HomeNewsMore CHS students turning to private college counselors to help navigate application process

More CHS students turning to private college counselors to help navigate application process

Published May 9, 2023


The college application process is long and often overwhelming for many Carmel High School seniors, leading some prospective college students to turn towards private college counselors, professional consultants who–for a price–specifically focus on college admittances.

Fees for these services can be hefty, ranging from $100 to $300 per hour or $2,000 to $20,000 per package, according to Collegewise, and the high cost of these counseling services is often unaffordable for families as the price of college is already a large expense as the end of high school nears. 

But for those who do choose to spend the money, many find benefits. 

“Working with a college counselor ensured that I was doing everything correctly and on time because I have a really bad procrastination habit,” says CHS senior Simona Matievsky, who worked with a private college counselor and will be attending the University of Pittsburgh next fall. “It forced me to stay on track and made me and my family a little calmer about the process because all the details were laid out and we knew what steps to take.”

Some students start working with private college counselors as early as eighth grade. JoAnn Schaper, who provides college counseling through her independent company College Bound, meets with kids early in their high school careers to help them plan out how they want to pursue their time in high school. 

“I think the biggest thing for students is to be informed,” Schaper explains, “starting from the beginning of high school, so that the decisions [they] make are informed decisions.”

Although fees vary between different package deals, students who’ve taken this path say their families pay around $3,000 to $4,000 for the aid of these private college counselors, making it an unrealistic option for some students.

“My mom and I had been talking about the possibility of hiring a private counselor and weighing the benefits, but ultimately decided not to because it was so expensive,” explains senior Stella Foster, who is headed off to the University of Southern California next year. Foster received help with her applications from her school counselor, Darren Johnston, along with CHS teachers Mike Palshaw and Bridget Randazzo, but she was mainly independent throughout the process. 

Those who do decide to pay the price are receiving guidance from professionally qualified counselors, who are able to provide extensive resources to students. 

Schaper holds a graduate certificate in college admissions and career planning from the University of California at Berkeley, which she pursued after she first got into the field by helping students with the financial aid process. In her program, after having students take a core values assessment and prepare their plan for high school coursework, Schaper takes students through the process of creating a well-balanced college list and helps students start on their essays. 

For some students, hiring an outside counselor can help lay the foundation for their application, as their parents may be less familiar with the process. 

“Nobody in my family had done the college application process, and I knew it was complicated and long,” says senior Lili Menkal, who has committed to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for Landscape Architecture. 

Menkal’s parents hired Linda Jang, who received her Certificate of College Counseling from the University of California Los Angeles, as her private counselor. For Jang, being an independent college counselor doesn’t just require meeting with students, but also meeting with other college and career counselors and touring different colleges to expand her background knowledge.

“We are constantly analyzing and looking at different schools,” Jang notes.

Both Jang and Schaper acknowledge the value of collaboration and communication in the field of college counseling, especially through organizations such as the Independent Educational Counseling Association and the Western Association for College Admission Counseling. 

Yet hiring a private counselor did not feel necessary for other CHS seniors, including Julia Blakeley, who will be attending Pomona College. 

“My parents know I’m independent,” Blakely says. “They knew I could do it myself.”

Blakely also feels that working through the application process was an important learning process that will help her in the future with writing job applications and meeting deadlines. 

CHS used to have academic counselors who solely focused on high school coursework and two college counselors who solely worked with seniors. Current CHS counselors Darren Johnston and Jeff Rogers both previously filled this college counselor position, but the school has since shifted to the structure of three counselors who divide the work of all 845 CHS students, counseling under and upperclassmen on high school academics, with college counseling also incorporated into their job. 

“I’ve been a consultant,” Rogers says. “I’ve worked in it for 26 years, and I have the inside scoop for our kids.”

Counselors on the CHS campus are able to provide students with a lot of specific guidance as they have more insight on school-wide statistics and admission trends. But as they each work with approximately 75 seniors each year on future plans, there may be more direct access with a private counselor, acknowledges Rogers. 

Students at CHS are also given some preparation for the college application process through English classes, specifically through the junior-year AP English Language and Composition course and the senior English IV course.

Around 40% of juniors are enrolled in APLAC, in which they are currently working on their end-of-the-year project, “Defining My Dream,” which encompasses choosing a life path and structuring out different stages of education and career work. And about half of the senior class enrolls in English IV, where they get time allocated to work on researching a college major at various universities and assistance with their application essays under the guidance of their teachers. 

Will Hand

While for some students these resources provided at Carmel High School are sufficient, many also hire an outside

counselor to act as a direct source of information and support when needed.

As a senior, what are your thoughts on hiring a private college counselor?

“I chose to get a college counselor because it helped me organize my application and

Grace Wang

kept me motivated to meet certain deadlines so my application was at a competitive level.”

  • Will Hand

“The personal statements are meant to be tailored to you. I understand wanting to get into a good school, but at the same time there’s no guarantee that a college counselor will actually be helpful.”

  • Grace Wang

“The entire process was pretty foreign to me, and I didn’t really know where to start. I

Sierra Wouden-Crosno

don’t think my parents really knew where to start either. The main reason why I wanted a private college counselor was to stay organized and just do all the things I needed to do.”

  • Sierra Wouden-Crosno


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