College Admission Advisors

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi, We are looking for recommendations for a private college counselor to work with our 9th grade child who attends an Oakland public high school and has a strong interest in Drama - ideally checking in once or twice per year on classes, grades, interests and then additionally more specific college suggestions to look at / research by 11th, and finally the addition of essay / application support by 12th grade. We are in that category of don't make enough to afford private high school, but make too much for aid when they graduate go on to college, but our child is a pretty good student and could use just some guidance, suggestions, support - and likely will listen to it better from someone who is an expert in this area as opposed to us. We want to support his interest in Drama, but also want him to use his strong academic skills to have a back up major for work with decent pay and benefits to help support himself while pursuing his passion. Any good recommendations publicly or privately are appreciated. Thanks .

    My recommendation is that you and then your child read "The Price You Pay for College" by Ron Lieber. Completely eye opening about how to position yourself for college financial situations, get the best offer, etc.

    My worry about getting a college counselor now would be making your child too stressed about college as a 9th grader. But if you have a very chill/motivated kid, maybe it works. But the book is really great, so no matter what, read it first!

    Hi. I wanted to demystify the "we make too much to qualify for aid" in private school but but enough to afford it. We thought the same thing-- but it actually doesnt work all on disposible income to qualify. We have 2 kids in competitive private schools since preschool and both receive a pretty substantial financial aid. One is in a HS with tuition over 50k but 75% was covered. I wouldny discount it until you apply. If you want to discuss our experience (weve done sss, nais etc so were familair with the platforms) you can DM me.

    One of the things we really like about the Private schools -- HS is the college advisory but we have also been doing this type of planning since our kids werr in elementary school. Theres a lot of informatiin out there if you know where to look and happy to discusd that as well.

    We felt entirely fortunate for the opportunity to work with Maya Kobashigawa ( for our HS class of 2023 daughter, who was accepted into 95% of the colleges on her list (some with generous merit aid), including the UC's - Cal, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Davis. We absolutely believe that in the competitive UC environment Maya made all the difference when it came to getting into UC Berkeley.

    Beyond being a genuinely caring and kind person, Maya REALLY knows what she is talking about! She skillfully guided our daughter through the application process, had great conversations with her about her academic and artistic goals, and worked with her to help her craft an application that stood out to admissions departments and garnered top tier (and affordable!) acceptances.

    I wish we had known about Maya when our daughter was in 9th grade, because she took so much of the stress out of the process! Kudos to you for looking ahead!

    We believe so strongly in Maya's ability to make a difference that our younger son is already working with her, and we are 100% confident that she will be able to guide him to reach his goals as well. He already feels positive, and unlike some of his peers, not pressured about college, knowing he has someone to help guide him.

    I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Maya to anyone who is serious about balanced, thoughtful and ultimately successful assistance for their student's college application journey. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have through pm.

    I highly recommend Erica Hernandez erica.hernandez [at]  She's worked with both my teenagers and she's great.

  • Would appreciate any referrals for people you would recommend.  My son is a high school sophomore and we need guidance on how to maximize the possibilities now as well as the whole application process down the road.  Experience with the UCs would be a big plus.

    I found Barbara Harris through BPN. Her style worked well for my son who is decently motivated and has a pretty laid back personality. She charged reasonable fees and always answered questions quickly. Barbara was very kind and didn’t push her own agenda, she was good at reading what worked for my son. He got into his first choice school. In hindsight, he probably would have gotten in with or without the help of a consultant but having Barbara’s support along the way made the process so smooth and relaxed.

    Erica Hernandez is wonderful. She's helped both my children and has extensive experience with private and public colleges in CA and other states. erica.hernandez [at]

    If you are interested in the UC's, I cannot recommend Maya Kobashigawa enough! Her knowledge on the UC's is incredible and she tailors the consultation to your student. We met with Maya when my son was in 10th grade and left our consultation with a solid academic plan for the rest of high school and with the knowledge of what to do to strengthen my sons resume. Highly Recommend!

    We used Rebecca Field and really liked her. She also has expertise in college disability centers with kids with neurodiversity issues (autism, ADHD, learning disorder). Our kiddo has ADHD and Rebecca really bent over backwards to help our family.

    I highly recommend Maya Kobashigawa - She helped our daughter during high school and is wonderful! We worked with Maya for years and first met with her when our daughter was a freshman. She helped us map out her academics and focus on her strengths/interests to help build her resume – a critical part of college applications that I know really strengthened my daughter’s application. She also had really great advice about essays and helped us navigate the entire admissions process from beginning to end.  And if you are looking for someone with extensive UC experience, definitely reach out to Maya. Our daughter is now a senior and was just accepted to UC Berkeley yesterday. We are thrilled and very grateful for Maya’s guidance!

  • We are looking for a private college guidance counselor for our child (freshman)who is interested in Computer Science. We understand this is a highly impacted major and would love to hear feedback from anyone who may have used counselors that helped guide their high schoolers, particularly for Computer Science. Thank you!

    Since no one has responded yet, I just wanted to say that there are many great college counselors listed here on BPN, and you might want to start by reaching out to a handful to see who might be willing to take on a student so early in the planning stages. Since most college acceptances have rolled in it's a good time to be in touch, or you could wait until January when applications are all in. Either way, you are smart to do so, because CS is indeed an impacted major at most universities and early planning will certainly be key (along with excellent grades, EC's and all the other things that go into making an applicant more appealing). You might also want to check out the College Confidential forums for CS - there are several, for advice. Good luck to you!

