Are you considering working with an admissions consultant? If so, you are probably discovering that there are significant differences between firms, and wondering how to choose the best match for you. Here are three crucial questions to ask before hiring an admissions consultant.

  • Do you have admissions experience?

As a former Associate Director of Admissions at Tuck and a former member of the Dartmouth Undergraduate Admissions Committee, I adjudicated thousands of applications and had significant input into the application process and class composition. Many consulting firms employ people who have gone to great schools, but who have never sat on an admissions committee. These consultants may not even know WHY they were admitted – it may be in spite of their essays, for instance, not because of them!

I suggest asking whether the consultant that you will be working with has actually reviewed applications, and made admissions and scholarship decisions. Were they involved in drafting the essay, interview and recommendation questions, and do they understand what the admissions landscape looks like across schools? If not, how are they going to be able to help you develop a nuanced and effective strategy?

  • What makes a client a good fit for your company?

I absolutely turn away clients who are not a good fit, but perhaps not for the reasons that you might think. Specifically, I am happy to work with candidates who aren’t “perfect” from a profile perspective. I do not reject potential clients because of low test scores or grades, or non-traditional experience. Despite this fact, 96% of my clients have gotten into at least one of their first choice schools, and they have been offered more than 4.9 million dollars in scholarships.

In part, this is because I do screen for fit – which means that I am looking for people who are motivated, who want to create applications that truly reflect their unique voice and leverage their strengths, who are resilient, self-aware and able to talk about the less than ideal aspects of their candidacy. Of course, we also need to be in sync about the ethical aspects of our partnership – for example, I won’t write anyone’s essays.

  • Will I work directly with you?

I really love what I do. I work directly with all of my clients, and want to make sure that your application process is as pleasant as possible. It’s truly critical that you feel comfortable with your consultant. Make sure that you know who you will be working with, and that you understand what to expect in terms of access, response time and communication.

I also suggest speaking with former clients and reading reviews and testimonials. Working with a consultant is a big investment. It’s important to make an informed decision, and to find someone you trust, with the expertise to help you achieve your goals.


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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
North Star Admissions Consulting