Why I do, What I do, as a College Admissions Consultant.
by Kathy de Jong, Independent Educational Consultant
With all of the turmoil surrounding my profession in the wake of the recent college admissions scandal, I wanted to share with you why I do what I do as a College Admissions Consultant. Hint: it’s not about getting high-profile, well off students into Harvard or the University of Southern California for a hefty fee.
Education is a gift. I can visualize high school juniors scoffing and roll their eyes at that statement right now due to their current educational demands, but it is truly a gift. We are so blessed to be living in a country where education is available to every child. Granted, there are issues with the “inequality of quality” in high school education and college preparation services, but students find their way to secondary education each year, despite that. I see my job as enhancing each student’s college opportunities, regardless of who they are, where they come from and what they want for their future.
See, I know first hand the benefits of a college education and the challenges for families to make college a reality for their children. I was a first-generation college student. I remember being 4 years old and my father telling me, “you will go to college”, not as a demand, but as an affirmation of his resolve to send me to college. I know at the time he had no idea how that was going to happen when just paying bills and putting food on the table was a challenge, but my parents worked hard for years and found a way.
While their resolve to get me to college was strong, their understanding of the way you apply to college, and pay for it, was not. I found out about this thing called the SAT just days before sitting for the exam in October of my senior year. I never had anyone tell me how to go about choosing a college to apply to or how to go about getting an application and filling it out. I only recall one 15 minute conversation with a guidance counselor in high school, and it was not about college. I didn’t fill out one college application my senior year. I could be wrong, but I believe my parents thought you just picked a college, told them you were coming and showed up on move-in day. I ended up going to a community college for a year and transferring to a local 4-year college, and that is the only undergraduate application I completed. While good grades my freshman year got me into the University of Miami as a transfer student, no financial assistance came along with it. Again, we received no guidance on financial aid and scholarships, and a decade worth of high-interest rate private loan debt was the result for my family. Let me say, I am very grateful for my parent’s commitment to my education.
Unfortunately, this story probably resonates with many, many families today. I am committed to helping students navigate the college admissions process, and it’s not just about serving upper-income families that want to send their children to “brand-name” colleges as the media would like to portray. Yes, I do serve high-income families, but I also provide free seminars, pro-bono services through the local non-profit Crosby Scholars and reduced fee assistance, when needed. Last year I worked with a student that lost his mom to cancer, and he never knew his father. He had no means to attend college. I worked with him on his college list based on his high school profile and desired career and guided him through the application process. He received a full ride to his first-choice college. My reward was his college acceptance.
Today, the college admissions process is so complicated. I’ll refer you back to my experience with my stepson when he was applying to college About Kathy and the revelation that it could be a full-time job just to understand all of the nuances in a college admissions environment that changes daily. So I made it my full-time job and my passion!
Not much has changed since my days in high school as far as high school guidance. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education, the average public high school student receives only 38 minutes of advising on college admissions. Members of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), of which I am a member, provide their clients an average of 18 hours of college prep and application services. While most high school counselors are capable advisors and would love to spend that kind of time with students, it’s just not possible in public schools with 476 students for every one high school counselor, on average. Educational consultants provide much needed supplemental advising, even to students that have access to private high school resources – which still fall short in many cases.
So I work for each student and family as they see fit. Each student is an individual and each student’s road to college and a career is unique. Some parents just need a few questions answered while others want guidance for their child from 9th or 10th grade through the final college decision. I work with college transfer students that start down one path, and then want to make a course correction. Parents come to me for knowledge, experience and often to minimize their stress, and time investment, to figure it all out alone.
There are bad actors in every field, and every industry, but there are also professionals like myself that are in a career to not only support themselves and their families but to do the right thing for others. In my case, it is helping students of all backgrounds receive the gift of education, and by doing it the ethical way.
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