    You are wise to think about this now when your son is a freshman. I recommend Maya Kobashigawa at UC Consulting, mayakobash [at] (mayakobash[at]comcast[dot]net).  My son and I met with Maya right before his senior year, and I wish I had met with her earlier when my son was a freshman.  She knows what colleges are looking for, especially the UC’s, and I imagine she will be able to guide your son or daughter on what he/she can do, especially with such a competitive major, like Computer Science. 

  • Although we are still a few years away from the college application process, I'd like to meet with a college counselor to ask them a few questions.

    Does anyone have suggestions for a good college counselor?

    Thank you,


      I highly recommend Nicole at On My Consulting  Nicole helped my daughter narrow down which colleges she should apply to and helped her meet all her college application deadlines.  When the acceptances came in, Nicole helped my daughter choose the college that was the best fit.  Nicole was a good advisor and gave great guidance throughout the whole college application process.  

    Rebecca Field Consulting has been GREAT with my not-so-organized kid!

    Try Sally Doane at Blue Sky College Advising.  She helped my son figure out what he was looking for in a college.  She also did an amazing job coaching him to write his essays.  She was motivating and empowering for him to take charge of the college application process. 

  • My daughter completed her freshman year at a private college, took a gap year during the pandemic, and is now re-thinking her college pathway. She is still enrolled at the private college but is considering transferring to a UC or CSU. She's pretty confused at this point about what she wants and how to get there (and also feeling demoralized, TBH). I just looked for college coaches in the archives, but most of them seem to be admissions counselors as opposed to someone who can help her identify her goals and what kind of campus might be a good fit and provide some guidance on the transfer process. Any recommendations? 


    My daughter is working with Lea at lea [at]

    She spends a lot of time exploring interests, passions, and aptitudes with students. Then looking at schools and programs that might be a good fit. 

    Good Luck!

  • I'm contemplating hiring a college admissions counselor to have conversations with me, not (yet) with my son.  He'll be a 9th grader this fall and I don't want to stress/burden him with the whole college deal just yet.  However, I do want to get our ducks in a row from the start.  I want to talk to an admissions counselor who will give me excellent advice on how to make strategic choices throughout the high school years (not just starting junior year).  Has anyone out there ever done this--hired a counselor to talk to you, not to your kid?  If so, who do you recommend?

    Hi AlamedaMama,

    I spoke with Wendy Morrison to get oriented when our son was in 11th grade and things really start to move around the college process. I found our conversation(s) to be very helpful. She was available for hourly consultation which I hadn't found with other college counselors. I should let you know in advance that her orientation is about supporting kids in doing what they are passionate about and is authentic to a student and not manufacture a CV to strategically plan what will get them into college much less the Ivies. That said, I found her very helpful in explaining the pre-college journey, timing, current standardized testing expectations, etc. Best of luck to you.

     wendy [at]
    (510) 384-5962

    Hello AlamedaMama,

    Having my second child going through the college admittance process currently as a senior, I can say it's a great idea to engage a counselor early on for strategy and advice, particularly with regard to high school course selections related to your child's potential college aspirations.  Agree that you don't want to stress your kid out, but knowledge about the process early on will enable you to better help guide him along the way.  Then when it is time for him to engage with the counselor around end of sophomore or in junior year, you will already have a good relationship with him/her to build on.   I can highly recommend Kindra Sampson for college counseling.  She was extremely helpful to us for high school course planning, college selection and understanding early on how to navigate the process.  She does a great job of helping the student come to decisions about colleges that are a good fit and ensure that the the student has a good balance of schools that are safety, target and reach.  I learned after my first child applied to colleges that it's so important that they set reasonable expectations but of course they can have dream schools in the mix too.  Kindra also does a great job of helping seniors complete their college applications and give advice on college essays; she will work with them to generate ideas, then assist in the editing process resulting in strong essays.  Some counselors prefer not to help with essays, so we found it very nice to find someone who does both. In particular, we learned this year that essays are more important than ever, since many schools are test blind and only have grades, rigor of courses and extracurriculars to make admission decisions.  With all her acceptances now in, we are thrilled that our daughter is choosing between UC Berkeley and UC Davis.  We believe that her excellent essays along with high school course planning had a lot to do with it, and of course consistently working hard through grades 9-11.    Good luck!

    kindra_sampson [at] 

    mobile:  510-502-2695

    We hired Barbara Harris as a college advisor and were very happy with her flexible approach.  We didn't start working with her until just before my kid's senior year, but she gave me great advice at that point.  Later, she helped with our kid's essays. I would recommend her as a good resource for whatever you're looking for to do with making a good college choice, and increasing your chances of ultimately getting accepted, which is as you point out partially a function of choices made throughout high school.

    Contact: harriscollegeadvising [at] 

  • College admissions advisor

    Nov 28, 2020

    We are looking for a college admissions advisor for our 11th grader. We do not want a full-package deal from someone who walks them through the whole process. Rather, we would like to find someone who is paid by the session/hour to advise at various stages throughout the process, specifically with helping come up with a list of suitable schools and to point out weak spots in his record/ECs that he can work on strengthening now. Would especially love to find someone familiar with Berkeley High and specifically the IB program.

