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The Cost of a College Admissions Consultant: From the Outrageous to the Realistic

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

I will never forget when the Hollywood college admissions scandal broke back in 2019; Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, among other lesser known individuals, had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Rick Singer, who bribed sports coaches, college admissions officers, and college entrance exam officials to help clients gain admissions into top universities. Loughlin, in particular, paid Singer $500,000 to devise a scheme that would help her daughters gain acceptance to USC.

I chuckled to myself that they should’ve hired College Prep Tutors, as we have helped at least a half dozen students get accepted to USC for about $492,000 dollars less!

All kidding aside, private college admissions consulting is indeed a significant investment for most families. I would argue that when you hire the right people, that investment will pay off in the form of your child feeling more confident and at ease with the college admissions process, gaining acceptance to the colleges of their dreams, and, as is the case for most of my clients, receiving merit scholarship awards.

So what is the going rate for a college admissions consultant? The price will vary significantly, depending on where you live in the country, the number of services you would like your child to receive, and the quality of the professional, or lack there of, that you hire.

At the lower end of the spectrum, you can certainly find a local college student or recent graduate to provide SAT Tutoring and help with college essays for around $50 an hour. Not a bad price; however, you may pay for that in the form of lack of experience and dedication to the position. First, with the exception of the one time they applied to college, your college tutor does not have a record of success getting numerous students into the college of their choice over multiple years.  Nor does a student tutor have a complete understanding of the education system in general, neither secondary nor higher education.  Most likely your tutor has only had a handful of experiences with the SAT , and one of them was their own, taken just a few years prior. Additionally, your young and inexperienced tutor is not necessarily committed to the consulting relationship in any professional sense. You may suddenly find yourself without a tutor, should they bop off on their study abroad program or finally land a “real job.”

At the other end of the spectrum are the exclusive "elite" college admissions consultants. You know, the ones The New York Times loves to write a sensational article about every few months. Such gurus are garnering $75,000 - $300,000 per client to usher their exclusive clientele through the college admissions process.  One such individual charges $450 an hour for SAT prep, promising that they can help your child earn a perfect score. The only catch: your child needs to have at least a 1500 in order to work with this provider.

Hmmm, something tells me that helping a student who’s already earned a 1500 on the SAT improve by 100 points shouldn’t be that difficult…  (our least committed clients typically see a 100 point increase on their SAT after handful of sessions; and our clients who commit to 20 or more sessions can expect to see over a 200 points increase from their PSAT score). Nonetheless, apparently this $450 dollar an hour tutor has a waiting list. Go figure!

And now we come to a realistic price point, what most college admissions consultants, such as myself, charge.   

While most in the industry charge a flat fee that covers the full suite of services that ranges anywhere from $6000-$12,000, there are some consultants, such as myself, who also provide the option to pay per session and a la carte options. For example, if you simply want help with your college essays, I can accommodate that.

Most pre-packaged services involve the signing of contracts, which include various commitments and limits on the number of sessions.

While I have recently been advised by professionals in other fields to employ such fee practices, for the past 18 years I have taken a different approach that works for both me and my clients, and I am pleased to say, I am going back to:

No contract. Clients pay as they go the per session rate quoted at the time of onboarding; there is only a onetime onboarding fee of $275 that covers analysis of student’s educational records, an orientation session with the student, and the creation of an educational plan. Additionally, my clients are not obligated to a certain number of sessions and can discontinue services at any time (though I have never had a client do so out of dissatisfaction with the service).

Quite the contrary, we become our clients' lifelong partners on their educational journey, continuing to provide academic support when they are in college, assisting them with graduate school applications, and more recently, as in the case of a client who has returned with her own child, proving academic counseling and tutoring services to the next generation.

Our per session rate at College Prep Tutors ranges from $135-$210 an hour, with most clients paying on average $165 per session.

Why the range? To mitigate costs for clients who are committing to numerous sessions. The fewer sessions, the higher per session fee paid. The more sessions, as in the case of clients who do both SAT or ACT prep AND college admissions consulting with us, the lower their per session rate.

To make the process seamless, we accept payment through Venmo or Zelle or by credit card.

And what is the ROI on a college admissions consultant? It’s hard to measure, because most will never know what might’ve happened had they not received professional support. Might they have still gotten into their first choice colleges? Perhaps… However, I know in my practice, most of my clients tend to get into better colleges than they were shooting for when they first started working with me. (Now there are clear exceptions to this: students who are shooting way above their range, who I have to talk down from the cliff to create a realistic list of colleges that include safeties, targets, and a few reaches. And of course, students who are candidates for the ivy leagues face more competition than ever. In 2023, Cornell accepted -8% of applicants. Yes, you read that correctly. Hence, we balance out their plan with stellar target and exceptional safety schools.)

Additionally, when you factor in that almost all of my clients, regardless of parent income, receive some form of merit scholarship, with the average scholarship award around $70,000 (over four years) the ROI for the parent is HUGE, as our services cost a fraction of that savings.

I invite you to schedule a complementary parent discovery call, so I can answer any questions you have about the college admissions process, and provide you with a quote for services. I look forward to learning about your child’s unique story.

Click here to learn more about College Prep Tutors services.

Dr. Donna is on a mission to make sure all students have the best chance of getting into their first choice college without the stress and worry that can often accompany applying to college. Dr. Donna believes that applying to college should be an exciting and positive rite of passage, a journey to self discovery. Her methods have helped hundreds of students not only get into their first choice college, but to do so with ease and confidence. Help spread the ❤️ by inviting Dr. Donna to present at your next event

Want to talk to Dr. Donna about your child and learn more about our services? Click here to book your complimentary Parent Discovery Call.

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Dr. Donna Risolo is the owner and principal tutor of College Prep Tutors, a boutique College Admissions firm.  Dr. Donna has helped hundreds of teenagers get into their first choice college and many with substantial scholarship awards regardless of parent income. She earned her doctorate degree from Teachers College, Columbia University in NYC. When not engaged in her passion project of helping teens realize their full potential, Dr. Donna also works as an educational consultant, guiding public and independent schools in best educational practices, admissions and fundraising, strategic planning and school transformation, parent and stakeholder engagement, and organizational culture building.  

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