Tutoring, College Admissions and Counseling

There are literally thousands of websites with valuable information on the college admissions process, if you include the individual college websites. An applicant should definitely look deeply into the college websites of the schools applied to as well as considered. They have valu-able statistics on average SAT scores, average GPA, demographics of admitted students, including where they come from, race, religion, and the percent earning scholarships. There are video tours, photos, information on staff, administration, faculty, programs off shore, and many other things. Any school that warrants your consideration deserves several hours on their website.

Your own high school typically has a website with valuable informa-tion including Naviance previously mentioned, which will show you the profiles of students from your exact school in relation to many colleges. High school websites will also offer some scholarship information not available on national databases for local awards, which can amount to a great deal. These high school websites should also be looked at when selecting high schools, of course.

I cannot possibly review all the other websites that are commercially available for test preparation, college counseling, essay advice, student opinions, financial form help, etc. I will, however, list the websites that we found valuable with some editorial comments on each one.

SAT/ACT prep:

1. This free site is important especially with the new SAT, which is supposed to level the playing field for stu-dents who cannot afford private tutors. They claim that watching their videos will be as good as a private tutor. Maybe close, but not equal as far as I can tell.

2. This is an old standard test prep site which is still good with interactive live sessions, videos, cram sessions, and more.

3. A paid site which is quite comprehen-sive and with a long track record. They also offer private tutoring, admissions help, and homework assistance.

4. This has links to free Khan academy videos, registration info, the ability to establish your own account to review test scores.

5. In our city there were at least twenty private services with test prep help. Just use and search ‘SAT prep.’ Many of these have ratings which usually cannot be trusted, especially if there are few ratings. The best way to select from your local services is word of mouth and interviews. That is what we did.

6. We used this service. It was online

Skype-based private tutoring. There is a flat fee and Harvey guar-antees you will get the score you want if you are willing to put in the time, take enough tests for practice and take as many real tests until you finally succeed. It’s the only service I am aware of that makes this guarantee. He also was a previous admissions officer at Dartmouth so he gave us some good advice on getting into elite schools as a bonus. I would advise starting early with him and having the patience to plod through the lessons and tests. Since it is one-on-one tutoring I think it’s better than group lessons or video instruction.

7. This service offers a customized program depending on budget and goals. They also have their own data-base of average SAT scores for each school. Please note when I say SAT I am also referring to the ACT. This service exclusively does SAT prep as opposed to many others who offer other services like homework help, subject test prep, AP test prep, etc. Keep in mind that when you use an online service, even though you may have a live tutor on Skype one-on-one, you do not have peers in a class with you or even in the building. This is a big disadvantage. As anyone who has gone through graduate school or a university experience knows, you learn at least as much from your peers as from the professor. Subtle distinctions, collaboration, motivation,
peer pressure, etc. This is the fallacy behind online education in general. Yes, there are online community bulletin boards or the like, but it’s not the same as flesh and blood peers any more than Facebook friends are the same as real in-person friends. Still, this is one of the best online programs I have seen, and we did try it. The tutors are good, the tracking system is good, and with the right student it could work. A good online system like this is better than a poor class and live tutor so choose carefully.

8. This is an online system that is full service and offers some unusual items like near-peer mentorship (men-tors who are close in age and experience to your student), seven year med coaching, college application coaching, essay editing or coaching, test prep, and even mental health coaching. They advertise carefully screening their tutors and mentors and have an impressive, mostly Ivy League staff with a national organization. There is an excellent blog and articles on a number of subjects. I believe on occasion you can work with your tutor or mentor in person as well. The parent can be very helpful in screening all these services for your cub. There are simply too many demands on a high school student to digest all this information so that is where their team comes in. As an adult, you also have the maturity and sophistication to judge one service versus the other. I remember