    My daughter is in 11th grade at BHS (AC), and we're using Sharon Rudnick. She's hourly and really great. sharon_rudnick [at]

    Look no further than Elaine Chan, EMAIL: elainechancollegeadvising [at]  Here is her  Elaine worked with our son since 11th grade.  He is a BHS AC student (a current senior) but I know she has worked with students from the IB program (and music/arts students) as well.  Elaine knows Berkeley High inside and out.  Her two children graduated from BHS and she has volunteered in the College Career Center and the Y-Scholars on top of working as an advisor for many Berkeley/Albany families.  Elaine is super flexible, knowledgeable, personable and dedicated.  She will help your son at any level you need from coming up with various colleges to consider/visit, advising on meaningful summer experiences (that might be interesting for your son not just random ideas), essay brainstorming and editing if you like, filling out applications etc....  If you decide part way that you need more or less, she is flexible.  On a side note, Elaine was our second college advisor.  We had someone different for our older son and it was much more rigid and expensive.  If I had a quick question to ask Elaine, she would get back to me as soon as she could and NEVER complained or charged me extra for those moments, like other advisors will do.  Yes, she will work hourly or otherwise, it depends on what you need.  Every family is different and Elaine understands that.  My son was finished with his applications by November 3rd - way ahead of the deadline. Although you didn't mention this as a requirement, Elaine was able to connect with my son in a way that made him feel comfortable sharing what he thought about different schools and programs so that the list they made together wasn't about us but about him.  She was great and I highly recommend Elaine without reservation.  My last word of advice, contact her now b/c she fills up quickly!  :-)   

    We worked with Wendy Morrison on an hourly basis to come up with a list of schools for our daughter. Wendy also helped her with the UC applications. Our daughter was in Berkeley High's IB program, and Wendy is very familiar with BHS teachers and programs. She was great. Good luck.

    Our son (senior at ECHS) has been working with Amanda Burke at Classroom Matters ( and it's been a really good experience for him (and us). She has been primarily helping him craft his essays and personal statements but has helped with other areas of the application process. We set it up so that they met for 1 hour long sessions on a weekly basis but the schedule is completely flexible. I would absolutely recommend giving her and the CM team a call.

  • I am seeking recommendations for a college counselor for my son, a high school freshman. He is gifted and advanced in math (finished high school math curriculum in 7th grade) and also loves computer science, physics, and chemistry. He is at a private school for kids who love math, so he already has plenty of opportunities to learn college and graduate-level math. Aside from good grades and great piano playing skills, however, he has no extracurricular activities. I would love advice from a college counselor re: how he can best position himself to apply for the most challenging colleges for math geeks, including Cal Tech and MIT. 

    Many thanks in advance for your suggestions.

    Unfortunately, even the most brilliant math student is unlikely to get into top US colleges without stellar extracurriculars. Would your son consider applying to college in the UK or Canada? College there tends to be more focused on your major, and admissions also are focused on how good you are (as demonstrated by tests) in your chosen field.

    My son is a first-year math student at Cambridge University, one of the top places in the world to study math. In high school, he had sky-high SATs, excellent grades, had already completed most of the college math curriculum in high school...but didn't have impressive extracurriculars. He applied to 10 selective US colleges and got into only one (a UC). However, he also applied to 5 of the top UK universities and got into all of them. 

    An additional bonus: college in the UK is way cheaper than here. My son's 3 years (for a BA—he can stay a 4th year for a master’s) at Cambridge (which is one of the two most expensive universities in the UK), including room & food, will cost about the same as it would have to send him to the University of California (as an in-state student!) for 4 years, and way way less than it would have cost to send him to a private university in the US. And he absolutely loves Cambridge, and is delighted that he never again has to take a history or English course! All his classes are either math or theoretical physics. Good luck to your son--I hope he finds a college where he can continue to explore the wonderful world of math!

    Hi. I'm new here but saw this question and since went through this, thought I'd add my 2 cents. We just recently used Barbra Harris and honestly she was a godsend for us. This was our first experience in going through all this but she was so helpful and patient with my son who like yours is really strong in STEM (top scores, high gpa) but not much on the extra-curriculars find some amazing college choices, places I'd never heard of as well as some big names. Bottom line he got in ED to his first choice which was a reach. I think where she really helped him a lot besides keeping him on track was in helping him write some essays that honestly I never thought were in him, as he is not a writer. Feel free to contact me if you need more information.

  • I have a high school Senior who needs a little help with her college applications, essays and making last minute college decisions.  Anyone know any counselor that is still taking Seniors that is willing to work hourly?  

    My son got excellent help from Amanda Burke at Classroom Matters. She helped him identify what he wanted from college, helped him find students and graduates from his top choices to ask questions of, helped him find his voice for essays and applications, and instilled confidence in him. It really made a difference for him (and he got in to his first choice college via early decision!).

    He was "late" getting started (many of his friends had coaches starting the previous spring), and CM is super affordable, which allowed us to have money for college, not just coaching.

    Good luck!

    Try on Solano Ave. My daughter worked with Jennifer there at the last minute (two years ago). Jennifer was a big help and had excellent rapport with my daughter. My daughter was able to fill out her college apps completely by herself and on time after Jennifer's guidance.

