parents Countdown to College Coach

Hiring a college coach can provide numerous benefits during the complex and often stressful college application and admission process. A college coach offers personalized guidance, helping students select appropriate colleges, manage application deadlines, craft compelling essays, prepare for interviews, and navigate the financial aid process. Their experience and understanding of the college admissions landscape can aid in creating a tailored strategy for each student, potentially increasing the chances of acceptance into desired schools. However, these services come at a cost, which can range from hourly rates of around $100 to comprehensive packages that can cost over $10,000, based on the coach's experience, location, and the depth of services provided. Despite the advantages, it's critical to remember that a college coach is not a necessity for college admissions success. Many free or low-cost resources can guide students through this process, and there are invaluable skills to be gained from traversing the admissions journey independently. As with any significant investment, families considering a college coach should carefully evaluate the potential benefits, costs, and alternatives.

Andrew DePietro

Author: Andrew DePietro

Senior Researcher, and Content Strategist

Andrew DePietro is a finance writer covering topics such as entrepreneurship, investing, real estate and college for BrokeScholar, Forbes, CreditKarma, and more.