spending many weeks interviewing the various local choices we had for SAT prep. We interviewed, in person, five of them locally since at the time the online offerings were not as robust. Now they are and Collegevine is one of the best. Please keep in mind that the descriptions I offer here should not be thought of as a substi-tute for your own investigation or examination of their websites. That would be a mistake. There are also many others that you can explore that are not listed here. These services change quality, staffing, and tutor availability regularly, so be careful. For example, we had a strong local service that I described in this book which hired many tutors and coaches to handle all their business. They can be very variable and are almost never as good as the principal of the company, but some are better for certain things. These
decisions can get tricky and this is where adult supervision and involvement is key. Many of these services advertise certain point increase guarantees or averages. This can be misleading, is largely a marketing tool, and cannot be verified. The point increases are usually calculated from their baseline test which can be much harder than a typical SAT so the baseline appears lower and your increase (for their stats) appears higher. Caveat Emptor. This is big business. It is not unusual for these national or even local ser-vices to be making millions of dollars in profits. The industry is changing from the mom and pop shop to big corporations. When big money is on the line you must be especially aware of what is claimed. That said, a good national online service can be great, and better than a mediocre local tutor, even if the tutor comes to your house. There is an online adult service called the Teaching Company (also called the great courses), which offers a series of college level courses on audio or video taught by the best college professors. Essentially you are exposed to the top professors who are voted by their peers and students as great teachers. Many are at Ivy League schools. I have taken several of these courses and they are almost always fabulous. I do not mention them here for your high school student since they do not have time in most cases, but the same screening method is now being offered by test prep companies like Collegevine. This is one of the amazing things that the internet brings to education, so use it if you can.

9. They offer online and in person one– on-one tutors starting at $63/hr. They claim to hand-select their tutors. We used them briefly. The tutor they provided was not that helpful, but maybe it was the luck of the draw. This is still a service worth looking at. Some services will provide bios of their tutors, which are worth looking at in order to screen who you want to interview. Frequently however the best tutors are booked months in advance since everyone wants them, so the earlier you start and the more due diligence you do, the better. Tutors are very important, especially one-on-one. Without the tutors we were lucky enough to find,Max would not be where he is today.tests and read the results explanations this is by far the best way to prepare for a standardized test in my opinion. Many Ivy League students will tell you this. This is easier said than done. Make sure you use a manual that has actual past tests in them rather than the company’s own questions. It’s always best to practice on the real thing. Max has stacks of these manuals in his room, which I can’t bring myself to throw out. Opening them now shows his notes, previous practice test attempts, and folded pages. This is real work. The other services I mentioned above are essentially hand holding guidance since the great majority of students need this. Yes, there is the benefit of learning from peers, but the most efficient time use are these manuals, assuming your student can do it and not get distracted by the internet and so many other things.The outside services (for SAT prep, AP test prep, high school work help, mentorship, college counseling help) are becoming a much greater component of a good student’s education since no brick and mortar school (even private ones) can provide the level of personal attention a tutor can. They fine-tune the curriculum laid out by the school and fit it to your student. Some of the best tutoring services are not even advertised on the internet! They don’t have to since they have more than enough business by word of mouth. This was the case for the one we used—Hamilton prep. Although they do have a website they don’t show up on a general search. Being critical about tutor selection and use is good train-ing for your student since it will prepare them to be critical when selecting other services to hire in the future.

10. Huffington Post calls this service “perhaps the best test prep program in the country” and I agree. We used them for many things. Mr. Hamilton, the CEO, is an former UCLA professor who is passionate about teaching, highly intelligent, and offers a number of services. They have a large whiteboard as you enter the building with their recent college admissions and they produce many perfect SAT scores. The peer group is amazing. You feel like you are entering an Ivy League school. I don’t believe they offer online services, however, but if you happen to live near them, I don’t see that there is any other choice. When we were looking for test prep and college counsel-ing advice they were just starting out so we did not know how good they really were. We actually interviewed Mr. Hamilton at his house on the weekend. I frankly don’t know how he handles everything he offers and unless you purchase the highest level college counseling service you may not have much one-on-one contact with him, but still consider them.

11. Test prep books. Barrons, Kaplan, ACT, the college board, all offer excellent test prep manuals year by year. They offer manuals for all the AP subject tests and courses. They are essential. If your student has the focus, discipline, and motivation to carefully go through these manuals, a few pages at a time, take the sample

12. Flashcards. There are many offerings for flashcards which we used extensively. They are an excellent way to learn and fun on top of that. Flashcards are best for vocabulary or any fact based knowledge.

