Finding the right counsellor – agents vs. counsellors, someone who does the work vs. someone who guides you

Guidance Counsellor / College Counsellor / Education Counsellor / Education Consultant are terms often used interchangeably to refer to a person who works closely with students to help them navigate the process of applying to college. Education Counsellors (American: Counselor), however, are normally self-employed (or are part of consulting firms), while School Counsellors are employed by a school.

Cat Confused

A Counsellor would:

– Help a student chart out their academic and career goals

– Identify courses to pursue after high school in preparation for the student’s career goals

– Identify colleges/universities which offer these courses

– Help a student to shortlist the colleges to apply to based on ‘right fit’

– Help a student to project their achievements and strengths in the best possible fashion to present strong applications to colleges

– Be bound by ethical practices thereby enabling a student rather than filling in applications and writing essays on their behalf

An Agent, on the other hand, has a tie-up with colleges/universities and is compensated by them for sending students to study in these colleges.

An Agent would:

– Facilitate a student’s admission to an institution they have partnerships with

– Agents very often will indulge in unethical practices like writing application essays and filling in college applications

– Ensure that the student accepts the offer of admission by facilitating the visa process

Now that we have that clear, let’s move on to the next step – Identifying the right College Counsellor

– Focus on your child’s personality, educational background & dreams.


The educational counsellor you choose should be a good match for your child’s personality, have experience of working with students with similar admissions profiles, and be supportive of your child’s college aspirations.

– Find someone experienced with a thorough knowledge of college admission requirements & process

A professional educational counsellor should have complete knowledge about a wide range of colleges and universities as well as latest admissions trends. A partnership with specific universities could create a conflict of interest. They should also have sufficient experience helping students through the college search and application process for the country the student is keen on applying to.

– Find someone supportive.


You and your child should both feel comfortable when interacting with the counsellor. An encouraging attitude will go a long way in minimizing stress and anxiety in the college admissions process. A good counsellor while emphasizing the need to present strong academic grades and extra-curriculars will never undermine a student’s accomplishments but instead guide a student to project them in the best possible manner. They should help you create an Application Timeline to follow, draw up a list of colleges to apply to, satisfy all application requirements, give feedback on essays and review your applications before submission. They say it takes a village to send a student to college! A counsellor will strive to work as a team with families, high school counsellors, and college admissions staff of universities.

– A counsellor should be accessible

Shell Phone

Senior Year of High School can be one of the most stressful years in school, the pressure of keeping up with school grades, to writing essays, filling applications, taking standardized tests, giving interviews, meeting expectations of parents and teachers! It’s an endless list! While students are happy even restricting conversations to text, you may want to be able to call them, skype with them, maybe even meet them. If you have someone knowledgeable to hand hold you through this process and someone you can talk to when you are stressed, someone who will not be judgmental and instead be understanding and be available in person on phone/Skype call for sudden meetings or distress calls.

– Committed to ethical practices

A good counsellor will never indulge in unethical practices like making false promises to clients like promising admissions or scholarships using their personal ‘contacts’ with admissions staff of colleges. They will never write application essays for students, or fill in applications on their behalf. Instead they will empower a student to take the right decisions and navigate the college applications terrain with their guidance and support. This is something, which will also prepare the student to deal with their college life independently.

Still confused?


Here are three facts to keep in mind:

1) In the world of Google, information is as much powerful as it is harmful.

2) The process can be incredibly overwhelming and you need someone to guide you through it.

3) It’s an investment. If you choose to spend $240k dollars on your business, would you spend 5% of the investment to find someone to guide you?