Best of Philly – 2013

Best of Philly_2013

Philadelphia Magazine names Academic Access the best college adviser in Philly.

Read the article.

Edited by Christine Speer Lejeune and Ashley Primis
August 2013

For 40 years now, we’ve been eating drinking, primping, polling, shopping and schlepping our way across Philadelphia and her ‘burbs to bring you the best of everything this city has to offer. (Forty years. Do you know how much sodium  has been consumed in the name of Best of Philly over 40 years?

This year, we’re celebrating the tradition with a boatload of fresh winners for 2013, from the doughnuts you should be eating to the place you should buy your bike to the people you want teaching your kid Mandarin…and much, much more. There are the winners from the public taste tests we hosted throughout the summer (see who really makes the best Italian hoagie, on page 105); an ode to some classic bests (like Philly’s greatest dive bar–now and forever–on page 122); the favorites that you, our readers, voted for in our online polls (page 118); and the Philadelphians who are having the biggest and best impact on our lives right now (page 110).

Because, illustrious history aside, that’s what Best of Philly really is, and has always been: an up-to-the-moment guide to all the great things going on right here, right now. Don’t miss out.

Best College Adviser: Academic Access
Joan Koven and her team help students craft essays, practice interviews, and decide on campuses worthy of a visit (page 108).

My First Decade Becoming an Independent Educational Consultant


Blog post written by Joan Koven for IECA, a professional organization of independent educational consultants.

Read the article.
By Joan Koven
February 20, 2013

Dusting my office and filling the candy jar this morning to get ready for a new junior intake meeting, I saw a large stack of spiral notebooks from a decade of IECA meetings. These notebooks chart my journey since 2003 to become an expert independent educational consultant (IEC). I pulled down my notebook from 2004 and found my detailed notes from “Principles and Practices,” which we now call the IECA Summer Training Institute (STI). I sat down on my just-fluffed couch to see what I was thinking about in 2004 when I was a newbie, hungry for knowledge about our profession wherever I could find it.

I felt inspired once again as I re-read notes from Steve Antonoff‘s opening session, “The World of Educational Consulting.” He spoke about the need for students to have mentors and our obligation to make ourselves into the next set of experts for educational planning. As students of colleges, our main enemy would be lack of knowledge about right fit campuses for our students as we embark on this profession. Steve underscored that our future clients were hiring an individual, not a service; he called upon us to become not just experts but to see ourselves as members of a caring profession. Wow!! How true that remains nine years later.  It sounds basic but it means taking time to listen to students and families, providing them with a way to cope with the stress and anxiety of the college application process.

My notes from Mark Sklarow’s presentation emphasized that our clients pay us to give them advice, not to make their decisions for them. We use our knowledge of schools and our clients to create a list of schools to visit; after countless visits to all sorts of different campuses, we translate our knowledge of campus cultures to meet the individual needs and aspirations of each client. Mark advised us to make good use of the line, “let me double check for you.” We don’t need to know all the answers right away, but we do need to know how to research, find, and deliver them.

After teaching modules and certificate courses on business practices for IECs at STI and UC Irvine, I see more than ever the need to approach our job straightforwardly with honesty and authenticity. We can easily cloud our mission as we cope with a too-anxious family or parents’ confusion over reasonable expectations about what IECs do – and don’t do.  For seasoned IECA members, sit down and review your old notebooks; let’s renew ourselves by revisiting the lessons we first learned.  For new, budding IECs, absorb the basics. Moving into the future with iPad in hand, I will always treasure my handwritten notes on Steve’s presentation or reproduce the wisdom of Mark’s “fold the ends of the toilet paper lesson,” as I continue to fill my IEC backpack of knowledge.

College consultants: Price of admission; More parents pay to give applicants an edge


Philadelphia Inquirer features Joan Koven in an article called “College Consultant: Price of Admission; More Parents Pay to Give College Applicant an Edge.”

Read the article.

By Kathy Boccella
Inquirer Staff Writer
October 28, 2007

The season of college admissions is upon us, and savvy parents know that what’s at stake here is nothing less than their child’s Entire Future.

