Private counselors: an inauthentic advantage

Imagine a world in which it’s normal for your nation’s youth to lay down legal tender just to boost their chances of earning acceptance into the school of their dreams. Oh, wait.

Come senior year, many students—especially those in environments as competitive as Diamond Bar High School—have already been working to mold their profile with private counselors because it’s become apparent that any edge counts in this Darwinian process called college admissions.

These mentors perform a variety of services ranging from matching clients to internships to making copious edits on college essays. Some even influence the student’s school search by steering each student toward alternative top colleges populated by a lower percentage of their demographic. Under advisers’ instruction, hopeful young people can be molded into the exact type of applicant most coveted by whichever institution they’re aspiring for.

The prevalence of college counseling culture is on the rise, so it’s important to consider whether the products of this new industry, one whose revenue relies on the American atmosphere of cutthroat college competition, will truly be up to par.

With college counselors on call to tell students which classes to take while ushering them toward corresponding internships, they are stripped of the opportunity to showcase genuine initiative and merit of their own. In fact, as a receiver of such pricey services, it’s likely even their scores were attained with the help of preparatory courses.

 If a student gains acceptance to Princeton as a result of being tugged in all the right directions by a professional who knows how to play the system, how can anyone—parents, schools, even counselors themselves—be sure that this is a school in which he really belongs?

Some counselors, of course, are not involved to this extent. They simply help a student put together an application that highlights strengths while minimizing weaknesses. They work to ensure the student manifests an attractive personality in essays and says the right things during interviews. But even this is inauthentic to what they themselves can do.

Meanwhile, low-income students without access to such resources are left in the dust, overshadowed by the peers who can rely on this sort of help. Counselors at public high schools often engage with hundreds of individual applicants, each with unique desires and circumstances, and are thereby unable to provide the level of guidance appropriate to those who need it most—especially as students from less affluent households are also less likely to have college-educated parents to turn to.

Opposing opinions insist it is ultimately a student’s ability that secures an acceptance letter, regardless of outside counseling.

But if that’s indeed the case, then there is all the less reason to cough up a small fortune for this private guidance, whose effects could be replicated through the efforts of students themselves.

If somebody cannot compose a sufficiently appealing profile by their own hand, they will be unlikely to thrive at those universities that would accept them only for the false persona they’ve created. Once on campus, there will be no parental pressure and no more post-acceptance counseling to rely on.