  • We are Looking for an experienced college consultant for my child who is currently a sophomore to assist with college selection and eassy editing in the near future. Any recommendation is greatly appreciated as we are new in the area. Thanks a lot!

    We were really impressed with Barbara Harris of Harris College Advising. My daughter was having trouble narrowing down her list of colleges. Barbara helped her figure out what was important to her and gave her a whole new list of colleges that made a lot more sense. My daughter was also stuck on her essays. Barbra helped her rethink them and turn them into something my daughter was really pleased with. I also noticed that my daughter's stress level went down a lot and now she is excited about her choices. After looking around I found Barbra both affordable and responsive which was really important to us.

  • College Admissions Counselor

    Sep 20, 2018

    Did your child work with a college admissions counselor that you loved that was involved for the whole process?  We were advised that in our son's case, we need to find one.  He was out of school ill for 1/2 a year, and has some low grades, as well as high test scores and mostly high grades, and anxiety and possibly ADHD.  Thank you for any recommendations!

    Hi There - I highly recommend Debbie Davidson and her folks at SF Admissions Advisors. Their website is - good luck!

    My daughter had a wonderful experience with Jennifer at My daughter found Jennifer helpful and easy to talk to. That said, my daughter was not working on the Common App, just UC and CSU. My daughter was accepted at the campuses she would have gotten accepted to with or without a college counselor, but having Jennifer took me out of the application process and got things done on time, which is what we wanted.

     I highly recommend Melissa Masland in Lafayette.  She started working with my son in  January, she has been beside him every step of the way. My son is an average student and he was recently excepted into the first two schools he applied to.  My son is happy and eager to go to his sessions with her, she has provided us with a lot of guidance that we truly appreciate. 

  • Our older son just got into several of his top state schools.  We are still waiting to hear from the UC's.  Our youngest is another story. He's very ambitious and will most likely be applying to schools on the East coast as well as to Stanford and UChicago.  We are looking for someone really special to help him narrow his list and help him write his college essays.  He's a top student but is not sure what direction he wants to take in terms of a major. He is also a very nervous/perfectionistic writer, takes hours just to write a sentence.  Can anyone recommend someone to work with our son on the college process.  We also need to know whether his ACT/SAT's are strong enough or whether he needs to take them again.  Recommendations welcome!  Thank you!Submitted anonymously on Jan 3, 2018

    Elaine Lotus Chan would be an excellent choice to help narrow his list and work on his applications.  She has worked with all types of students.  She can tell you which schools you might want to apply to based on your son's ACT/SAT scores along with other factors. I know she helps with the essays as well.  Tina Boyer is a fantastic writing coach.  She works with kids on their essays and personal statements.  She was amazing and really helped my son take ownership!  James Eno Tutorials down on Milvia helped my son decide whether to focus on the SAT or the ACT and then helped him improve his score by a ton!  Good luck.  We have just finished the process and now wait to hear back! 

    I highly recommend Jamie Keller, of LearnWithMe for help with college essays.  My son, a senior, isn't a strong or confident writer.  Thus he kept putting off his college essays, not knowing what to write about, or how to present himself to stand out at the competitive UCs and private liberal arts colleges he was applying to.  After just a session with Jamie, I was struck by the energy and focus he had found for the first time in his attempts at essay writing, and which he applied to incorporating her suggestions into his writing process. And when I subsequently read his UC and Common Application essay drafts, they were night and day above his initial version.  Impressively, Jamie didn't have him use her words or narrative, but somehow found a way to calm and motivate him, to pull HIS voice and HIS story out and put on paper in a compelling, personal and convincing way.  My son not only enjoyed working with Jamie, but the experience boosted his confidence about the broader college application process, and in his ability to show his best self.  Jamie was very efficient and flexible working around a busy senior's schedule, and was able to successfully counsel over Skype which was key as we live on the Peninsula and couldn't get over to Berkeley for in-person counseling.

  • I'm not looking for someone to help with college application essays, which seems to be the specialty for which most posters ask.  My daughter is 21, three years out of high school.  She didn't go to college or prepare to do so when in high school, but now is interested in possibly testing the waters at a community college, perhaps by taking a class or two first.  I know we can probably call some of the community colleges themselves, but it's summer, and I doubt my daughter is will to deal with voicemails and transfers to "someone who might know."  I'd like to find someone who has worked with late bloomers and who has experience and knowledge about paths other than traditional high-school-to-a-four-year college.  If such a person also knows about certificate and training programs, it would be a bonus.

    There's a course at BCC (Berkeley Community College) that focuses on just this. It's often recommended for high schoolers (at least St BHS) who aren't sure whether college is the right path for them, but would of course be appropriate for those beyond HS. I don't recall the name of the course; something about determining your life path or some such. Our child didn't end up taking it so I can't comment on the quality, but just putting out a suggestion to possibly look into it. I recall that it helped introduce careers (or college majors) that folks might not think of on their own. Best of luck. Our daughter did her first years at community college and then transferred to a UC; she wasn't 100% sure that college was "her thing" before going.  Best of luck. 

    Community colleges are open in the summer. Your daughter will be able to make an appointment with a counselor. In fact, this is usually required in order to be able to register for classes. Not sure that will help her decide what she ultimately wants to do though. Maybe try the book What Color is my Parachute? Or - she could look through the catalog and find a class or program that interests her and start with that.  Now is the time to sign up for fall. My son became disenchanted with school in high school, went to cc for a year for Outdoor Recreation Leadership, acquired many employable skills, then took a semester off traveling / volunteering / working, then took the EMT course, but has now decided to work on a transfer degree and become a teacher. I am seeing that he needs to work up to managing a really full time academic courseload somewhat gradually. Quite happy not to be paying 4 year college tuition as he finds his way. CCs rock.