That explains why families are shelling out thousands of dollars to people such as Joan Koven of Haverford, a former marketing manager turned college consultant who guides kids through the increasingly competitive and uncertain admissions experience.

Koven helps students compile lists of target schools, tells them which entrance exams to take, coaches them through practice interviews, edits their essays, and basically holds their hands – as well as their parents’ – through the entire agonizing process.

The price tag: about $3,000.

“The rules of engagement are different than when I went to school,” said Larry Bunis, whose son, Dan, a senior at Cherry Hill High School East, works with Koven. “You can’t leave anything to chance.”

Bunis isn’t alone in trying to game the system. Last year, 120,000 students used private counselors, more than double the number 10 years ago, said Mark Sklarow, executive director of the Independent Educational Consultants Association.

Membership in the group has grown from about 600 in 2000 to 4,000 today. The cost can run into the tens of thousands, more than a year’s tuition at some schools, though the Philadelphia average is $3,800.

When it comes to easing the anxiety of helicopter parents and pressure-cooked kids, families say it’s worth every cent.

“I did it for me, to be honest with you,” Jill Backhus of Jamison said about hiring consultant Susan Strom, who not only calmed Backhus’ jitters but helped her daughter, a so-so student, already get accepted into three schools – West Virginia, Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., and the University of Tampa.

Steering a student to the right school is a big part of the job. Strom recommended 18 schools “that we probably never would have picked” and advised against some others that her daughter liked but wasn’t qualified for, Backhus said.

Many consultants are retired guidance counselors or admissions experts. They get to know the nation’s 3,500 campuses so they can recommend schools that match the student’s interests and abilities.

What they aren’t supposed to do is make promises that they will get a student into a certain college – or any college, for that matter. Some also help with financial planning, though usually that is a separate service.

Growth in the largely unregulated industry has raised concerns about advantages available only to the wealthy and whether private advisers “package” kids into slicker, less authentic versions of themselves.

So many applicants to Swarthmore College use consultants – as much as 20 percent – that the school is considering asking students whether they have gotten outside help on their application, said admissions director Jim Bock.

Stanford University already cautions applicants on its Web site that “there is a difference between feedback and coaching” and advises them to resist the urge to “package” themselves into what they think the college wants.

Save your money, says Haverford College admissions director Jess Lord. “I sometimes tell people, ‘I’ll give you the advice for free.’ I don’t think it is that complicated.”

The people who need the help the most, students in poor schools with too few guidance counselors, are the ones who can’t afford it, he said.

And some admissions directors say they can see a consultant’s fingerprints all over applications.

“It makes it harder to get to the core of what that student is, and I don’t know how that helps,” said Jenny Rikard of Bryn Mawr College.

But no one denies that schools’ confusing selection process is partly responsible for driving the numbers.

Applications, once one page, are now the length of novellas. Acceptance is no longer a sure thing at certain schools. And high school guidance counselors are stretched too thin – the national ratio is 500 students to one – to be able to give students all the help they need.

About a third of this year’s projected graduating class of 3.2 million, the biggest class in U.S. history, will attend college. Top schools such as Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania get so many qualified applicants that they turn down roughly 90 percent, though the national average is about 30 percent.

“So many kids are applying to the same schools,” said Bobbi Hannmann, an educational adviser in Moorestown. “The expectation is a top kid is going to a top school. Some people are surprised when they see that’s not going to happen.”

Bunis wasn’t too worried about his son, a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, getting into college. And it didn’t hurt that he wants to study aeronautical engineering at his father’s alma mater, Cornell University.

But he wasn’t taking any chances.

“It’s so competitive, particularly at the upper level, that small things make a difference,” he said.

At Koven’s suggestion, Dan Bunis hedged his bets by applying to six schools and taking the ACT as well as the SAT and SAT subject tests.

An experience that most parents would describe as akin to dental surgery has been surprisingly “pleasant,” Larry Bunis said.

Counselors like to start working with students in their junior year – by senior year it may be too late to make a difference, they say – though some parents sign their youngsters up as early as ninth grade.

