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Family Finances

Invest in Some College Advice

An admissions consultant can offer personalized tips to get your child into college.

Worried about getting junior into college or graduate school? For $1,000, an admissions consultant can help your child narrow down thousands of options to a dozen or more schools that could be the right fit. That's why Janet Stein of Maple Grove, Minn., hired a consultant to help her son, Michael, in his college search. "When a 17-year-old listens to his mother, he hears the Charlie Brown music," Stein says. "I knew I had to get someone who was not emotionally involved to help him focus."

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Valerie Broughton, an admissions consultant in Minneapolis, identified schools that complemented Michael's academic and social interests, set deadlines for applications, and coached him on essays and interviews. Michael was admitted to four of the five schools he applied to, including the one he plans to attend in September, Drake University, a private college in Des Moines. It was a school that Stein would not have considered if Broughton hadn't mentioned it. Plus, Broughton helped Michael find enough scholarship money to make Drake as affordable as an in-state school, Stein says. Broughton charges $2,750 for the total package but will work for an hourly rate of $200.

You'll typically pay more than $1,000 to get the full range of services from an admissions consultant. But the most valuable service is narrowing the list of schools to those likely to admit your student, give financial aid and offer the best educational programs for your child's interests. A grand will buy such a list from a qualified consultant, says Mark Sklarow, executive director of the Independent Educational Consultants Association.

The association requires its members to visit at least 50 college campuses before they can be certified. For a member directory, visit www.educationalconsulting.org.

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