    She should find her passion.  I was a late bloomer. I took a lot of temp. jobs while trying to figure out who and what my purpose was. Have her read what color is my parachute, and start from there. This land is full of many opportunities. Good luck!

    The best thing you can do is enroll her in one or two classes that she would be interested.  Whatever you do, don't have her sign up for Statistics or Organic Chemistry!  Look through the coursebook at any of the Peralta Colleges and pick the most interesting class.

  • Our son is very nervous about applying to college and so are we. Neither my husband nor I went to university in the states.  We only have a vague idea of what my son will need to do to get into college.  He's a strong student but sometimes struggles with his writing.  Most likely he will major in the STEM field.  We are looking for recommendations for a college counselor who can point us in the right direction and calm our nerves. We need help with college choices, but probably mostly with the essays he will need to write for the applications.  Thank you for your help!

    Call Terry McClure, he is a very skilled, calm, patient and experienced counselor. I highly recommend him: 510.3847383. 

    Mom of 2 now in college boys

    Tami Uecker (tamiuecker [at] helped our kids navigate the application process; one was accepted to USCB and the other at a small private liberal arts college, with a scholarship. Tami works with students over a two year period, as juniors and seniors, and helps with deciding which colleges to apply to, writing essays, how to handle interviews, etc. If your student wants to attend a Cal State University or a UC, the process is very straightforward and he/she won't need much help. If they are applying to private colleges as well, it can get complicated -- and unfortunately it is important to apply to quite a few colleges. Good luck!

    I want to applaud you for realizing that you need help here, and for being willing to pay for an expert to guide you. My parents were not from the US, and had never gone to college (just not common in their country, although they were both well educated and in white collar jobs), and just thought they could do it themselves. Wrong. We were all very unrealistic about the opportunities available and clueless about how to seek financial aid. Both my brother and I suffered needlessly and had very bumpy paths into and through college. I look back and ask myself, what were they thinking? Help was available. Adult life got off to an rough start that could so easily have been avoided by seeking advice well in advance. Good for you. 

    Hi there Nervous Parents & Teen!!

    I can highly highly recommend Tami Uecker (tami [at] She was a respectful, calming professional who was inordinately helpful to my son in his college quest. He also had a few "remarkably useful" (his words) sessions with one of the writing tutors that she recommended he connect with. Everyone's situation is different, but personally I hate the ramped up pressures that seem to be the norm in the college application process these days. Remind yourselves and your son that there is no perfect choice, that transferring out after a year or two from where he starts out is not a failure, but can be an absolute gain (my older son ended up being accepted at many of the schools he was rejected as a freshman). Tami is knowledgeable, enthusiastic, professional, helpful, kind - has Been There, Done That with her own children - and most of all will reassure and help diffuse much of the negativity surrounding the whole process. Good Luck, Take a Deep Breath and Hang in there!!!

    Highly recommend Wendy Morrison, wendy [at] .  She really took the time to understand my daughter and what types of college environments she would thrive in. My daughter is also interested in a STEM career but wanted a friendly place for undergraduate. She is very knowledgeable about the entire process and about all of the types of colleges in the US.  She has even visited many of them herself. She does not provide essay services but will refer you to a great organization for that. And, she inspired my daughter to get straight As in her junior year (something I was not able to do for her freshman or sophomore years!). Thanks to Wendy, my daughter was accepted into her first-choice school and I had almost zero stress during the application season.  (This was my younger daughter; with my older daughter I didn't think to hire a counselor and the stress was horrific for everyone.)

    Hello. I recommend Bill and Lana Walley of College Tuition Assistance. Bill and Lana focus on finding schools that are the right fit for your child based on area of academic interest and personal preferences. My daughter worked with them and it made the college application process much less stressful. They have a team who will work with your student to help them craft their essays. Here is the link to their website
    Good luck!

    Hi Ana,

    I highly recommend Jamie Keller. My son worked with Jamie Keller when he was applying to colleges. As Jamie put it, and she is so right! he came to her with a term paper, and came out with at thoughtful, honest and beautifully written essay. Writing was often a grueling process for him and he had difficulty working with people on it. But Jamie's way with him was terrific: relaxed, very positive and supportive and yet she helped him to see that he needed to make major changes to bring out his personality in his essays. He's very happy at Caltech now. 

    Here is Jamie's website:

    Good luck!

    Hi, Stress during the college admission application process is quite normal. We were under similar situation. We took help from Percy and Livia at admissiontix [at] Both of them advised my son professionally to meet his needs for admission. We were very happy with their services. I would highly recommend them. Thanks. SCS

    Hi there,

    Both my middle and eldest son have worked with the same writing coach, Cole Filipek.  My eldest was quite stressed during the college application process and Cole helped ease a lot of pressure.  He was available, communicative, and he helped my oldest produce quite remarkable essays.  He also works with my middle child whenever he has an essay due for his Core classes.  

    As a writing coach and college counselor, I could not recommend someone more highly!

    His email and website are cole@filipektutoring and

    Good luck!


