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University counselors in high schools have a difficult and crucial job, helping each of their students get into the universities that will be best for the students. They know the high school’s track record with universities and have a lot of valuable information for students and parents.
Most international schools in Singapore such as UWC or SAS will have a counsellor who works with students to help with their university applications.
Given such readily available results (and already covered by their tuition), one might question the need for external university consultants – such as us.
There are many ways in which an external counsellor can help with your university application journey.

Advantage #1 – More tailored school shortlisting

In a given high school, only so many students will be admitted to a particular university.
Georgia Tech, Cornell, or Stanford might typically only take one or two students from your school each year.
As a result, your school counselor will probably recommend different universities to students who are not at the top of the class, and they can get a bit conservative in this process.
Some of the students I work with show me the school lists recommended by their school counselors, and I often find that three to five of the schools are too safe and not a good fit for the student.
It’s great to have a couple of very safe options out of a list of ten, but you still want to be excited about your safe schools. And actually, there are many other universities your school counselor could be happy with, if you only know to suggest them.
Working with an external consultant can help you improve your school list in a couple of ways:
  • We can recommend slightly safer options that are still excellent programs you would want to attend (and that your school counselor would be fine with), and
  • We can also help you build your profile so that your school counselor has more faith in your admissions chances.
3 Unique Advantage of External University Consultants

Advantage #2 – Individual attention for resume building

You might start working with an admissions consultant in 9th or 10th grade, so that by the time you reach 11th grade, your school counselor will be impressed by your profile and will advocate more strongly for you.
When we work with applicants, we can tell them early on:
  • This volunteering is great, but the end result is currently just this one-time event, which is fun for the students but it doesn’t target their actual needs; let’s push this to help the beneficiaries more by offering them ongoing support beyond this event.
  • The initiative you have now is strong, but let’s explore expanding this program to other schools or countries.
  • Since you’re not doing a sport, you really should be doing a performing art (or vice versa).
  • Since you’re not doing any activities that could lead to international awards, it would be good to add some research with a university professor, or work experience with this amazing start-up that will allow you to take on a lot of responsibilities.
  • Your non-academic profile is generally strong, but you’re really struggling in Math, so let’s try adding some IB tuition classes to boost your grades before it’s too late.
 It takes several months, a year, or more for us to help applicants make these improvements to their profiles and identify their X factor – what makes them stand out.

Advantage #3 – Flexible timeline and number of essay revisions

Many school counselors don’t have a lot of interaction with students in 9th and 10th grade (the 2 years before JC or IB); admissions consultants can really help make recommendations that will set you on an advantageous path going forward, so that you don’t have problem areas or missed opportunities by the time you start working with your school counselor.
You also might need more support than your school can provide. Your school counselor may not be available during the summer breaks, which might be a good time for you to get ahead on your essay drafting. On the other hand, if you procrastinate and come to them at the last minute, they may offer very limited support.
Admissions consultants who limit the number of applicants they work with can be a great source of support, especially during times when your school counselor is not available.  Students we work with often want to get a lot done during their summer breaks, and we work with them year-round according to their individual schedules – whether they want to get tasks done early or come to us for the first time just weeks before their deadlines.
Relatedly, we are often able to exchange many drafts of essays, and I find it best to work on an unlimited basis so that we keep revising until an essay is where it needs to be, even if that takes more revisions than expected.

External consultants – from my experience

I went to a top 20 US high school, and I greatly value the support my school and school counselors provided me. But the best advice that helped me eventually secure admission to every Ivy League school I applied to came from someone outside of my high school. My friends had similar stories – in their cases, the guidance came from admissions consultants. In my case, the guidance came from my father, and it started from 8th grade.
I didn’t succeed at everything he suggested, though I tried. I wasn’t cut out for the sports he recommended, and I wasn’t excited about the sciences. But we worked together until we found the activities I did feel motivated to improve and excel in – interests that helped build my identity and led me to create opportunities for others. And ultimately, I was able to show universities how I would contribute.
Overall, the journey to build one’s profile and apply to US universities is complex and different for each person. Having an advocate who can provide additional customized guidance is not essential, but it can certainly make a significant difference in helping students reach their full potential.

Wondering how to improve your US college application chance? We can help!


Every year, consultants from Prep Zone Academy works with hundreds of students from both local education system and international schools to help them get into the college of their dream. We provide a host of comprehensive services, ranging from school shortlisting to profile improvement & essay correction.

If you want to see the Prep Zone difference, sign-up for an individual consultation with our top consultant today – it is completely free of charge for first time student, no commitment required! You can use this session to clarify any doubts you have regarding the application process, or to get an expert’s opinion about your current school shortlist and application success chance.

Simply fill in the following form and we will get in touch to arrange a suitable consultation slot!

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Tiffany L

Tiffany L

Tiffany earned degrees in East Asian Studies and Law from Harvard and UC Berkeley. She studied abroad at Tokyo University, published articles in several law journals, and interned at Warner Brothers Studios and the Writers Guild of America. After gaining experience counseling non-profits in Berkeley, she worked for California law firms specializing in restaurant law and video game law.For the past several years she has enjoyed teaching and advising applicants on their applications to diverse programs, and her track record includes LSE, Cardiff, Bristol, Manchester, Cornell, NYU, Emory, Tufts, and Columbia.

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