“Ninth grade counts,” said Katherine Cohen, a professional adviser who worked in admissions at Yale College and who started ApplyWise, an online college coaching service that costs $299. “People are waking up to that.”

So what do colleges want? Forget well-rounded. These days it’s all about “specialists” who make an impact on their school or community. Being an A student alone “is not good enough,” said Cohen.

Instead of forcing kids into a mold, Koven, a mother of three and former Crate & Barrel manager, said she encourages them to pursue interests “that make them more of a person, not necessarily an applicant.”

And she insists students stick to a timetable, worth the cost alone. They may not listen to their parents, but “they listen to me,” she said.

Students come to her basement office once a month in 11th grade and weekly in senior year. Last Wednesday, Meghan FitzPatrick and Eric Roseman were finishing their applications, way ahead of most of their friends.

FitzPatrick, a senior at Merion Mercy Academy, said having “a third party” help with the process kept the peace at home.

An artist who plans to major in graphic design and advertising, she applied to 13 schools, with the University of Delaware her top choice. Because she has dyslexia and doesn’t do well on standardized tests, Koven helped her find schools that don’t weigh the SAT as heavily as other factors, such as her good grades and artistic and singing talents.

Though she is a good writer who got a near-perfect score on the SAT writing test, FitzPatrick froze when it came to writing her essay. So Koven told her to spit out all her thoughts, then helped with organization.

“I’m so relieved,” the 18-year-old said as she hit the send button on her final application, to Villanova University, then pushed a big red button that blared out loud, “That was easy!”

Roseman, a senior at Lower Merion, also sent in his last application, to the University of Virginia, his dream school. He wants to major in business, but Koven advised him to apply as a liberal arts major because it was less competitive.

After she had gone over his essay – “Is that how you spell appendicitis?” – and he shipped it off, there was one last thing to do. She brought out a talisman, her father’s old Cornell University class ring, and each student rubbed the garnet stone for luck, perhaps with a silent prayer of “Please, please, please let me get in.”

Tips for Hiring a Consultant

The Independent Educational Consultants Association says members are required to meet certain guidelines for admissions, and recommends that families check out a consultant’s background before hiring them.

Here are some things to look for:

Consultants should have a background in guidance or admissions with a master’s degree in a related field.
They should visit college campuses regularly, spending at least 20 percent of their time on the road. The organization requires members to visit at least 50 schools annually.
They should attend college admissions conferences to stay current with trends. A consultant who gets most of his or her information off the Internet should raise a red flag.
They should never make any promises or hype their ability to get students into certain colleges.
Families can call the organization to check on ethics complaints. College consultants: Price of admission; More parents pay to give applicants an edge.

Families Seek Help with College


The Wall Street Journal quotes Joan Koven in an article called “Families Seek Help with College” by Jilian Mincer.

Read the article.

Families Seek Help With College
By Jilian Mincer

Unemployment is soaring, retirement plans are sinking, but the college-advisory business is booming. Test-prep classes have become the norm, and more parents are hiring educational consultants. “People may be giving up lattes and other expenses, but they’re passionate about having options in education,” says Joan Koven, owner of Academic Access in Havertown, Pa.

There’s still enormous competition to get into the top-tier schools, many of which offer the most generous aid packages and long-term job security. Families also hope that by spending thousands up-front on test prep and private counselors, they’ll save more long-term if junior snags a scholarship or a spot at a prestigious public university.

“Some kids don’t come to get into a better school; they come to get themselves eligible for scholarship money,” says Matthew Joseph, owner of MJ Test Prep in Bryn Mawr, Pa. He says parents are asking more questions about the fees, which range from $150 to $285 for an hour of private tutoring, but business was up 30% in 2008.

Seppy Basili, senior vice president at Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions in New York, says enrollment was up 20% between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30 for its pre-college program, which costs $1,099 for a class and $2,799 for 20 private sessions. “It’s going to be a very, very competitive year,” he says. “Applications are going to surge, and state schools are going to start capping enrollment.”

Joseph Iovino, director of marketing for private tutoring at the Princeton Review, which charges $2,830 to $9,500 for a package of 25 private SAT tutoring sessions, says: “There is competition out there not only to get into schools, but also for financial aid.”

