Despite the naysayers, more people than ever are applying to college — just look at last year's record low acceptance rates.
If you want to find a way to use the system to your advantage, college consultant Michele Hernandez can help.
"Everything about admissions has stayed the same," said Hernandez, a college consultant based in Vermont. "But it's become much more competitive, with more students from more high schools and more international students applying for the same number of spots."
Hernandez has run Hernandez College Consulting for 11 years, helping a select number of students from around the world improve their weaknesses to make them ideal candidates for the colleges of their choice.
After graduating from Dartmouth College, Hernandez worked in the admissions office of her alma mater, where she grew frustrated that school administrations wouldn't tell parents the formula and scale used to decide which students would and would not be admitted.
"Parents ask me all the time what sets me apart from other college consultants," said Hernandez. "It's my hands-on experience in the admissions office that helps me understand what schools are actually in range for my clients."
Hernandez's consulting program includes a rigorous reading list and her unlimited time spent improving a student's writing, grammar, math skills, and more. For all of that, she charges $42,000 for students who start with her in eighth grade. For ninth graders the cost is $40,000, and for tenth graders it's $38,000.
"When you're looking at schools that cost $200,000, $42,000 is an investment," Hernandez said. "Most of the time, if I help the student get into an early action program the fee parents pay me is repaid in financial aid, if not more."
In this competitive era, high school guidance counselors just don't cut it. They are overtaxed and work with too many students to provide the individual attention necessary for a great application, Hernandez said.
Hernandez's stats may be proof that a college consultant is worth if, if you can afford one. According to her website, 92 percent of her clients are admitted into the top college of their choice, and 24 of the 29 Class of 2016 students she worked with were admitted to an Ivy League school.
For students who don't want to embark on the full package but need a last-minute boost for their college applications, Hernandez holds a four-day summer boot camp to teach applicants how to best showcase their passions and strengths. Application Boot Camp's rate runs $14,000 a student.
Colleges want to admit students who will pioneer new organizations, lead clubs, and contribute to life on campus, Hernandez explained.
"I show kids how to take a scholarly focus with their applications," Hernandez said. "We take four to five years to improve their writing, grammar, and math skills to make them better big-picture, not just market their application. Schools don't want to be marketed to."
She mostly helps students over email or by phone, answering questions, giving advice, and editing papers. In general, she only meets students a handful of times over the course of the years she works with them.
"I just don't want any students to have regrets once the admittance letters start rolling in," Hernandez said. "I never want them to think 'If only I worked harder, studied harder, or applied earlier.'"These are the 20 most expensive colleges in America >
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