Frequently Asked Questions

Why Should a student work with an independent consultant?

An independent consultant can:

  • Reduce stress in the family, by providing informed outside perspective and knowledge.
  • Track all deadlines and help the student stay ahead of the process.
  • Guide the student in choosing appropriate classes in high school.
  • Create a testing strategy to optimize test performance.
  • Help choose extra-curricular activities and plan summers.
  • Identify specific criteria for building a list of potential colleges.
  • Assist in building a balanced list of colleges, given the student’s abilities, interests, and needs.
  • Inform the parents throughout the process, so they can more effectively support their student.
  • Help the student uncover essay ideas and create essays that highlight the student’s strengths, are written in their voice, and are targeted to what college admissions officers need to know.
  • Guide the student in completing the applications for each college.
  • Evaluate offers from colleges.
  • Assist the student in effectively transitioning to the college of their choice.


Students benefit most by working with a consultant at least by their junior year. Students (or parents) who are beginning to think about college decision making in freshman or sophomore year should have an initial meeting then. The focus in the early years is on appropriate high school course selection, extra-curricular activities, and summer plans. Early involvement increases knowledge and decreases stress.

Because we take on a limited number of students each year, it is best to confirm as a client no later than fall of the junior year. We are currently taking reservations for the Class of 2021 and 2022. Generally, we meet with students once or twice in the freshman year, twice in the sophomore year, and then monthly or more often in the junior year. For seniors, we get a jumpstart on applications in the summer before the senior year, and then are in contact at least weekly until the applications are complete. We meet when the offers come in, and then once before the student heads off to campus.


In the Midwest, comprehensive college consulting services usually cost $4,000 - $7,000, depending on the student and family's needs, when they get started, and the individual consultant's fee structure. Smart College Selection consultants charge hourly, believing this provides the most control for families, allowing us to customize the approach to the specific situation.

Given the cost of a university education, money spent helping a student select a university where they will thrive can reduce overall educational costs significantly, by maximizing scholarships, and increasing the likelihood of graduating on time.


We are all in. Smart College Selection consultants work full-time as independent college consultants – we do not do this work part-time, or as an adjunct to other full- or part-time work. This provides a level of accessibility and focus that is uncommon. We find that rapid response to student and parent questions significantly reduces confusion and concerns.

We get personal. Each consultant works with their student and family from the beginning of the process until the student has selected their college. We do not outsource list development, essay reviews, or any other part of college selection to others, which builds trust and improves outcomes.

We believe in data and dreams. We bring up-to-date information into the process, slay common myths, and help students identify and articulate their dreams, while being grounded in the range of possibilities.

We use a structured process. Based on Amy’s background in instructional design, we developed a series of customized tools that help our students and families through an organized college search and effective application process.

We are parent sensitive. Amy experienced college selection with her daughters, and much of what she learned then informs the Smart College Selection approach. Parents are essential, and we help them identify their appropriate roles, building on the strengths of their student and family. At several points in the Smart College Selection process, we facilitate family meetings, and we view parent communication as a critical component of the support we provide.

We are student centered. Smart College Selection consultants only interest is to help the student find the college where they will grow, learn, and thrive. We are huge believers in young people, and know that when provided proper information and support, they can learn much about themselves through this journey, while finding a great college fit.

Could you suggest some useful college planning resources?

College Search:




  • provides clear explanations and comparison tools.
  • The FAFSA needs to be filed in the senior year, preferably as soon as possible after October 1.
  • Many private colleges and universities also require an additional financial aid application called the CSS Profile, which should be completed by November 1 of senior year.