Stand Out for College: 6 Ways a College Consultant can Help


It’s increasingly harder for students to get into their colleges of choice. And high schoolers are well aware that they will have a lot more competition. The Common App reports application volume is up an overall 30% since the pandemic began in 2020, meaning more students are applying to more schools.

college application and how to stand out for college

With so much competition, the role of a college counselor is increasingly important. However, the average school in America had a 424 to 1 ratio of student to school counselors during the 2020-2021 school year, according to the American School Counselor Association. And those busy counselors have way more responsibilities than academic advising and college planning.

Students need help learning how to stand out for college among the pool of other qualified applicants and the best ways to navigate the complicated path toward college admissions. An experienced college consultant can help them do that. In this blog, we’ll explain six ways how.

1. A college consultant teaches students how to craft a narrative to tell a compelling story.

Educational Connections College Consultant Kristin Olsen Landis, J.D., who spent years reviewing applications at the University of Virginia, says nowadays students need a common theme or thread throughout their application. This shows colleges that they have passion and know how to craft a cohesive personal narrative.

“I’d rather see a child passionate about 1, 2, or 3 things than have a whole plethora of activities on their application,” explained Landis. “For example, let’s say a student has an interest in marine biology so they take an aquaculture class after school or they take an online course. Maybe they went and got their scuba certification and then they volunteer at a conservation center in their town,” explained Landis.

This doesn’t mean teenagers need to know exactly what career path they plan to pursue. But through our one-on-one college consulting programs, they will learn how to weave together a compelling story, to make a memorable application, based on their current interests and ambitions.

extracurricular activities for college

Students who start this process early have the advantage of learning how to seize opportunities and take control of their entire high school experience. By the time senior year rolls around, they’ll be able to craft an impressive high school resume.

2. Your child will have help researching schools and managing expectations.

Applying to college can be stressful— for students and parents. This is especially true for students who don’t plan ahead or have unrealistic expectations about the types of schools within their reach.

A college consultant can help your child differentiate between a dream school and a “right fit” college, then give your student an actionable roadmap to get there. This includes help with high school course selection, extracurricuriculars, summer programs, and more. 

By getting an early start to planning ahead, your child will have time to explore their interest areas, set goals and modify them as needed, as they learn more about their own ambitions and what they want out of college and their future.

3. An experienced college consultant can help your student create a balanced college list with target, safety, and reach schools.

When it comes time for your child to finalize their college list, their college consultant will help assure it’s balanced with enough target, reach, and safety schools. Landis says it’s common for students to come to her with unbalanced lists, including far too many reach schools. 

She says the key to creating a well-balanced list is to do the legwork ahead of time and make sure the schools make sense for the student’s personality, interests, and goals.

“Research schools, looking at their admissions rate, manage your own expectations, and look at your own test scores versus the acceptance rate at those schools,” she explained. 

Landis says her priority is to always ensure her students will be happy and successful at each school they decide to apply to.

“There is a college for everyone. There absolutely is and the experience of college is what the student makes of it.”

4. Your child will receive a custom testing plan and help understanding when to submit scores.

In today’s test-optional college landscape, it can be confusing to know if and when to take SAT or ACTs, then whether the scores should be submitted on applications.

SAT testing plan

Landis helps students decide on a testing plan, including when to register and recommendations for the best ways to prepare for the SAT and ACT.

After the test, it can be difficult to decide whether or not to submit a test score (including AP scores) to each specific school on a student’s list. Landis helps students make this tough judgment call by researching each school’s academic profile to ensure that if they submit their scores, they will help, and not hurt, their chances.

5. A college consultant will assist with brainstorming, planning, and editing essays and supplemental questions.

Essays and supplemental questions factor heavily into the decision-making process. Landis says they’re increasingly important in today’s competitive college landscape because they help show the human side of an application.

“This is the opportunity to really connect the dots, for students to show who they are, what they’re passionate about, what makes them tick, and how they communicate. And for the college admissions team, this is the opportunity to really learn about the student,” Landis explained.

Writing essays and supplemental questions is time-consuming and challenging. Landis says the process should require a lot of planning and energy, starting with brainstorming. She helps her students choose solid topics (and gives insight on topics to avoid), then helps them organize their time, and ensure they’re presenting themselves in a compelling way through their writing. 

6. College consultants help guide students through the Common App, deadlines, and decisions.

Between classes, clubs, homework, jobs, and friends, high school students are busy. But college application deadlines won’t wait. The Common App opens on August 1st and the deadline for Early Action and Early Decision is November 1st.

Your student can be matched with a one-on-one college consultant to help them stay on track during this admissions cycle and learn how to make their Common App less common. This includes guidance on how to round up their recommendation letters and other documents, complete their applications, and understand the difference between early decision, early action, and regular decision. 

This gives parents peace of mind throughout the process. You and your teen can focus on enjoying the excitement of senior year, rather than arguing about each step in the college application process.

students looking at iPad on college campus

Are you interested in getting your 8th – 12th-grade student personalized advice for planning their high school courses, extracurricular activities, college lists, and more?

Let’s discuss how we can help your child navigate the application process with a strong strategy and plan in place.

Watch our Workshop: The Secrets to Making College Applications Stand Out

The content for this blog was derived, in part, from our virtual workshop, “The Secrets to Making College Applications Stand Out with Founder and President Ann Dolin, M.Ed.and College Consultant Kristin Olsen Landis, J.D.