Intelos College Admission Counseling: FAQ

"As part of my practicum work for the UC Berkeley Certificate in Career and College Counseling, I interviewed over 90 high school juniors at a local charter school about their college preparation and plans. I enjoyed my conversations, each different, sharing only a similar opening question and developing in over 90 different ways thereafter."

What is an Independent College Admission Counselor?

An Independent College Admissions Counselor (commonly referred to as an IEC) offers students and their parents individualized support in navigating the often confusing world of college choice and admissions with the goal of improved outcomes. This support parallels and supplements the support offered by a student’s high school guidance counselor.

Why use an Independent College Admissions Counselor?

High school guidance counselors focus on helping students with their academic choices and high school graduation requirements. As college admissions have become more competitive, guidance counselors have taken on college application assistance, with some schools employing separate college and career advisors. These professionals all do important work in disseminating necessary information about the admissions process and coordinating various aspects of applications.

However, California has the lowest student-to-counselor ratio in the nation, averaging somewhere near 850:1. Certainly, better funded districts have better ratios, but all public guidance and college counselors have large caseloads along with the many administrative responsibilities that come with helping students succeed at high school. These conditions make it difficult for school guidance counselors to offer many students individual and personal support.

An IEC offers students and their parents a more individualized approach to guiding students through the college admissions process. Most parents seek the assistance of an IEC when they feel that their student will benefit from increased guidance and support, whether it is because parents want to maximize a student’s standing for college opportunities or they know their student needs help to stay motivated in finding and actualizing the steps necessary to reach a desirable post secondary educational pathway.

What are the benefits of hiring an Independent College Admissions Counselor?

Students and parents alike benefit from the support of an IEC.

The fundamental benefit for both students and parents is, of course, maximizing the student’s admissions profile for increased opportunities in postsecondary education. For some students this means acceptance at the right elite schools for their needs. For others, it means reaching the right UC campus instead of attending the local CSU or CC. For yet others, it simply means going to college at all.

Additional benefits for students include learning more about themselves to make better choices and receiving knowledgeable and timely advice on their choices for high school academics and activities. They also have informed help in developing a personalized college list, one that gives them options that reflect what they value so they will succeed at college.

Additional support for parents includes assistance in navigating the complex college application process and peace of mind in knowing that their student is receiving constant direction. In some cases, families benefit when the power struggles of maintaining grades, coordinating test prep, choosing colleges, and writing essays shift from inside the home to the counselor’s office.

Some students have have deeper needs and their parents want specialized help for finding schools supportive of learning disabilities, first-generation admissions, athletic recruitment, or majors in the performing or visual arts.

What does College Admissions Counseling look like?

Counseling takes the form of scheduled meetings throughout the high school years.

The objectives are for both the counselor and the student to better understand the student’s personal qualities such lifestyle choices, interests, preferences, personality, and learning style while establishing the careers, majors, and colleges the student wants to pursue.

As the junior year ends, sessions become more work oriented as the student turns to developing the pieces of the application, such as the essays, which demonstrate the qualities of the student to college admissions officers.

The work culminates in senior year with a personalized list of colleges to which the student will apply, application completion, and later, decisions about the offer out of several to accept.

How should I select an Independent College Admissions Counselor?

The most important criterion is to know the approach of the counselor and choose one whose philosophy most closely matches the role you want the counselor to play.

All parents want their student to go to the “best” schools, and for some this means attending a well-known elite school. However, most parents also know their children and realize that the best school for their student also depends on the student’s personality, development, and goals. Attending an “Ivy” is not right for every student despite the hype in our culture.

Elite schools are right for some students but not all, and for any one given student, some elite schools are a good fit but, again, not all. It is powerful when a student can say that he has chosen not to apply to an elite school, not because he cannot “get in,” but because he knows that the environment of the school, its curriculum in his field of interest, or its approach isn’t quite right for his success.

A second important criterion is knowing what professional organizations, such as HECA, IECA, and NACAC, a counselor belongs to. These organizations have standards and ethics which members adhere to, and they provide the continuing education and support to help counselors provide the best advice in the constantly changing world of college admissions. Few counselors belong to more than two or three organizations, but it is critical that they belong to and are active in at least one organization to stay current and informed.

A third criterion is the counselor’s knowledge of schools and programs. There are too many schools for every counselor to know intimately, but counselors endeavor to tour as many schools a year as possible to better understand them and their programs. In essence, they take college tours and speak with college admissions representatives to offer that knowledge to your student to make her college selection easier.

Further, counselors research schools with experienced eyes and consult with other counselors through professional organizations to get a stronger read on a school’s program offerings, its selection process, and its environmental realities.

Does an Independent College Admissions Counselor provide financial aid and scholarship advice?

An IEC will make certain that a student and his parents understand the financial aid landscape and help students locate scholarships. The counselor will help students and parents understand the costs of college and how colleges administer student aid in the forms of need-based and merit aid and tuition discounts to make a college education affordable.

An IEC will refer parents to specialists for advice on wealth and taxes unless specifically certified to do so herself.

Does the use of an Independent Admissions Counselor come with a guarantee of admissions to select colleges?

It is difficult for anyone to offer a true guarantee on a process they cannot control. College admissions are an ever-changing phenomenon, lending at least a little uncertainty to admissions success. While some IECs offer guarantees of admission to certain schools, such guarantees are usually more sales devices than actual guarantees. As such, guarantees to select schools are not consistent with the ethical behavior espoused by national professional organizations such as NACAC, HECA, and IECA.

Can a student start counseling in any year of high school?

Students may begin working with an independent counselor when they and their parents think they are ready. The benefits of starting early include more control of academic and activity choices to both explore and develop interests and strengths, more time to understand their career options and the learning environments that work best for them, and more time to reflect on and develop the revealing work that demonstrates who they are to colleges.

Sophomores and juniors still have time to take advantage of the knowledge and advice of a counselor, but given the importance of the junior year record for admissions, the opportunities to greatly alter possible outcomes become less numerous.

Seniors have the fewest opportunities to shape their academics and make informed decisions. There is also less time for a counselor to get to know the student for recommending particularly fitting schools and programs. However, counselors beginning work in a student’s senior year can still have a great impact on a student’s college list, help them as they prepare the applications, and review acceptance options in the Spring.


For additional questions, please contact:

Hugh Brantner at (925) 302-8030 or email