13.Apps. There are many apps you can download for free although some charge a nominal fee. They can prompt you daily so you can use your free time when waiting in lines or during the commercials when watching Breaking Bad, etc. It’s a different medium. As

Marshall Mcluhan famously said, “The message is the medium.” The more mediums you can use to learn, the better and the more likely you are to succeed. Flashcards, online classes, live classes, tutors, and peers all contribute. Think holistically and use all of them if you can.

14.TV series. We used a TV program called SAT prep which had a number of good lectures at various levels. This of course does not
substitute for all of the above, but adds to it. It’s a familiar medium to many students, so easily palatable. Use everything. The more of your senses that you engage, the more variety in your modalities, the more people you interact with—all contribute to success. Of course you can’t take or use everything. Choose based on your student’s personality, budget, and willingness. Remember nothing works if you won’t do it.There are many other services you can look up, which may be better suited to your individual needs so please do not think this is all there is or that these are necessarily the best. The best is what works for you. The best is what will motivate your student to dig in and do the work. You cannot use all of them although you may have to try a few before you get it right. We tried several.

College Ranking Help:

This is somewhat different than the above category in that their pri-mary focus is determining the differences between various universities as opposed to test prep. There is, of course, overlap, and many test prep services also offer college counseling, essay editing, etc., but I have always felt that it is better to use a company who specializes in one thing rather than many. Some of these sites offer college comparison surveys, which can be useful, but you must be careful. Many times surveys are based on metrics that may not apply to your specific needs. For example if the graduate school quality or number of Fulbright scholars is not something that interests you as an undergraduate then the rankings and comparisons will be skewed. College ranking is something that is actively gamed by the institution to attract more applicants so their admissions rate goes down, which increases their ranking. This can lead to more money for the school. Ranking is a general indication of college worth and no more. That said, you have instant recognition if you attend a name school with a high ranking for whatever that is worth to you. Ranking is one of the college values we talked about earlier.

1. College ranking edition. This edition makes a lot of money for the magazine and is the most referenced rank-ing list. There are many other ranking lists like, which ranks according to student metrics as opposed to difficulty of admissions and other metrics used by Similarly, uses student polls with over
200,000 student inputs.
2. Is the college worth the price? This is the main
question answered here. They primarily focus on student satis-
faction, graduation rates, student debt, earnings of graduates, and career success.

3. This is another student-based ranking system based on the best study abroad programs, campus food, dorms, and more. Worth looking at.

4. has a good article by Malcolm Gladwell on the trouble with college ranking systems.

5. has a similar article and take on this flawed system. Whenever there is money involved (and you can be sure money is involved in ranking systems) there is bias, political influ-ence, and lack of objectivity, which as a consumer you must take into consideration.

6. has a similar jaded view of college rankings with good articles. Perhaps once you read several of these articles you will be less influenced by college rankings. Keep in mind that most people are like sheep to the slaughter when it comes to college rankings and are passively influenced by them, use them to guide applications, and build their egos on where their school fits in. This is a very easy trap to fall into and distracts from what should be your student’s main objective—to attend a school that is most appropriate for their individual needs, values, and goals. Sounds so simple, but this is rarely done and even more rarely done right. It’s so tempting to go to Harvard, for example, just for the bragging rights your entire life, even if you are miserable there. I have noticed that Harvard graduates frequently ask me where I went to school (hoping I will ask them).

7. is an alternative site that focuses on worldwide schools and breaks their rankings down by country. There are many good universities offshore, most of which are considerably less expensive. 8. Also a worldwide approach. Keep in mind that many of the above ranking systems also have a world-wide ranking list.

9. Even they weigh in on college rankings. You will see Ivy League schools on all these lists consistently, although there are several others that achieve higher rankings than Ivy Leagues do. If you can figure out all these ranking systems and compare one to the other, you are more intelligent than I.

10. makes a list of the top 50 and takes other ranking systems into account. With so many ranking sys-tems, you get the idea that there is money involved in creating and marketing the ranking systems.

11. There are ranking systems that focus on individual sports, indi-vidual countries, earnings after graduation, campus quality, dorm quality, food quality, and almost any other college characteristic you can think of. Again, this is why your individual goals and values are vital to narrow down your choices. There is really no other rational way to choose.