    I would highly recommend Hays & Phillips:  I know them from the private school they used to work at. Paul Hays is the epitome of calm, experienced and knowledgeable. He was a wonderful guide through the college application process. I’d feel very comfortable recommending them.

     Hays and Phillips College Consulting sounds like a perfect match for your son.  

    Paul Hays and Wendy Phillips are a perfect team.  Before opening up his own consulting business, Paul worked as a college counselor at an East Bay private high school.  He has an in-depth knowledge of the full range of colleges and universities across the world.  Wendy taught English at the same school and has an incredible ability to get kids energized about writing college essays that are meaningful to them and that convey their distinctive personalities.  But even more importantly, Wendy and Paul both are amazing communicators.  They love working with high school students and know exactly how to make them feel listened to and cared for.  They also have a great senses of humor, which is so important in helping to defuse the anxiety and tension (for parents, too!).  Our family couldn't have survived the process without Paul and Wendy.  They kept us all on track with the gauntlet of different test deadlines and application choices.  And were willing to talk on the phone and help work through important decisions that led to a very happy outcome for our daughter's college choices.  Give them a look!  Here's there website link:

    We had a pretty remarkable experience with Lesley Quinn ( She doesn't do the whole college admission coaching process, she just works with essays, but we were amazed at the writing she got out of our college-bound son - they were definitely his words, but she helped him craft them up to professional level.  She also kept him on schedule (an impressive feat) and kept him enthusiastic about the writing (which is hands-down astonishing, because he is a science geek). As someone else noted, she is pricey, but, if you can afford it, it's hard to imagine someone better. Our second kid is coming up (gulp) and we know for sure we'll work with her.

    Jamie Keller (jamiekeller1 [at], 510-524-8697) helped both of our sons with their college essays and everybody was pleased with the results (one got into UCLA and the other into Harvard). She is patient and reassuring, helping each young person find his or her own voice and emphasizing the importance of telling a story through the essay process. We highly recommend her.

  • Our high school 10th grade student will have several college selection options. Seeking a consultant who can assist in the college selection process, test preparation, essay writing assistance, etc.. Any recommendations? 

    College Track Counseling:

    There are many to select from (it is an ever popular field that many from other walks of life have entered because it can be quite lucrative given charges can go as high as in excess of $5,000 depending on age of your student and what is needed. Have you googled East Bay or San Francisco Bay Area college counselors?  There are also high school academic counselors that run a private business outside their school days. We have not decided and in fact we just purchased an online do it yourself very robust program that includes much of what you say you want and a whole lot more through College Success Formula (out of Dana Point, CA). They offer free monthly webinars on hot topics for those preparing to enter college. At the end of each webinar they make an offer of some type of discounted membership. I passed a couple of times. Last weekend I invited my skeptical husband (a lawyer to boot) to listen in while I took notes. He was the first to agree we couldn't pass this up. But, you have to not mind doing some leg work (i.e on the internet that is). It's all there just have to plug through it. And yes, your students gets the SAT / ACT test prep course with video tutorial as well!  OK. if that doesn't suit you (I'd give them a call and sign up for next month's free webinar - you will get a nice discount if you can wait till then), here are some folks we met with either from a flyer sent out by our school district or by referral. 

    College Planning Solutions - Ayden Masudi (Founder) - Pleasanton (by Stonebridge Mall) 925-223-6369. Free initial 1 hour consult

    College Money Pros - Dan Evertsz - San Ramon 925-452-4067 or 866-552-4006 (our Trust attorney used him and her son went to an east coast private school where ALL expenses including room and board totaled around $90,000 for one year, and all she had to pony up was $10,000. Yes he had good grades and test scores but even though mom and dad had healthy income, he got merit scholarship money. Best opportunities for free or almost free college are private schools with large endowments. Some are small lesser known schools - doesn't mean they are not good schools. Don't let your child end up like that of the other post that selects a school of 45,000 students where he/she can't have a chance to make connections with a professor which is a huge part of a successful college career. Good things come in small packages. Many schools are huge. Hard to get past that if geography is a factor. Must look to see if the school aligns with the student's interests and that will be an area these professional college planners can help. They know many of the schools.  Maybe you can hire them to consult just on the school selection. Some work by the hour as well as pay by the package.  You will have to ask. One more source is College Planning Foundation in Dublin - 855-372-3422. I have had no contact with them but we recently got a flyer in the mail. I am surprised you are not getting flyers as well. They "farm" areas where they believe live college-bound kids.  Good Luck

  • We are looking for a private college guidance counselor for our son and have received a few suggestions. Has anyone used Erika Coplon or Emily Grey Goldman (Grey Guidance for College counseling) for college counseling services? Would love to hear feedback from anyone who may have used either counselors. Thank you!

    Paying Amy Loebl for college counseling was money extremely well spent! It meant our relationship with our daughter was left without strain. Other than read essays when asked by my daughter, my husband and I have been relatively uninvolved with college application details! The result is no conflict or stress for us. I realize how incredible stress-free parents has been for our daughter! We interviewed Amy initially and our daughter chose Amy- knowing she'd like someone to "hold her hand". We were consulted about college choices & kept up to date on our daughter's progress but Amy kept track of deadlines, reviewed essays and applications for content, missing info, etc. I see lots of other parents stressing out along side their kids and it seems like a terrible experience! 