The financial crisis has made the situation more complicated as applications to public universities have soared. Clemson University has seen a 10% rise in in-state applications; University of Idaho, an 18% increase; and the University of Central Florida, an 18% increase.

The application process itself is more complicated, says David Hawkins, director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, a nonprofit organization that represents high-school counselors and college admissions officers. Students don’t know where they will get in so they now apply on average to five to seven schools, and many send applications to 10 or more colleges. They also take multiple entrance exams, including ACTs, SATS and subject-area SATs.
Parents turn to professionals for help.

“These are parents who are used to outsourcing a lot of stuff,” says Ida Hyman, a private counselor in New York. “My goal is to make a good match and to make it easier on the parents,” she says.
Diane Alten of Newton, Mass., hired a college coach for her 18-year-old son, William Share. “It gets the parent out of the situation,” says Ms. Alten. “You’re still part of the process, but it’s much less difficult.”

Barbara Garrett of Miami says the college-application process “could’ve been a total nightmare” for her daughter, Lena. The counselor at her daughter’s private school was on maternity leave, and hiring Bari Norman, who had worked in admissions at Barnard College, made the process go more smoothly. Ms. Norman, who owns Expert Admissions, says she often begins working with students when they’re in ninth or tenth grade.

“A good consultant can help you eliminate the number of schools you visit and apply to,” says Mark Sklarow, executive director of the Independent Educational Consultant Association, a national organization that represents private education advisers. “But I think the big payoff is that these kids are less likely to transfer,” says Mr. Sklarow. “More than half of all freshmen leave the college before they graduate.”

Clients, he says, used to come mostly from wealthy families. That’s no longer the case. A 2007 summer survey of IECA members found that the average client has a family income of between $75,000 and $100,000.

Record Wait List Led by Amherst, Yale, MIT Brings High Anxiety


Bloomberg News quotes Joan Koven in “Record Waitlist Led by Amherst, Yale, MIT Brings High Anxiety.”

Read the article.

By Janet Frankston Lorin

April 16 (Bloomberg) — Anxiety for U.S. high school seniors, always high this time of year, is growing after elite colleges put record numbers of applicants on waiting lists.

Yale and Princeton universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Amherst College are among top-ranked U.S. schools that increased, by as much as 50 to 90 percent, the number of students told this month they may be accepted only if those already admitted decline to attend.

The expanded waiting lists — Yale put 1,052 students on hold, up 22 percent from last year; Princeton placed 1,526 on hold, up 93 percent — are the result of new acceptance and financial-aid policies and record applications, college officials say. While the new numbers game doesn’t mean more openings, it has left wait-listed students, including Nancy Wang, holding out hope for their dream schools.

“It definitely is creating a lot of stress,” said Wang, 17, who is fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and English, and plays on the badminton team. Wang, a senior at Great Neck South High School on New York’s Long Island, is in the maybe pile at Harvard University, her aspiration, after winning admission to Williams College, in Massachusetts. “If the overall result is your getting in, then I would say it’s worth it,” she said.

Harvard and Princeton eliminated early admission for this year, forcing more students into the regular-decision pool. As a result, MIT and other schools deepened their waiting lists, hedging against the possibility that their admitted students will take offers from competitors such as Harvard.

Tension in the House

“It’s a year of uncertainty and a year of waiting,” said Joan Koven, a Haverford, Pennsylvania-based consultant to families seeking advice on admissions. “It’s crazy.” She said schools’ waiting lists are filled with a “reserve army” of students eager to jump into slots.

A rejection would almost have been better than the agony of delay, said Christopher Shih, another Great Neck senior. He said tension increased at home after he was wait-listed at Columbia University, the New York school where his mother studied engineering.

“It’s always good to have hope, I guess,” said Shih, a varsity tennis player who won admission to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He and thousands of other students must commit to a school by May 1 by making a deposit.

“The fact that there are many more kids on waiting lists this year means that there are many more kids who will remain restless through the end of May,” said Lawrence Momo, director of college counseling at the private Trinity School in New York, and the former head of undergraduate admissions at Columbia. “Most kids when they get to April of their senior want very much want to have the process over and done with.”