12. This is worth looking at since it focuses on ROI which is rarely discussed for some reason.

13. another money-oriented ranking system

14. is a site that allows you to build your own custom ranking list very much like the value system I propose. does the same as does, which has an interac-tive spreadsheet. does the same.

What do most students do? If anything they glance at U.S. News rankings and decide by the seat of their pants or by a whim. Then when the admissions letters start coming in they have a defined group to think deeper about. This is such an important decision that time spent on it will pay off not only for four years but for a lifetime. Why don’t they teach this skill in high school? Again, I believe I have made a dent in this discussion but you can take it much deeper as you should. We did not do this as well as we could have, did not look at many helpful sites but more importantly did not do a formal values hierarchy. This was one of our mistakes.

College Blogs and Other Helpful Sites

These are generally informal sites that focus on high school student opinions of a host of issues. You can enter two or more schools and compare them to each other. This can be useful once you have narrowed down your lists. We used them frequently.

1. offers side by side comparisons which we found very useful. There are many tools on this site, as well as ongoing blogs about everything you can imagine. Too many cooks. Given there are about 4000 schools in the U.S. alone, imagine being able to compare any two side by side. The number of comparisons is enormous as is the database.







There are many more sites. Who has the time to look at all these— nobody! Most, however, look at some of them but usually in a shallow way. The two characteristics that separate humans from every other living being is 1) the ability to communicate so well and 2) the ability to proj-ect into the future. These sites help with both human qualities and are extensions of our very nature. Before the internet it was much harder to gather this kind of information, but successful people do this all the time. Take advantage.

Scholarship Sites:

This book is not primarily focused on how to pay for college, but any book like this would be incomplete without mentioning this imperative. In many cases paying for college is a rate limiting step that dictates where you should apply and ranks #1 in the family’s value hierarchy. There are two kinds of financial aid—merit and need-based. The big money aid comes from each university so look on the individual college sites for that. Ivy League schools offer no merit aid, only need-based, which can be quite generous if you qualify. How to qualify is quite a large subject and not the primary subject of this book, but well worth investigating and doing so years in advance. I will list sites that I found useful in this regard. Some are specific to certain demographics like scholarships for veterans, certain religions, state wide scholarships if you live in the state, and every imaginable category. I will not list these as they can be found in the guidebooks which are readily available. Please do not consider this anything close to a comprehensive list of sites. That would easily double the length of this book. I hope to whet your appetite for this subject, nothing more. These are sites we used.

1. This is a comprehensive site that boasts over 1.5 million scholarships to choose from. You can set it up to receive regular emails that tell you about scholarships as they pres-ent. There are other services offered like career advice, college search, plus much more. You could spend years on this site alone. There is so much money available for college today, it’s absurd and there is almost no reason to pay full price if you have the patience to wade through all this, even if your family can afford to pay. My experience, which matches that of many other families, is that a student is most motivated to apply to all these scholarships while still in high school. Once in college, they seem to lose interest in this aspect of their education, unfortunately. It takes a very organized, dedicated student to keep track of individual scholar-ship applications on top of everything else they are doing once they get to college, and it’s not like they have nothing to do in high school either. Some college students have written books on how they earned millions in scholarship money by systematically going through these sites, keeping on top of the applications, and carefully selecting which ones to apply to. In my opinion the time spent on scholarship applications is much more cost effective than getting a job for $10/hour in the dining hall. This is true even if you only are successful five percent of the time. I also think that a student who can navigate the scholarship maze is showing that they understand the value of a dollar and will likely be very financially successful in the future. This is my opinion and not based on any study. The kids with the eye of the tiger in regard to money will maintain that trait. I knew several fellow students like that and they are all multi-millionaires today. It’s just a matter of focus and priorities. Nothing magical. This is kind of a litmus test for future wealth if you ask me. There will never be an easier way for a student to earn money than they have right now—as a high school or college student. Try to motivate your student to understand this and take advantage of it. I have to admit I have not been successful doing this with Max. He seems content to rely on the Bank of Dad at least so far. I am sure this will change.

