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Why Parents Hire Educational Advisors

You would be surprised how often I work with families who once never imagined hiring an educational consultant. 

Megan Rubiner Zinn recently wrote about this phenomenon in the New York Times. For years, she perceived the hiring of professional advisors to aid in the college search process as gilding the lily or helicopter parenting. When her eldest son’s turn 
came, she reached out to an advisor about one specific question, planning to facilitate the rest of the college application process as a parent. Suddenly, however, she discovered a reservoir of knowledge that she valued. I witness this scenario all the time.

The college application process has taken on mythical status in our society. It is legendary for the stress that it can bring high school students and their parents. Reaching a successful outcome has come to symbolize parental accomplishment, as well as a young adult’s ability to emerge from the nest with independence and confidence. The flaw in this story line is that the college admissions process is more complicated now than in generations past. Most parents of high school seniors today applied to college themselves at least 20 years ago. In just the decade from 2002-2012, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that undergraduate enrollment has risen 24 percent. Peak enrollment rates have increased competition at the same time that soaring tuition costs have heightened the financial stakes of college planning. Meanwhile, colleges and universities have followed the specialization of the workplace by offering a wider variety of programs. 

Layer on to this the nuances of a family’s personal experiences. The general knowledge that parents gained during their own college era may be inaccurate now. Parents may find, for example, that what was once a “party school” has transformed 
into a highly regarded institution in key fields. Or they may have strong opinions about types of school environments that relate more to their needs as a past student than to the current needs of their teens. 

When a baby is born, many new parents take advantage of a myriad of expert sources to learn about child development and cope with one of life’s biggest transformations. When that baby has grown into a young adult ready to leave the nest, parents and their offspring can once again benefit from expert guidance. 

I often talk with parents who, as Zinn describes in her column, have suddenly realized how much they don’t know about the world of college admissions. I reassure them that this is perfectly reasonable. These parents have already proven their expertise in child rearing. Their young adults have demonstrated personal success by their endeavors at school and in their families and communities. Parents and teens do not need to also hold themselves accountable as experts in the world of higher education. That is what I do. I am an expert at knowing what different colleges have to offer and at helping young people navigate this complex, sometimes stressful, but always thrilling and potential-packed adventure. 

My Bertram colleagues do the same for boarding schools and secondary education.I speak for all of my colleagues in saying that we look forward to working with candidates and their families on school searches every day. Far from helicopter parenting, hiring a consultant is an empowering experience. We offer perspective that reduces anxiety, broadens horizons, and brings focus to educational planning. We challenge young adults to build self-awareness and take responsibility and pride in pursuing their goals. And we provide the confidence of knowing that students have fully explored their options and found a great fit that will serve them now and into the future.

Deena Maerowitz advises students throughout the entire college admissions process. She works with students ranging from freshmen to seniors, and plans both undergraduate and graduate education. She is widely published and sought-after as a speaker on college planning. She can be reached at deena@thebertramgroup.com