Uncertain Yields

Part of the reason the wait lists are overloaded is colleges’ increased uncertainty about the so-called yield, or percentage of admitted students who will actually enroll.

“The students they are taking are so good that they have to imagine the students they admit will have many choices,” said Stephen Singer, the director of college counseling at the private Horace Mann School, in New York.

Colleges’ wait lists “make sure they can fill their needs so they don’t come up short,” said Jeff Lowe, the college adviser at the public Princeton High School in New Jersey.

Marlyn McGrath, director of admissions for Harvard’s undergraduate arm, said the college admitted 1,948 students, 110 fewer than last year, to fill a class of 1,656. The school, the nation’s oldest college, saw a 20 percent increase in applications.

McGrath declined to say how many applicants Harvard put on the wait list, or how many may yet be invited to attend.

`Anxiety Producing’

“By definition, being on a wait list is anxiety producing if it’s a college you very much want to go to,” she said.

Changes to early-decision programs and increased financial- aid packages at Harvard and Yale pushed more students into the regular-decision process at many schools.

“It really kind of blows our procedure for the wait list out of the water,” said Tom Parker, dean of admissions and financial aid at Amherst College, in Massachusetts.

Amherst placed 1,400 students on its wait list, up 40 percent from a year ago, to help fill a class of 440, he said. The school offered admission to nobody from last year’s list.

One student now in Amherst’s limbo is Kathlyn Pattillo, a senior at the private Westminster Schools, in Atlanta. She is captain of the varsity crew team and performed social work as a volunteer in Panama last year.

This week, she plans to visit schools that accepted her, including Trinity College in Connecticut and Tufts University outside Boston. She also will be waiting to hear again from Amherst. The liberal-arts school, founded in 1821, has 1,650 students and is the alma mater of novelist Scott Turow and Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

“For me, getting on the wait list is a huge honor in itself,” Pattillo said. “At least, I still have a chance.”



Fall 2008 Newsweek How to Get into College Edition:
Newsweek article features Academic Access students, Hannah Becker and Peter Pelberg.

Read the article.

Penn Image Likely to Survive Drop in Rank


August 31, 2006:
The Daily Pennsylvanian quotes Joan Koven in “Penn Image Likely to Survive Drop in Rank. Experts Unconcerned as Penn Slips to 7th.”

Read the article.

By: Deena Greenberg
Posted: 8/31/06

Before you request that transfer application to Stanford or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, you might want to listen to what the experts have to say about Penn’s drop in the U.S. News & World Report college rankings.

Their overall message: It’s just not that big of a deal.

Penn dropped to number seven when the magazine came out with its annual rankings of the most prestigious national universities on August 18. The school had been at No. 4 for the previous two years.

Penn’s drop was due to lower assessments from peer institutions and a lower average SAT score for its students, according to Michael London, president of College Coach, the largest admissions counseling service in the country.

London said that the slight drop should not harm Penn’s reputation.

“Penn has an excellent reputation. Unless they do poorly, no one is going to care. If [the rankings] say Penn is a horrible school, its going to raise some eyebrows,” he said.

Dean of Admissions Lee Stetson agreed that the change in rank will not have a significant influence on Penn’s standing.

“We understand that rankings are fluid,” he said. “Wherever [Penn] moves it seems to be the fact that we’re still No. 4 in the Ivy League, which is a very healthy sign.”

He added that the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – both ranked at No. 4 – offer significantly different undergraduate programs with an emphasis on the sciences.

Penn and those schools do not generally compete for the same types of applicants, Stetson said.

Joan Koven, an educational consultant in Haverford, said the drop has not affected Penn’s prestige or academic experience.

“Penn ‘spoke’ several years ago with its high U.S. News rating, and I think no matter what its numerical value is this year, it has earned a new rank,” she said.

Experts say too much emphasis should not be placed on the rankings.

Vice President for Public Affairs at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities Roland King said there have been a number of studies that show rankings play a fairly minimal role in where a student decides to go to school.