2. Another massive site that also has a section on loans and grants. Keep in mind there are many schol-arships offered all along the way in college and beyond. Again, motivation, organization, grit, and perseverance. That’s all it takes. The trick is doing this at the same time as doing all the other things in college—academics, athletics, fraternities, lectures, events, and everything else the Disneyland that college education has become. When you start looking at all this money being offered and all these sites, you wonder why anyone pays full price. It seems to me that a focus on money skips generations. In other words, if the parents always pay for everything since they can afford to, the children in that family seem to be less interested in money. Then they might not do as well financially so their children become interested in money. Every other generation. Of course, this is a massive generalization with many exceptions, but I have seen it often play out like this. In some ways, like I mentioned earlier in the book, growing up with money can be a handicap insofar as developing financial knowledge and focus is concerned. Perhaps another book is in order—Tiger Dad and Money: How to Teach your Cub How to be Wealthy.

3. They offer millions of scholarships, schol-arships by major, sports, state, and any other categories. Makes my mouth water. Unfortunately the parents cannot complete these applications for their child. Many of them require essays, personal statements, and access to all kinds of data. This entire area is something we neglected although we did give it a try, and Max did receive some merit money as I mentioned before. We were so focused on the admissions process that there was not enough time for this, or we were not organized enough for it. The game is still not over however. Note: Many of the sites (if not all of them) that I mentioned in the other resource sections have advice and sites on scholarships that are very good. Please don’t ignore them.

4. lists government sources, which may not be listed in the commercial sites. When I hear college students or high school students complain about not being able to pay for college I think, “Are you kidding?” Just open your eyes. If you are not willing to do the work, you will not get the money—big surprise. It’s not a matter of luck; its real work so dig in.

5. Books like the Ultimate Scholarship Book, Confessions of a Schol-arship Winner, Debt Free U, Winning Scholarships for College, Free Money for College for Dummies, Scholarships 101, How to Submit Winning Scholarship Applications, and many more. There are far more books on scholarships than there are books on how to get into college in the first place! What does that tell you?? There is a lot of money out there for the asking. So what are you waiting for?

6. Apps for scholarship searches are also available. The best one, in my opinion, is Scholly. Very handy. You can enter your specific qualifications and background information and viola—your list with links to the application. How easy can it get? As I said before, no reason to pay full price.

7. There are individual consultants that do nothing but help you navigate the scholarship maze. You fill out a simple questionnaire and they have ways of optimizing your search and even apply for you. One I like is

8. This is a comprehensive site available since 1995 which is easy to navigate, has many subdi-visions. Given the plethora of sites, how do you choose? I would recommend spending about three to four hours just browsing the various sites and deciding one or two sites to focus on. Once that key decision is made, then spend several days drilling down on these sites to choose your target application goals. Take into consideration how many awards the individual entity offers and how large the awards are. Also, think about how involved the application is. For example, if a scholarship gives away one $500 award per year and they have 1000 applicants, don’t waste your time. You are not likely to win this. If the application is lengthy and difficult, this may be an advantage since most students will pass it up. It’s just like choosing a career in a way. The professions with the highest entry barriers (like medicine, requiring much time and work) may be hard to get into, but once you are in, you are set. The jobs with the easiest barriers that take little training (like working at a fast food restaurant, which can train you in about five minutes) may be easy jobs to land but lead nowhere. Hard is not necessarily bad. Cross check this with the number of applicants if that information is available. Some scholarships will not print the number of applicants on their website, but that information can be obtained from the large scholarship directories in manuals. This kind of strategy will very much increase your odds. There are so many scholarships offered these days that there are many who have no applicants!! It’s your job to find those and be the only applicant. Just like applying to the Ivy League. If you don’t apply, you won’t get in or get the scholarship.

9. They list some off-beat scholarships not listed elsewhere. Worth looking at. Many of these scholarships go unclaimed as I said before. When they’re awarded, there can be lavish presentation ceremonies complete with press coverage. If won early enough, this can help with a college application. It always looks good to the admissions committees to have won a merit scholarship. It shows initiative. An obvious conclusion after even a casual look at the scholarship landscape is that this takes a lot of time, focus, and commitment. Most students will not do it. It’s the same concept as outrunning the grizzly bear in the woods. You just have to outrun your competition. Just like in real life.

10. Another comprehensive site. Of course there are duplications in many of these sites, which is why you should spend some time selecting the sites to concentrate on.

