HECA members are serious professionals. They must have at least three years of qualifying experience and have worked with scores of students before their applications will be considered for membership.
HECA members have, on average, visited and evaluated more than 150 campuses each (annually about 20% of their time) to stay knowledgeable and current. I tour between 10 to 15 colleges annually.
I am committed to ongoing professional development through attendance at conferences, workshops and through visits to college and university campuses. I agree to avoid any action that distorts or misrepresents a student’s record or interferes with admission personnel’s ability to get an accurate picture of a student.
An independent college advisor is a high school student’s guide during the college selection process. With extensive knowledge of colleges, universities and specialized schools we work with students to identify their interests and goals with a focus on finding colleges that represent the right match. Our goal is to reduce stress for families by planning early, answering questions, and eliminating the confusion associated with college admissions. Because we are not tied to any specific high school or college, independent college advisors are there to provide objective guidance and expertise.
High school guidance counselors are key to the college planning process and as independent advisors, we supplement their hard work and efforts. High school counselors help students plan their academic programs, write the student’s letter of recommendation, arrange for college representatives to visit the high school, and he or she may discuss a student’s transcript with colleges. But given the high student to counselor ratio at most schools, advice is typically dispensed to large groups. I am able to meet with each student regularly during the “crunch” months of the senior year, and I am readily available by phone or email to respond to questions or concerns. This personal attention keeps students engaged, focused and on track. By getting to know each student well, I am able to help them research and develop a list of realistic and targeted schools and guide them through all stages of the planning, application and selection process.
With the high student to counselor ratio in most schools, each family needs to examine the resources available to them and determine whether or not they need help. It is very reasonable for a student to navigate the college admissions process entirely on their own or with their parents and there are many students who do just this. But for many — including those with special issues from finances to learning differences, from talents in the arts and sciences to gifts in athletics — the college admission process is overwhelming. We can do many things ourselves — from fixing our cars to doing our own taxes — but most people understand having an expert is more efficient and effective.
Families with the foresight to plan ahead find that their children are more prepared for college and have more options. As solid preparation and planning are so important, I highly recommend that students and their parents begin in 9th or 10th grade with a few sessions to lay the groundwork, shape the high school curriculum, plan for SAT subject testing, and further develop extracurricular interests that support the student’s strengths and passions.
Absolutely not! Many students think that only their Ivy League-bound peers are hiring college advisors. I work with a wide range of students — from those where highly selective colleges are a great fit to those worried they might not have college choices. Each student brings their unique learning style, talents, and needs to the process.
I encourage students and their families to replace their quest for “the best college” with one focusing on the “best fit.” Most students start out with only a vague notion of what learning at the college level is like. They usually have name recognition of about ten places, and little idea of what these places offer beyond prestige, a sport’s team, location or the fact that a friend or family member went there. By spending the time to get to know each student and their family, I am able to gain an understanding of the student’s learning style, academic profile, personal interests and their preferences for type of college environment.
I am happy to work with students hoping to play sports at the Division III level. Because athletic recruitment is such a specialized field, I refer those hoping to play sports at the Division I and/or Division II levels to reputable colleagues for advice and guidance.
No one can guarantee acceptance at any college as the application process is complex and uncertain, and the decision to accept or reject an applicant is in the control of the school. As most colleges are committed to building a diverse entering class, many factors including institutional priorities come into play. Most colleges and universities strive to ensure cultural, socioeconomic and geographic diversity while building a class with a range of academic interests and talents. With this in mind, I help students build a realistic list of “reach,” “match” and “probable” schools, and by helping them effectively convey their unique strengths, they can set themselves apart.
A smart college list is not a long list. Quite the contrary. I can help students distinguish themselves by showing them the value of actually narrowing their choices to those schools where they will fit the best and help them make a memorable and convincing case for why they belong there. It is far better to submit eight great applications than 16 mediocre ones.
For many students, the college process produces stress and anxiety, which in turn causes procrastination or apathy. I believe that this is such a special time with wonderful possibilities in store and this is how I present the process to students. When college planning occurs through this lens and when we in turn break the steps into “manageable bites,” the tasks do not feel as overwhelming. When stress does occur, having an objective third party as a sounding board can alleviate conflicts. Parents can trust that there is an action plan in place and so they are less tempted to hover and micro-manage. As student take ownership of their own college planning, they build important skills in initiative-taking and decision-making.
Marina del Rey
West Los Angeles