    When my daughter applied for colleges in 2016, she worked with Leslie Cohen (lesliecohencollegeconsulting [at] or 510.207.0574).  Leslie prioritized our daughter's college list based on her past college tours, peer and counselor recommendations.  She recommended some that weren't on her radar, reviewed her college admissions essays and applications.  Our family found Leslie easy to work with -- very down-to-earth with a clear understanding of our daughter 's interests.  At the end,our daughter was accepted at all of her colleges (three UCs and nine private colleges).  Her rates are reasonable. 

  • Hi All,

    Am thinking of going with a higher end college counselor for my son. He is in 11th grade. I would like to know how much the counseling might cost?  Is it really expensive?  If anyone of you give me rough idea that will be really great. Thanks.

    Hi, I am also explored this option of hiring a college counselor for my son who is also in high school. I received two names and I found that both counselors I spoke with had similar packages that were a few thousand dollars - ranging from about $1000-$3900 depending on what was included. The packages seemed to both offer quite comprehensive assistance. After talking with both counselors, they each also offered an option for a few individual sessions, rather than the package, that would focus on very specific needs of my son for about $200 for about an hour, hour and a half of their time. Overall, they had very similar pricing. I'm still looking into this, but this is my experience so far. Hope this helps.

    I can't tell from your post of what you're looking for in a college counselor, but as another person answered around the topic, I'm going to venture to let you know that your local public libraries might be offering some great programs for free that might be of interest to your 11th grader. 

    At Berkeley Public Library North Branch this week, we have the YMCA Teen Center coming to lead a workshop on how to fill out college applications and writing the personal statement/essay parts of the application. This is such a great topic, and knowing in advance about how to fill out these applications could be really helpful. That's this Wednesday, November 9th, 630-730pm at 1170 the Alameda @Hopkins Street, Berkeley. It's a hands on workshop, so your son will get some essay writing time and some great instruction on how to fill out college applications. (I wish I'd had instruction like this before I applied to colleges!). 

    Berkeley Public Library has had some college and career related programs in the past few months that were about community college, how to set career and college goals, how to prepare for college, and more. I know other libraries put on similar programs - be sure to check them out. It's a great way to explore topics and find out what your son is interested in and needs, and then if you do want a college counselor for more specific help, you can then focus on what you most need. I'd recommend checking any libraries in your area and search for teen events to find related programs. And be sure to request programs if you want something specific or have a general idea that might be of interest! We would love to know what patrons want to see at the library. 

    Your mileage may vary. We didn't use one -- relied on the BHS college counselor and some help from a friend. Our student was accepted by various UCs and other highly competitive schools. Ended up at an Ivy. You can use one of those books to get an idea of match/reach schools.

  • Our son is bright, athletic, and well-liked, but not that excited by academics, and tunes out dull or poor teachers.  We're looking for a counselor that will help him envision possible futures that energize him for the next two years.  We'd also like that counselor to shepherd him through the college identification and application process.

    Ideally, this professional is familiar with the Berkeley HS IB program and the process of marketing an athlete to Division 3 college sports programs.  Thanks for your suggestions!

    Don't discount the College and Career Center at BHS. Angela Price is the college counselor for BIHS at Berkeley High. She offers many years of experience and loves helping kids make the transition out of Berkeley High. (And she's free) 

  • Hi -- I have a 16 year old son who will be a high school junior this fall and is very interested in digital visual effects, animation and video game design.  He wants to pursue a career in digital effects/video game design.  I'm looking for a college/career counselor who can help him determine appropriate trade/technical programs and/or colleges as well as help him with the necessary application requirements - i.e., putting together a game plan/schedule, what he needs to do as it relates to test-taking, portfolio preparation, applications, etc.  He has ADHD and is a high functioning spectrum kid.  Any advice on who would be good at working with him?  Thanks so much in advance.

    Hi mom-in-training, 

    I'm the teen librarian at Berkeley Public Library North Branch (1170 The Alameda, Berkeley), and on Saturday, August 27th, 3-4pm, we will have a Community College Workshop with Rebecca LaCocque from Peralta Colleges. She will be talking about opportunities at community colleges and I believe that some of our local community colleges have classes in digital visual effects, animation, and video game design (a coworker of mine is taking some of these courses!). 

    What is neat is that it is possible for high school (and even middle school!) students to take courses now for free (up to 11 units per semester). Or just knowing that these programs are available might be motivating for when your son has graduated college. I know from experience there are some wonderful programs at community college that can help students manage a variety of scheduling and educational needs. I expect that Rebecca LaCocque will be able to let you know about a variety of resources and options for your son. 

    As someone who needed motivation when I was in high school, once I learned about opportunities, my academic drive kicked in! 

    Please let me know if you have any questions. 

    Kirstin Mandalay

    kmandalay [at]

  • Looking for an excellent college counselor (for my rising HS junior)who is taking new clients.  I tried Tami Uecker and she is full.
    We are in San Francisco, but are willing to come to East Bay.  Thank you for your help! 

    Susan Kjorlien in Walnut Creek may have openings.

    sekjorlien [at]


    I highly recommend Vielka Hoy Consulting. She works will all kinds of students from grades 7-12, transfers, etc. and has openings. She is willing to travel and her costs are reasonable. I know she has gotten her clients into great schools with her good funding packages. Her website is, and her e-mail is vielka [at] She's always quick to respond to any questions, and always makes herself accessible. Best of luck!

