As a parent, you want what’s best for your kid, especially when it comes to their college education.

If you have the means, you may be considering getting them some extra help to prepare for college. This help generally falls into two pools — private college consultants and standardized test tutors — and it can be costly. The question on most parents’ minds when they’re looking into private college prep is, “Is it worth it?” Here, parents who’ve spent extra money on the college admissions process reveal what was worth the extra money.

“We outsourced the hounding.”

– Bernice Hernandez

College Consultants

Bernice Hernandez hired a private college consultant for her son for a total of $5,000. Working with the student as early in their high school career as possible, the consultant assists in building a résumé, choosing extracurricular activities, planning essays, selecting schools and identifying colleges with specialized programs tailored to the student’s interests and needs.

A rising senior, Hernandez’s son has been working with a consultant since his sophomore year. Overall, she’s glad they made the investment. He didn’t want much family involvement, she explained. “We offered him these resources so he wouldn’t be left hanging out there with something that would be too big to manage on his own.” In essence, Hernandez says, “We outsourced the hounding.”

In his junior year, Ginley Regencia’s son moved to a large public high school from a small international school. Regencia feared he might not get the attention he needed. They chose a private college counselor who offered à la carte services to explain the admissions process, help generate a list of schools, talk through the decision-making process and evaluate their son’s test scores. The fee was $800.

She discovered a significant improvement in the communication with her son after hiring a college counselor, which she found very worthwhile. “For us, the counselor helped the conversation [about college] with our son, because [he] was not really forthcoming with what he wanted,” she says.

Standardized Test Tutors

Regencia also hired a private math tutor, recommended by her private college counselor, to meet with her son the summer between his junior and senior year. The tutoring was $65 per session and she estimates her son saw the tutor six times, for a total of $390.

“My son thought the tutor was really helpful,” she says. And financially, it paid off as well. His initial ACT® score was 29. After a summer of tutoring, he achieved a 32 on the next test, which made him eligible for a $20,000 per year scholarship, which he received for all four years of college. Without the tip from the private counselor and the test strategies from the private tutor, she’s not sure her son would have achieved this huge financial win.

Similarly, Suzanne Waite’s son sought to improve his ACT score to achieve a merit scholarship. Waite used a $70 Groupon to send him to a nationally franchised test prep center for testing to evaluate his opportunities for improvement. The package also included a few hours of tutoring. She paid another $700 for 10 additional tutoring hours in math and science.  

Waite’s son retook the test in the spring and earned an extra point. “It was definitely worth it because the higher score resulted in $3,000 more per year in scholarship money,” she says. She does admit that he may have been able to increase his score by studying independently, but says the extra test prep and tutoring gave him a lot of motivation and accountability.

Hernandez chose a full-service testing and tutoring company for her son’s ACT and SAT prep, which cost $4,500 in total. “His ACT scores went up a couple of points,” she says. “It’s hard to know how much the tutoring helped, or whether it was because now he’d taken Trig[onometry]. I know that he wouldn’t have prepped otherwise. But that’s still a lot of money.”

If you’ve decided to invest in supplementary college prep, the bottom line is that there is no perfect amount to spend. You have to do what’s right for your child and what works within your family’s means. There’s a possibility you could spend just over a thousand dollars to save $80,000 on tuition, like Regencia. However, some expensive college prep can be replicated by a combination of a motivated student and dedicated parent. You’ll have to evaluate your kid’s needs and decide what you’re willing and able to spend to figure out what college prep is right for your family.

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