Updated: February 7, 2020
Despite the growing rate of tuition, more people are attending college out of high school than ever before. And with this increased number of attendees comes greater competition for the limited number of spots available at each institution. That’s why thousands of college applicants have sought the help of professional college admissions consultants to ensure they are as competitive and attractive as they can be as applicants.
These days, there’s a lot more to college admissions than your GPA and SAT scores. Most colleges use a “holistic” admissions process, meaning they consider many parts of a prospective student’s application, including test scores, GPA, high school course load, application essay, extracurricular activities, community service, work history, and much more.
And while it’s certainly possible to be admitted to your top school by approaching the admissions process on your own, your chances are significantly higher if you enlist the help of professional college admissions consultants.
In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the services provided by college admissions consultants, what to look for and expect in a consultant, and our seven picks for the top college admissions consultants available.
What Is a College Admissions Consultant?
Simply put, a college admissions consultant is an individual or organization that you hire to assist you with the college admissions process. Services vary from consultant to consultant, but they all share the same goal: get their clients admitted to their top-choice schools. Often, they’ll help you with your application, essays, and resumes—and many offer interview preparation services and coaching as well.
Though there has been some negative press recently about college admissions consultants, the truth is that the vast majority of them are reputable organizations that operate ethically, with the sole focus of helping applicants reach their educational goals. Indeed, the consultants we have included in this guide have strong reputations and are not affiliated with the bad actors that have dominated the news lately.
So, is hiring a college admissions consultant something you should consider? We hope to help you answer that question in the next section, so read on for all the details you need to make a smart decision.
Who Should Hire a College Admissions Consultant?
The short answer is simple: anyone who wants to have an edge in the college admissions process! The long answer is, of course, a bit more complex. For starters, hiring a college admissions consultant is not exactly cheap. So, one of the first things you need to consider when deciding whether or not to hire an admissions consultant is your budget. That is, can you afford to hire one?
While cost is probably the single biggest factor to consider, another important thing to take into account is the amount of time you have to devote to working with a college admissions consultant. While these consultants work hard to help you get where you want to be, it will require a significant investment of your own time and energy as well. You’ll need to find the time to work with them on your essays, resume, interview prep, and much more. So, if you’re already pretty swamped with school and extracurricular activities, be sure you can carve out the time to work with a consultant before you hire one.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to consider your goals and how practical they are. For instance, if you scored poorly on the SAT and have a mediocre GPA, but you want to go to Harvard…you might be out of luck. College admissions consultants aren’t miracle-workers, and you won’t get into your top-choice school simply because you hired a consultant.
That said, there are many people who should seriously consider hiring a college admissions consultant. You might be one of them if you have clear, practical goals, have seriously considered your options, and are committed to following through with the college admissions process and getting the most out of the services consultants provide.
So, what exactly do college admissions consultants provide, and what can you expect if you hire one? We’ll answer these questions in the following section.
What to Expect with a College Admissions Consultant
As we’ve already mentioned, one thing you should not expect from a college admissions consultant is a miracle. Admissions consultants can only do so much with what they’re given. So, if you’re grades or test scores are sub-par, you might want to consider that before hiring an admissions consultant, since there’s nothing a consultant can do to change that. The fact is, no matter how gifted the admissions consultant is, they can’t guarantee that you’ll be admitted to your dream school.
That said, if you are reasonable in your expectations and are committed to working diligently with your admissions consultant, you can seriously boost your chances of getting offers from top schools.
Now that you know a bit more about what college admissions consultants do and have your priorities and expectations in check, it’s time to move on to what you came here for in the first place: our list of best college admissions consultants! This list was hand-picked and carefully chosen according to the review criteria we list at the end of this article. That’s why we are truly confident when we say that these are the best college admissions consultants out there, and they are sure to help you get where you want to go in your education!