“Schools give an overemphasis … on rankings,” he said. “What’s needed is matching the right student to the right institutions.”

Still, experts like Steven Grossman, a Washington, D.C.-based educational consultant, noted that factors like crime in Philadelphia could have played a role in the drop.

“I think it’s naive to assume that all the things that go on … don’t affect rankings,” he said.

However, London said, as long as Penn remains in the top 10 schools, its status should remain the same.

And reactions from several Penn parents and students supported the assertion by London and others that the drop hasn’t really changed many people’s impression of the school.

Incoming Engineering freshman Eric Tieniber said he has always wanted to go to Penn and does not really pay attention to college rankings.

New Penn parent Jim Goldman said he thought seven was a very solid number for Penn.

“Many people treated the number four with a certain amount of skepticism,” he said. Number seven “is more realistic.”

University President Amy Gutmann said slightly larger class sizes and slightly fewer faculty members could have contributed to the drop. However, she opined, there is always a five-place margin of error in the rankings.

“We’re proud we’re ranked high in U.S. News and World Report,” Gutmann said. “That said, I would like to move up.”

What’s it cost to hire a college admissions consultant?


Jul 13, 2008:
York Daily Record quotes Joan Koven in “What’s It Cost to Hire a College Admissions Consultant? Advisors Help Students Find the Perfect School – at a Price.”

Read the article.

Advisers help students find the perfect school – at a price.

Daily Record/Sunday News

Article Launched: 07/13/2008 11:29:41 PM EDT

Vicki Keriazes, a college admissions adviser, meets with client and high school student Kelly Sheridan at Panera Bread in Hanover. Sheridan will be a senior at Delone Catholic High School in the fall. (Daily Record/Sunday News – Bil Bowden)
When Paula Porter’s teenage daughter needed help researching colleges, the family turned to a college admissions consultant.
“My husband and I were so out of the loop,” she said.

The consultant met with Porter’s family. She reviewed her daughter’s transcript and test scores, and listened to what she wanted in a school.

The consultant suggested a visit to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The Porters went, and their daughter fell in love.

So did Porter.

She enjoyed college planning so much that she later left her job at the Janus School in Mount Joy to build her own business, Porter Education Consulting.

Now, she advises high-schoolers through her firm and part-time as the college counselor at York Country Day School.

Lancaster-based Paula Porter has a college admissions consulting business and works part time as York Country Day School’s college counselor. (Daily Record/Sunday News – Jason Plotkin)get such great satisfaction out of when someone says, ‘I never even heard of this school,’ and end up finding a great match,” Porter said.
College admissions consulting is a service that more parents are willing to pay for as competition tightens at selective colleges, and tuition and living costs soar.

It costs $1,500 to $2,000 to hire an independent consultant in southcentral Pennsylvania, according to a survey of consultants in Hanover, York, Hershey and Lancaster.

Few parents and high school guidance counselors have the time or budget to research and visit campuses at hundreds of colleges and universities.

But that research and those personal visits take up a large chunk of consultants’ time. Porter visits at least 20 schools a year.

“If you were given $200,000 and you wanted to make an investment, you would probably want to go to a financial adviser to decide how to make that investment,” said Joan R. Koven, a consultant and founder of Academic Access in Haverford, near Philadelphia.

“Going to college is not finding the name of a school. It’s finding who you are and matching that to the name of the school.”

The cost of a consulting package varies depending on what’s included.

Some advisers help edit essays, complete financial aid forms and prep students for SATs, but others don’t. Ask what’s included in the consulting fee and what’s not.

Consultants in the region generally prefer to begin working with students during their junior year of high school.

They meet with families to initially review a student’s transcript, test scores and discuss interests – from academics to campus environment to extracurricular activities. Some consultants administer personality and career assessment tests.

Often, students hire consultants because they have specific interest or combination of interests, such as acoustic engineering, fencing and a location near the beach.

“I had a student call and say, ‘The only thing I’m passionate about is paintball. I’d like to study engineering. Can I go some place to study where I can play paintball?’ Or maybe a student wants to be able to board her horse,” said Sheila Jones, a consultant in Lancaster.

