Choose a private high school at random and ask them where their students go to college. Chances are they’ll be quick to tell you.
Private high schools often have excellent college placement records, sending their alums to top colleges and universities across the country year after year. So what’s the secret to their success?
One factor that might not immediately come to mind is how college counseling tends to work at private high schools. Throughout the application process, private school students receive a different kind of guidance than their public school counterparts – and it shows in the results!
Here’s what private schools do to put their students at a college admissions advantage – and how you can level the playing field.
Finding the Right Student-to-Counselor Ratio
You’ve probably heard about student-to-teacher ratios. The idea, of course, is that when teachers have fewer students in their classes, each student gets more individual attention and ends up learning more.
The same principle holds for college counseling. In fact, in the case of college counseling the situation is even more extreme because it’s not uncommon for a school to have a single counselor for all college-bound students.
According to data from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), public high schools routinely have student-to-counselor ratios as high as 1000-to-1. This despite the fact that the American School Counselor Association recommends 250-to-1 as a maximum student-to-counselor ratio!
At private high schools, it’s a different story. Each counselor is assigned to fewer students, and student-to-counselor ratios are sometimes as low as 50-to-1.
For students, these numbers have real implications. Students at schools with lower student-to-counselor ratios (which are disproportionately private schools) receive more individualized guidance and are at an advantage in the college admissions process.
Too Many Students, Too Little Time
To see why student-to-counselor ratios are so important, consider one simple mathematical fact: the more students a counselor is responsible for, the less time they have to meet with each student.
A 2005 report commissioned by NACAC found that the average college counselor spends just 38 minutes with each student. That’s right, a typical student will see their counselor for 38 minutes altogether over the course of four years in high school.
Getting to know a student, giving them useful college advice, and putting them on the path to admission all in the span of a 38-minute window is a pretty tall order. And if students only get 38 minutes, you can guess how much time parents get – no wonder the average school counselor never discusses college admissions with parents!
By achieving lower student-to-counselor ratios, schools that beat the average (again, disproportionately private schools) give their counselors more time with each student. For students, that translates into more guidance, better guidance, and better college admission results overall.
Private and public high schools differ in terms of how many students each counselor is responsible for and how much time counselors spend with each student, but there’s still another difference between the two kinds of college counseling programs: at private schools, counselors spend much more time on college counseling specifically than at public schools.
NACAC’s data reveals that at public schools, counselors spend just 22 percent of their time on college counseling on average. The rest of their time goes into other responsibilities like high school academic counseling, teaching and academic testing.
At private schools, counselors have more time they can spend on college counseling specifically. In fact, 55 percent of their time is dedicated to college counseling.
To put it another way, counselors at private schools spend almost three times as much of their time on college counseling as counselors at public schools.
That’s a stark difference. It means that counselors at private high schools are specialists in college admissions – exactly what you want when you’re looking for someone to guide your child through the college admissions process! Counselors at public schools, on the other hand, devote only a fifth of their time to college counseling and find themselves juggling multiple responsibilities.
Moreover, public and private schools tend to have different requirements in how much training their counselors receive. A mere 32 percent of public high schools require their counselors to participate in professional development – and only a third of those that do cover the costs.
On the other hand, 54 percent of private high schools require professional development, and a full 70 percent of those cover all costs. The takeaway is clear: private schools invest in college counseling, and they get a return on their investment – stellar college admission results.
Besides having fewer students to manage and more time to spend with each student, then, counselors at private schools are much more focused on college admissions, and they undergo professional development to make them more effective at their job. All of these factors come together to make the college counseling experience qualitatively different at private schools.
Put all these numbers together and private schools sound like a pretty good deal, right? Lower student-to-counselor ratios, more time meeting with counselors, and counselors who are more specialized in college admissions – what more could a college hopeful want?
There’s a catch, of course. It’s a catch to the tune of $21,000 a year – because that’s how much your average non-sectarian private school costs. Or, to put it another way, that’s a whopping $84,000 over the course of four years of high school.
Private school college counselors come as part of a very expensive package. Private schools have lower student-to-counselor ratios than public schools because they can afford to. After all, $21,000 per student per year goes a long way!
This situation leads to a natural question: is there some way to get the private college counseling experience without having to attend a private school? It turns out the answer is yes, and that’s where ThinkTank Learning comes in.
Leveling the Playing Field
At ThinkTank Learning, we believe that every student deserves the same opportunities. You shouldn’t have to come up with the cash for a private school education to give your child a shot at his or her dream school.
That’s why we’ve created our new College Admissions Success program. The idea is that every student, not just those in private high schools, should have access to individualized, in-depth guidance from a college admissions specialist.
For only $200 a month, we’ll level the playing field by giving you your own private college admissions counselor who will keep you laser-focused on your journey to college. This process begins as soon as you join our program – we don’t wait until senior year to start looking ahead to college.
Too many school counselors are flooded with students. They have hardly any time to spend with each student, and with so many job responsibilities, college counseling only gets a fraction of their attention.
ThinkTank Learning’s College Admission Success program makes sure your child gets the attention and guidance to become competitive for top colleges. Counselors at public high schools are so often overburdened, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take your fate into your own hands with private college counseling.
Private schools aren’t the only path to college success – by signing up with ThinkTank Learning, you can gain immediate access to a personal college counselor and a ticket to your dream school.