More than Fashion Advice & Packaging: Reactions to the “New York Times” Article

Recently, the New York Times ran an article about an independent college admissions consultant who held a free fashion show featuring supposedly ideal outfits to wear to a college interview. So far the article has garnered over 200 comments. While many of the comments specifically addressed the sartorial choices of this particular consultant, a number decried the very concept of independent college consultants and implied (or outright stated) that the entire profession is filled with “money-grubbing” charlatans who charge people exorbitant amounts for advice that is (in their minds) common sense.

Although this article is certainly provocative, what is missing is a genuine portrayal of what most independent college consultants actually do. Unlike the consultant featured in the article, whose fee is “in the range of” $15,000 for her full-service clients and counts her time spent reading and reviewing applications while getting her MBA at Yale as experience, most consultants charge more affordable rates and have actual admissions experience and degrees in education.

Furthermore, most independent consultants would agree that our purpose is not to package students to fit a certain profile so that they can get into an Ivy League college, nor do we want to control all aspects of students’ lives to make them ideal candidate for a certain school. Instead, we see our job as working with students and parents to help them make informed decisions, and we encourage students to take leadership of the college admissions process. This process is not just about common sense. While some aspects of it, such as what to wear to an interview, may be straightforward, other facets, like discerning the school culture, finding out about a college’s academic resources and support, or figuring out what the requirements are for different colleges, can be confusing. When working with students, our aim is to make them aware of the different options available to them and what is needed if they want to pursue these options.

Ultimately, we want our students to find colleges that fit their academic and social needs and will help them as they continue to grow in both of these areas. We don’t take our jobs lightly, and we value the opportunity that we have to work with students (and parents) when helping them evaluate their choices. As Kiersten A. Murphy, an independent consultant in Seattle, noted in her comments to the article, “Our goal is not unlike one of a guidance counselor or even a parent — we want to help students with the journey so they have wonderful options come April.”

While none of this is as eye-catching as holding a fashion show featuring expensive clothing for college interviews, it is a much more honest look at the work independent consultants do everyday. Hopefully, the New York Times will someday decide to feature the good work that most consultants are doing and give us the opportunity to show their readers that most of us are not money-grubbing charlatans but are knowledgeable, qualified professionals who love working with students and their families as they prepare for the future and grapple with the college admissions process.

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