11. They list the top fifty scholarships. I have no idea how they arrive at this but these scholarships are for large amounts and therefore have many applicants.

Other Miscellaneous Helpful Sites:

1. This is a paid site that I found very useful. You can see what real students needed to get admitted. There are actual profiles of real students with their full essays, GPAs, SAT scores, schools applied to, admitted to, and more. How much better can it get if you want to see your chances of getting in and hearing the thoughts of the students who did. Again, studying success can help you model others to achieve the same.

2. This provides help for essays.

3. This is primarily a database for shared student essays. Good for ideas.

4. Elite college admissions counselors who claim five out of six of their clients get into one of their top three choices.

5. This is a very deep college admissions service with many levels of service, some of which are expensive. They offer updated, almost real-time blogs, and if you start with them early (ninth grade) you will have a distinct advantage. Some of these exclusive private coaching services can cost almost $1000/ hour.

6.,,, More of the same but if you can afford this kind of expertise then look at all of them. Some have refund guarantees, others have lawsuits against them, and prices vary wildly. Is it better to hire a remote counselor like this? In my opinion, no. Not only can it be very expensive, but the time spent with them is time not spent on other activities. Also, local counselors who meet face-to-face are better and that is what did. We were not in a position to spring for this much money. Perhaps if I was a multi-millionaire or billionaire I would think differently, but the same principle applies here as does with private schools in general. You cannot just write a big check and delegate this. The parent must be involved every step. Yes, you can use consultants, but the tendency to hand the whole matter to the consultant (especially high priced ones) is strong. This is counterproductive from my experience.

7. This is a site with reviews on many compa-nies including college-related ones. Of course, you could always just Google the company name/reviews and look for the indepen-dent ones not just the ones posted on their own websites.

8. This offers middle of the line college coaching.

9. has an admissions calculator, free resources, test prep, and grad school admissions prep. These calcu-lators are rough guides at best. Several sites offer calculators. People seem to like this kind of simplicity. It’s kind of like the lifespan calculators you can find online—put in one or two characteristics of your health and out pops the age when you will die. It’s absurd.

10. This federal site has a wealth of information and is independent 11. provides data on graduation rates for colleges. This is better than getting this info from the individual college website since it is objective.

12. is great for homework help, even last minute.

13. gives great information on over 150 college majors and where they can lead.

14. Great independent website.

15. has more than just test scores including scholarship search, planning etc.

More comments on scholarships

A student and their family must be extremely organized and willing to put in the time for these scholarships and frequently you can be suc-cessful. We spent any months doing this and did have some success. As the second half of the senior year progresses and especially during college itself many students drop this lucrative activity since the student has other seemingly more important responsibilities. In my opinion, a student must have some skin in the game and participate in one way or another with paying for college rather than rely on the Bank of Dad. The ones who do pay for their own education probably make more money in life. There are also apps that can screen for scholarships you may qualify for. Just search the app store for these. I have not included an exhaustive review of scholarships in this book, either merit or need-based, except to make some general comments. However, please do not assume that I do not think this is important. The general attitude your student has in regard to money, self-sufficiency, earning their keep, independence, and managing their assets are extremely important lessons in life. Unfortunately, this is severely neglected in today’s high schools and colleges. Why? This must be taught by the parents, mentors, or self-taught by the student themselves. Sometimes it seems as though some students are born with this instinct and others just ignore it. They all want to make a lot of money; they just don’t want to bother doing the planning, making the sacrifices, or doing the work necessary. Books like Think and Grow Rich and many others in the same genre are so valuable but ignored. It must appear to many students that accumulation of money is by good luck, a good stock pick, or inheritance. How wrong they are. A subscription to money magazine or Forbes might be in order starting in the ninth grade but the main influence is that of the parent—what they themselves do and how money is approached when your child is young. The Rich Dad, Poor Dad series is well worth looking at.

I have just scratched the surface with the above list. Please do not infer that I endorse any of these sites, although I did know about them and use a few. A good approach would be to peruse these sites and others over one or two weeks and try to determine which ones are appropriate for your child and budget (time, money, and energy budgets). If you want to ask other students which sites they found valuable, be sure and ask successful students only. See what they did and model it.