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  • Writer's pictureVicky Keston

Private School Educational Consultants: What is this, Why Hire One?

School – Educational Consultants: What is this? 

Before I entered the private school world, I’d often give advice to parents applying to the public school lottery in San Francisco. I’d never heard of educational consultants, and I had no idea this world existed. A few years later, I applied for my children to attend private school, one in elementary and one in middle school. The middle school applications were more work than my own (successful) graduate school applications to elite institutions! At this point, I learned that there are people who help you and your teen or tween with applications. And families started asking me for help and offering to pay me to do so. As I developed my practice over the past five years, I learned a lot about what is most useful to families, and what is sometimes hype.

Help for Busy Families – Maintain Harmony 

First and foremost, most parents are busy. We are working full time jobs, parenting, home upkeep, and then trying to squeeze very time consuming school search. A good school consultant will help by (1) narrowing down the list of schools based on your goals, and (2) focus the essay writing on the most efficient process. 

School Selection. There are so many private schools in the San Francisco Bay Area that it can be difficult to choose. Consider that a school tour, when you include commuting, parking, and waiting for the last of the questions to be answered, can easily take half a day. And if you narrow your list by choosing the most popular (read lowest acceptance rates), you increase the risk of not matching. Yet if you apply to schools you wouldn’t want to attend, what’s the point in that? A good school consultant will focus the search on a well rounded list of schools with a range of acceptance rates. The schools on the list will all have curriculum that match with the family’s needs, whether that be a gifted-friendly option, math acceleration, social emotional learning, a progressive curriculum, a traditional curriculum, budget, location, or whatever is most important to the family. By narrowing the list for you, the consultant can save you massive time. 

Parental Essay Writing. A typical private school will require parents to write a handful of essays, some of which overlap between schools, and some of which do not. A quality consultant will support the parent to focus their essays from the outset to to address the main criteria for admissions in an engaging style. A productive collaboration will also be efficient, so that the essays are developed in a sequence that saves time. For me, that process heavily relies upon Google Docs, and jumping on the phone when helpful, as well as working sequentially through the topics.

Student Essay Writing. Students applying to middle and high schools usually must write application essays. The essays must be in their own voice because the schools all take a proctored writing sample, either at a proctoring center or at the school itself. This may be the first time the student has written this type of essay, and often is difficult to get started, drafted, and edited. By using a consultant, a family can keep their relationship with the student harmonious and avoid the bristle of a teen or tween hating feedback from their parents. 

Interview Preparation. The last area that is particularly helpful, reviewing key points for the interviews, and discussing what are the admissions teams looking for so that the parents and students can bring out these aspects from their own backgrounds. It often feels like a black box when you start the private school process, but in reality, the admissions teams do have specific goals and criteria that can be addressed during the interview. A mock interview can also reduce stress on the big day.

Two Household Families. For divorced and separated family, an independent consultant can often provide unbiased advice on the best school for the situation. The consultant can either work for one parent to provide background behind the scenes, or for both parents to help reach a compromise. Given that family courts will rarely force a parent to pay for private school, working with an independent consultant can increase the chance of a negotiated solution.

What A Consultant Cannot Do

No consultant can guarantee admissions. While a great application can increase odds of admissions, there are too many things outside the control of the applicant. Some examples: the composition of the sibling/faculty-child pool, the teacher evaluations, and the child’s social presentation at the school. Furthermore, students who have special needs may have different outcomes, due to the ability or inability of schools to meet those needs. In my experience, with the same consultant helping families such that the essays and interviews are of equal quality, there is a range of acceptance rates due to these factors. What a consultant can do is optimize your acceptances by perfecting your application and recommending a well-rounded school list, so that you are not at risk for the factors that you cannot control.

To fully support parents, a consultant should limit the number of clients to offer sufficient time to each family. No consultant should take on so many clients that they cannot reply in time. Our experience, when my elder applied to middle school, the consultant provided him feedback on his essays -- the day after they were due to schools. Given students attend school during the daytime, the consultant who works with students must provide that feedback during after school or weekend hours and at least a few days before the deadline.

Summary: The Role of a K-12 Consultant 

A consultant can help you craft your school list to be sure of a balanced list offering a match of services with the student and parent’s interests. A consultant can also review all admissions materials, in particular student and parent essays, to help focus them to each school’s admissions goals. A consultant can directly work with your child to brainstorm, draft, and edit their own essays. The consultant can provide feedback on whether the essays read as genuine and how to shine during the application process. 

Want more input on K-12 schools?

Vicky consults with families to help select, apply to, and communicate with public and private schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Vicky maintains a principle of non-judgment. Hourly, VIP, and Season packages include a discussion to review school options, applications, essays, and key decisions. Vicky offers a limited number of packages each year to assure her availability. 

Vicky’s own children have attended both public and private schools, and have received both accommodations and curriculum changes; her elder is in high school, and her younger in middle school. New clients can email to learn more about her services, or see her website to learn about her packages.

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