After the first meeting, the consultant returns with a list of schools based on the student’s abilities, interests and geography.

The adviser should be working to find the best fit for the student educationally, socially and financially, Porter said. Generally, the school list will include a range – from schools where admission is a reach to where it’s likely, and a few safe bets.

As students whittle down the list, consultants can help put applications together, brainstorm essay ideas, prep students for campus interviews, and target schools likely to award merit scholarships.

“I’m finding there’s a general need for overall hand-holding – just overall guidance in the process,” said Vicki Keriazes, a consultant in Hanover who once worked in admissions at Georgetown University.

The biggest misconception is the expectation that consultants can get a student in anywhere.

“Which is not the case,” Porter said. “I help them evaluate which colleges make the most sense and guide them through the process. But no consultant can guarantee they’ll get in anywhere.”

Before hiring a consultant, families should ask for client references, years of experience and professional affiliations.

Many consultants are affiliated with the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the Independent Educational Consultants Association, which requires professional members to have a master’s degree, log more than 50 campus visits, advise a minimum 50 clients, and have three years of experience in counseling or admissions.

“Do your due diligence,” Koven said. “It’s very easy for people to say, ‘I had two kids go to college, and I feel I’m an expert on that.’”

Steven Roy Goodman has a national consulting practice with offices in Towson, Md., and Washington, D.C. He wrote “College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family.”

“Look for someone who isn’t just going to say yes to everything. Someone who can really challenge you to think about some of the schools and programs you hadn’t thought of before,” Goodman said.

“Everybody would like a school that’s prestigious, near home and makes them happy. The question is, what happens if you have to make some tradeoffs. That’s where it gets difficult. My job is to help families decide which tradeoffs make sense and which are reasonable to make.” What’s it cost to hire a college admissions consultant?

Counselor’s Corner: Thank your Interviewers


Dec 25, 2008:
Hundreds of Heads featured Joan Koven’s article, “Thank Your Interviewers,” in the IECA Counselor’s Corner.

Read the article.

The college admission process can bring back many of the old traditions of Judith Martin, “Miss Manners,” especially during the most important college interview. Interviews play a significant role in giving a sneak preview of the candidate and how the candidate thinks and feels in real life. Not all colleges offer interviews, but for the many colleges that make it a priority to get to know their applicants, it can be the time to shine. Numerous decisions need to be made before and after the interview that will have a lasting impression on your admission decision. Should I wear Khakis, sneakers, a polo shirt, or dress pants, what thought provoking questions are on my mind, who will my interviewer be, and last, but not least, what should I say in my thank you note.

Thank you notes are an overlooked but key component after an interview. Miss Manners would insist after a dinner party at a friend’s house that you send a thank you note and the same goes for a face to face interview for your college admission. You can thank your interviewer in an email but the most personal and traditional thank you would be a hand written note addressed to the interviewer. Thank them for their time, generous spirit, and valuable information about the school. Let them know how much you enjoyed meeting with them, and in addition, refer to an honest moment that took place during the interview.

A note should be written within 48 hours after the interview to demonstrate the most interest and shout that you are a serious candidate in the deep sea of applications.

Use All Five Senses when test driving a campus visit

Joan Koven | Founder & Director – Academic Access

The 549 mile college road trip with your parents is a rite of passage. This is your college audition time. Use all five senses to determine how you feel about a campus. Experience the taste of the new FroYo option in the cafe at the student union; hear the cheering coming from the soccer field as the school clinches their conference title; feel the benefits of suite style dorm living and what it may mean to share a room freshman year; see a classroom in action and experience the professor engaging in a lively classroom debate; smell the lilacs on the college’s 100 acre arboretum. This is how to test drive a campus.

College visiting through your cell phone

Joan Koven | Founder & Director – Academic Access

Absolutely nothing can replace a visit to a college campus for a prospective student. Experiencing the student culture, academic compatibility, and true match can best help determine your interest level. If you are unable to get on a campus then try pulling out your mobile device for your college searches. More campuses are setting up apps where students can get a tour and information right at the touch of a smart phone screen. Colleges are catering to students that use their mobile devices as a source of information and connection.