College Admissions Consultants Reviews and Exclusive Discounts
|College Admissions Consultant|
|Additional Resources||Books, Essay Analysis, School Guides||Rejection Review, Waitlist Plans||Interactive web platform||Application Boot Camp,
Gap Year Guidance Program
|Personality Test, College Planning Portal||College Finance Consulting, Interview Strategy||Postmortem Evaluation, Interview Prep|
|Top-TIer Admissions Experience|
|GET STARTED||Start Now||Start Now||Start Now||Start Now||Start Now||Start Now||Start Now|
Admissionado (Rank: #1)
Founded in 2007 by two college friends, Admissionado has quickly become one of the top college admissions consulting firms around, and they rank number one in our list for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most significant factor for us is their no-nonsense approach to college admissions. Admissionado consultants are honest and upfront about what they can offer their clients.
One unique aspect of Admissionado’s services is the way they divide their work among experts. Rather than having a single consultant manage all aspects of a client’s services, they instead have a team of consultants that work in their areas of expertise. For instance, one person might help you with your applications, while another person who is more well-versed in writing will work with you on your essays. This way, you get the best person for each job. With that in mind, it’s no surprise their essay preparation and editing, interview prep, and customer service are second-to-none.
Accepted (Rank: #2)
Accepted has been around since 1994, so they have considerable experience with college admissions. But it’s not the experience of the consulting firm that really impressed us; rather, it’s Accepted’s focus on one-on-one, personalized consulting.
WIth Accepted, you get matched with a dedicated admissions consultant who is further supported by the Accepted team. This way, you get the best of both worlds: personalized client services, as well as an entire team of experts to get you the best information and advising you need to get accepted to your dream school.
Veritas Prep (Rank: #3)
Started in 2001 by a group of Ivy League students, Veritas Prep is one of the most successful college admissions consultants around. Part of this success has a lot to do with the high-achievers they hire as consultants. Indeed, Veritas Prep consultants have all earned test scores in the 99th percentile! That is, the consultants at Veritas Prep have the personal experience to back up their claims of expertise in elite college admissions. What’s more, since 2002, Veritas Prep has helped over 300,000 students get accepted to their dream schools. You can’t argue with results!
Top Tier Admissions (Rank: #4)
If it’s experience and expertise you’re after, it’s hard to beat Top Tier Admissions. While not as large as some of the other firms on this list, Top Tier has a proven track record of success in getting students admitted to their top-choice schools. Top Tier has been around for 20 years, and their leadership and consultants have direct experience working in admissions offices at top universities in the US.
While they don’t have an all-inclusive plan, their a la carte options give you the flexibility to put together the college admissions package that works best for you and your specific needs.
Elite Advantage Prep (Rank: #5)
Elite Advantage Prep is a small, but growing, college admissions consulting firm. Among the many excellent aspects of Elite Advantage is their personalized service and variety of consulting package options. In fact, they have a package for every high school grade, so you can find the perfect package for where you’re at in your college admissions journey.
Elite Advantage Prep also conveniently offers a la carte options, so you can get just the services that you need without spending extra money on things you don’t.
College Coach (Rank: #6)
College Coach, founded in 1998, takes a truly student-focused approach to college admissions consulting. Their philosophy is that focusing on their clients’ unique goals, strengths, and accomplishments is the best way to get them accepted into top educational programs and universities. And we agree. College Coach emphasizes that the key to college admissions isn’t trying to be like everyone else, but rather is about making yourself stand out from the crowd by amplifying what makes you special.
Ivy Coach (Rank: #7)
Ivy Coach is another smaller college admissions consulting firm, but one with considerable experience and expertise. Founded by admissions expert, Bev Taylor, Ivy Coach works with prospective college students to help differentiate themselves from the large pool of applicants at top colleges. They focus on finding your “angle”–that special something that will set you apart from the crowd. And their results speak for themselves: 92% of students who worked with Ivy Coach got into their top-choice school!
Other College Admissions Consulting Options
While the following admissions consultants didn’t make our top seven list, they are certainly deserving of honorable mention status. Here are a few college admissions consultants you should also consider when weighing your options:
- Anna Ivey Consulting
- Shemmassian Academic Consulting
- Solomon Admissions Consulting
College Admissions Consultant Alternatives
If you’ve decided that you don’t want to hire a college admissions consultant–either because you don’t think there’s enough value in it for you, or it’s simply too expensive for your budget–there are several other options you might consider as alternatives that can also increase your chances of getting accepted to your top-choice schools.
