Depending on where you live, hiring a private college consultant can cost $5,000 or more. While not an incidental sum, for parents of children with learning disabilities, that may be a worthwhile investment if the consultant is able to increase your child’s chances for a successful college experience.
Given the high student-counselor ratio in most public high schools, the chances that your child with LD will receive the guidance necessary to find a college suited to her academic, social, and emotional needs is slim to none. Independent schools, particularly those exclusively for students with LD, do a better job, but still, the emphasis is primarily on acceptance rather than succeeding in college.
Benefits of A College Consultant
Bear in mind, the “perfect” placement does not guarantee success—your child needs to be able to step up to the plate and assume all the unique challenges and responsibilities that come with post-secondary education. However, assuming your child is “college ready,” a consultant who possesses the right mix of knowledge, skills, and experience can provide the following benefits:
- Matching your child to a college suitable for her. Look for a consultant who works exclusively with students with LD. Finding the best college fit involves piecing together many variables; it is not a task for a generalist. College fit can absolutely make the difference between success and failure.
- A good consultant will read and analyze high school records and psychoeducational assessments thoroughly to fully understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Students who work with consultants while still in high school often receive coaching and practice in self-advocacy. A good consultant will help your child learn to articulate her learning style, strengths, and weaknesses—and provide practice in being accountable.
- In addition to finding the best college fit, most consultants help with the application process (particularly the essay), and provide advice on how to increase the chances of admission.
- Consultants also can act as a neutral third party, diminishing tension that often occurs between parents and teens during the college search and application process. For some parents, that’s priceless.
A college consultant is not a tutor. Do not expect a college consultant to teach your child skills that are better left to a learning specialist. These include:
- Breaking down large tasks into smaller components
- Managing time effectively
- Improving study skills
- Improving test-taking skills
- Requesting accommodations and modifications
Joan M. Azarva runs Conquer College with LD, a website for parents of college-bound students with learning differences. She also has a private practice in the Philadelphia suburbs that focuses on students making the transition from high school to college.