In the good ol’ days, we visited our high school guidance counselor to help us prepare for college.
Today, while the guidance counselor continues to serve an important role in many public and private high schools, a majority are overburdened by huge caseloads which prohibit them from offering college-bound students the guidance they truly need.
According to the most recent data, the national average for student-to-counselor ratios is 491 to 1. In California and Arizona, the ratios are 822 to 1 and 941 to 1, respectively.
So what are parents doing to combat this challenge?
Many are assembling their own “college team.”
“There is way more at stake nowadays,” says one parent of a high school sophomore. “College costs are absurd. There is more pressure on kids these days. More competition, more steps involved. We don’t have the time or the ability or the experience to do this alone, so it only makes sense to get help.”
If you share this belief and are leaning this direction, then here are 5 “players” to consider as you assemble your college team:
College Admissions & Applications – It’s a no-brainer to have an experienced admissions advisor on your college team. This player should regularly interact with college admissions officers, is an expert writing coach and has helped admit students to all types of colleges, including state schools, elite colleges and Ivy League.
Financial Aid Planning – This is critical for any family, regardless of your income level. Having an expert in your corner to assist with Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and complete financial aid forms such as the FAFSA and CSS is invaluable. This member of your team should also be able to help assess your retirement readiness (so you aren’t dipping into retirement to pay for college), and calculate cash flow for college so you don’t burden yourself with unreasonable loan debt.
Test Prep Planning – Experts advise college-bound students to have a test prep timeline in place by the start of the 10th grade. This allows the student to properly prepare for the SAT/ACT test, take the test 2-3 times, and complete their testing by June of the 11th grade. An increase of 4-5 points on the ACT, for example, can translate into thousands of dollars in merit-based scholarships, so the test prep component can warrant a lucrative return on investment.
Marketing (Athletes) – When interest from college coaches is a driving force in this process, then the student (and parents) inherit a clear competitive advantage. The fact is, athletic recruiting has changed dramatically in recent years. As parents, we must be proactive when it comes to marketing our student-athletes. Generating heavy & sustained interest equates to more options, which leads to better college choices and reduced out-of-pocket expense (scholarships). So if the goal is to play your sport on scholarship in college, then the athlete marketer is a key member of your college team.
College Majors & Career Assessments – There are over 4,000 universities and colleges in the United States. Picking the right major, for the right career, and going to the school that best fits you is key to ensuring a timely graduation and avoiding unnecessary expenses. Having someone on your team that has the tools and experience to navigate your career path is a critical component of your plan.
Of course, these are merely the suggested core players of what we believe is a strong college team. Parents often seek help and guidance from other specialists, too, including college essay coaches, private trainers, academic tutors, mindset coaches, and more. It really depends on the needs of your student, your personal priorities and the return on investment you’re expecting.
I’ve been fortunate over the years to make great inroads with people who are committed to saving parents money and reducing stress during the college planning process.
So if you need a personal recommendation on assembling your own “college team,” please reach out. I’d be happy to discuss your needs and explore solutions with you.
SAS President & Founder