First, reach out to school alumni for advice. After all, these are the people who have been where you are now and got in! You’d be surprised the kinds of valuable insight you can get from school alumni.
Next, seek out current and former admissions officers. While current admissions officers probably won’t offer you much help, if you can find a former officer, they might have some good tips and advice on how to make yourself a more competitive applicant.
Finally, if the all-inclusive college admissions consultants packages are too expensive for you, consider looking into the a la carte options available from many of the firms we’ve listed. This is a good way to get some help and advice on just the things you need assistance with, without having to shell out tons of cash for the comprehensive packages.
How We’ve Ranked the Top College Admissions Consultants
After reviewing the top seven admissions consultants, we have ranked them based on the following criteria.
While experience isn’t the most significant factor for us, we did take it into consideration. While we think even newer college admissions consultants like Admissionado can do just as good a job as many of the more established firms, there’s no denying that having college admissions experience is a major help.
When it comes to matching you with a college admissions consultant, each consultant firm has its own process. This is key to your success when working with an admissions consultant, and there are pros and cons to every approach.
For instance, for larger college admissions consultant firms, you get the benefit of knowing that there is a large enough staff to provide you with the personalized support you need. On the other hand, smaller consultant firms may be able to offer even more individual support because they have smaller client loads.
Either way, it’s important that you do your research when it comes to each firm’s matchmaking process. Some firms take a team-based approach to consulting, which has many benefits, like specialized expertise in different areas of the application process. This also has some downsides, like the possibility of feeling like you’re “lost in the shuffle” or like you aren’t getting the one-on-one support you’re looking for.
Ultimately, we gave greater preference for firms, large or small, that connect you with a single, dedicated consultant who also has the support of the entire firm’s team.
Is Unlimited Truly Unlimited?
While nearly all college admissions consultant firms provide some kind of “unlimited package,” some put caps on the amount of time the consultant spends with a given client, usually the result of the firm only paying each consultant by the contract, rather than by time spent. Of course, for us, we have given more “points” to those firms that offer truly unlimited and comprehensive packages, as well as those that are upfront about the time they can devote to each client.
Top-Tier Admissions Committee Representation
We have given some measure of preference to those college admissions consultant firms that staff consultants who have top-tier admissions committee experience. While this wasn’t a major factor–after all, one doesn’t need to actually serve on admissions committees to be a good consultant–it is something that we considered, and those firms with top-tier representation were given extra consideration in our rankings.
Limits on Consultant Load
Due to the nature of the college admissions calendar–that is, most college applications are due at the same time of year–we have taken into special consideration the limits on consultant load. We wanted to be sure that any college admissions consultant that we recommend is able to provide the full services promised, regardless of their client load. So, we gave firms a higher ranking if they show evidence that they limit each consultant’s client load.
Team vs. Individual Approach
As we’ve mentioned above, we believe the best system for a college admissions consultant firm is one that matches clients with a dedicated consultant who is backed by a larger team. This way, you’ll get the one-on-one interaction and personal relationship that is so key to this kind of service, as well as the specific expertise offered by a larger team effort.
Who doesn’t like bonus content? We’ve given extra preference to those consulting firms that offer useful resources outside the boilerplate stuff you get from every consultant firm. These are things like interactive web platforms, special “boot camps,” and other innovative approaches that can help you get where you want to be.
Because of the nature of college admissions consulting, we placed a considerable emphasis on firms that offer a free consultation. We simply had a hard time justifying ranking many firms who don’t offer such a free consultation. After all, how can you (and the consultant) know if the relationship is going to be productive if they just take your money upfront before they know anything about you. We simply think that the free initial consultation is one of the most important things any firm can offer because it will get all parties involved on the same page from the outset.
What We’ve Left Out: Self-Reported Success Rates
In the interest of providing the best, unbiased rankings of college admissions consultants, we have left out any mention of self-reported success rates. While we certainly don’t believe that the self-reported success rates of our seven picks are necessarily in dispute, we simply felt it would be more useful to provide our own analysis, unskewed by the rates the firms themselves advertise.