Growing up, I was always a little embarrassed that my mom helped (mostly wealthy) high school seniors get into college as a private college counselor. I was never embarrassed by her day job as a high school college counselor on Long Island, where she helped her students gain admission to highly selective colleges for a salary. I suppose I was embarrassed by her booming private business for a couple of reasons: (1) I was aware that many people looked down upon private college counselors and (2) I didn’t want anyone to think that she had a hand in my gaining admission to a highly selective college when that time came around. Now can I say for sure that she didn’t have a hand in this in spite of my not allowing her to review my applications and essays? No, because I grew up hearing about the ins and outs of the admissions process during breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. It was very much ingrained in my DNA. Literally. My mom encouraged me to swim competitively and I’ve still got the shoulders to prove it. But I tell you now — and this is meant in support of private college counselors and their kids everywhere — that insecure teenager was wrong to be embarrassed.
In the years since I was a kid, my mom’s business has taken off from a moonlighting side gig into the premiere private college counseling business in the world. It’s a business I’m immensely proud of. My mom is at the top of her field and the business she founded, Ivy Coach, has become a brand name with clients hailing from around the world. These clients have included royalty (as in crowns) as well as the homeless. A couple of years ago, she helped a student who was expelled from West Point because of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” gain admission to one of America’s top colleges in spite of low grades. As a member of the LGBT community, this made me very happy. It also makes me very happy that she works with many members of our military each year on a pro bono basis to help them gain admission to the college(s) of their dreams.
To all qualified and good (yes, there are bad ones like in any profession) private college counselors everywhere — as well as to their children — you should be proud to have created successful American businesses that happen to help make students’ dreams come true. You should be proud to be entrepreneurs in pursuit of your American success story. Sure, you charge a fee for your expertise but so too do lawyers, plumbers, and dentists.
To any high school guidance counselor or college admissions counselor in this nation who criticizes a private college counselor for charging a fee for their expert work, I dare to say that this spirit is anti-American. It is against small business, the building block of our country. It belies the economic principles of supply and demand. It is against the American narrative as I understand it. To any high school guidance counselor or college admissions counselor in this nation who criticizes a private college counselor for providing feedback on college essays, I dare to say that you don’t know how to write well. Because good writing is about rewriting. This is true of even the greatest writers.
There aren’t enough high school guidance counselors with expertise in the highly selective college admissions process to go around. Heck, through no fault of their own, many aren’t even trained in this process as they instead receive training in crisis intervention and case management for home-instructed students. Many college admissions counselors don’t fully get the process from the other side either. Ivy Coach interviews plenty to find the great ones. There is a need for good private college counselors — that’s why people seek them out year after year. The good ones relieve stress and help fix mistakes that can negatively impact one’s candidacy. It’s why the siblings of past student-clients of Ivy Coach become clients as well. But rarely do parents refer friends because nobody wants to admit that they had a little help along the way. And that’s ok!
So to any high school guidance counselor and/or admissions officer who looks down on private college counselors (like the one who called my mom the “Hannibal Lecter” of college admissions in a comment to an online article — hilarious by the way!), you’ve got that right. But so too does my mom and all of the college counselors at Ivy Coach — as well as all of the good private college counselors around the country — to be proud to be in the profession. I’m proud of her too.