Some go beyond school for college counseling


During first semester, seniors take on a part-time job—applying to colleges. They must balance academics, extracurriculars and the added pressure of getting accepted into one of the schools on their Naviance list.

Many turn to college counselors, who can assist with essays and the Common Application.

Ian Grimes ’14, who meets with a counselor at Freudigman and Billings, an education solutions group, said he has received helpful information.

“They set up a good plan to get you where you want to go,” he said. In addition, they helped Grimes complete his essays by September.

“It’s really helpful to have a schedule—it motivated me to start earlier in the summer,” he said.

Freudigman and Billings and Andover Prep did not respond to phone calls regarding the role they play in the college process.

Another Freudigman and Billings client, Valerie Fitton ’14, said she found her counselor’s approach to her essay to be one of the biggest advantages of receiving help.

“You start with freewriting about topics of interest,” she said. “You fit the question to the freewrite instead of the other way around. It’s kind of a backwards approach.”

Grimes said his 15 pages-worth of freewrites yielded his main essay.

“My tutor said one of my ideas was original and there was some sort of message that could be brought out of it,” he said.

Tommy Reinhardt ’14 and Justin Donlon ’14 cited flexible deadlines as one reason they chose to forgo a private counselor. Donlon said he utilizes his school guidance counselor instead.

“It’s crazy when you hear about kids whose parents spend thousands of dollars on specialized college services,” Donlon said.

Reinhardt said he refers to his English teachers whenever he has questions or wants his essays reviewed.

Heather Colletti-Houde, a member of the English department, said many students have asked her to read their essays, including those with tutors.

“I generally start off by asking if they’re working with someone else,” she said. “I don’t want to confuse them with my comments and waste their time when they’re being given adequate feedback by someone else.”

James D’Amico, the head of the social studies department, said he does not see a problem with students receiving advice from counselors, but raised concerns about when counselors influence a student’s course selections, aimed at improving a student’s chances at getting into a specific college.

D’Amico said there has been an explosion in registration for classes such as AP Government and Politics, which went from having one or two sections a few years ago to 10 sections this school year. Students in Junior State of America, a political activism group D’Amico advises, have raised concerns about this obsession with AP courses.

“Some students fear it’s turning into a system of have and have nots,” he said. “They felt students were taking any course they wanted if they could afford a tutor for that class. I just hope kids are getting good advice from their counselors. We want to fill our classes with students who want to be there.”

Colletti-Houde said she understands the appeal of having a counselor, especially for parents who are going through the college process for the first time, but said they can only do so much.

“You could put a ribbon on and dress up cubic zirconia in the most beautiful packaging, but it still isn’t a diamond,” she said. “You could have the best college counselor in the world, but if you’re not ready to go to Harvard, you’re not going to Harvard.”