    My daughter worked with Vielka Hoy Consulting.  She is really knowledgeable and has openings.  She was really personable and addressed not only my daughters concerns but our concerns as parents.  She gave us great advice on what to expect as parents, and what to expect for students. My daughter got into SF State and is now in her 3rd year.  My youngest daughter is going to be a Sophomore in high school, and we are already working with her to get a head start!  You can reach her at vielka [at]


    We highly recommend Amy Loebl in Berkeley.  Her email address is amy.loebl [at] and we have used her and recommended her to others-- always with positive results.  

    My oldest child has worked with Nae Tanaka and we had a fantastic experience... I'm a proud Cal Mom :). She is wonderful and works well out-side normal scheduled times to answer all questions we have and has creative solutions to all our concerns. My current rising senior has been working her since last summer so we can be prepared for the Ivies, which Nae has direct experience. She has been commuting to the East Bay to meet with us. her email: nae [at]

  • My daughter is starting HS. She does okay but isn't academically motivated -- tends to do the minimum, but thinks she's working hard. She is motivated by and works hard at theatre/dance, and spends a lot of time watching musicals and DIY-type Youtube videos. She wants to major in theatre with a plan B to go into interior design, fashion buying or something like that. Her dad and I were both academically focused students, went to good universities, and have more traditionally stable careers, so we are at a loss as to how to advise her on her career choices and what she needs to do over the next 4 years to have a fighting chance at getting into colleges/majors that support those career choices. She's unrealistic (though I don't want to be discouraging) about what schools she wants to go to -- her first choice is UCLA, second is USC or NYU. I tell her that she needs to do far better academically to be in the ballpark. She could use some college advising, particularly from someone who has experience working with "average" students and/or students interested in her career choices. Thanks!

    I highly recommend Vielka Hoy. She is an expert in this department. I just saw a similar post and recommended her to them as well. She is knowledgable, reliable and really knows her stuff. Contact her at vielka [at] Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Jan 2016

I would like to recommend Mary Finn as a college counselor. I found Mary through BPN in the spring of my daughter's junior year in high school. My daughter *says* she wants to go to college, but she was extremely unmotivated when it came to actually doing the work necessary to apply. I knew that if I were trying to manage her the result would be power struggles and unpleasantness. Mary was friendly, upbeat, and unfailingly supportive. She helped my daughter refine the college list I'd put together for her, and she completely organized the process, regularly checking in with my daughter over Skype after an initial in-person meeting. She was also available to give advice and to edit my daughter's essays, and she always kept me in the loop. Thanks to Mary's low-key, courteous persistence, my daughter will apply to an appropriate set of colleges for her, will get her applications in on time, and has produced well-written, thoughtful entrance essays. Satisfied mom of unmotivated college applicant

College admissions process for art/design student

Dec 2015

My 16 year old goes to Berkeley Independent Study. I work full time and want
advice on how to get admissions info. for art schools that offer product design.
The Berkeley e tree drives me crazy as I don't gave time to wade through. My kid
is not a good student and may not end up with a 4 year degree , but I wish
someone could walk us through his options.

As a student at BIS, does your son not also have access to the counselors at BHS? 
Or does BIS offer college counseling?  

I thought that BIS was still a part of BHS and the students could still see
counselors at BHS if they need to...  sk8ma512

College counselor for anxious senior

 Nov 2015

My daughter is a senior and is very anxious about college. On one hand she feels she isn't ready, but on the other hand she doesn't want to not apply and find herself regretting that decision when her friends all go off to college. She has asked that I find her a college counselor that can work with her regularly. All the recommendations on BPN focus on the essay. I need to find someone who can work with my daughter in a wholistic way, with patience, understanding, guidance, and support, and not focus just on the essay. I really need someone who has experience working with a teen who has a lot of anxiety, and who can help my daughter with all aspects of the application process (e.g., she doesn't know how to pick a college, she feels she needs to know what she wants to major in before applying, etc.). I have tried to counsel her on all of this, but she really needs someone other than a parent to advise her. Any suggestions? Recommendations? Advice? Thanks in advance. Berkeleyparents

I hired Lora Lewis lora [at] for one session with my daughter when my daughter was getting anxious about college apps. The point of the meeting was to look at her list of colleges and tell her if it was realistic and suggest others (my daughter had As and Bs and not amazing extracurriculars). My daughter really liked her and felt better afterwards. But we didn't hire her on an ongoing basis (we didn't hire anyone on an ongoing basis!) so I can't speak to that. best wishes

I recommend Sophie Silverstien ( She's an excellent counselor and can help with the anxiousness. She's also an experienced college counselor, and can lead your teen through the whole process. Anya M

June 2015

I would strongly recommend Raymond Barglow and Berkeley Tutors for any students serious about significantly improving their college prospects. Ray has a calmness of spirit combined with a rigorous approach that worked well for my college bound son. His style motivated my son to reach new heights. Not only did he vastly improve my son's ACT/SAT scores, but he provided insightful tutoring in several subjects; including Math and English. Ray and his team mentored and guided my son through the college application and selection process. It was an excellent experience!! Lee F.

May 2015

We would like to highly recommend Sarah Shankman as a college essay coach. In this ultracompetitive college admission process, great grades and competitive test scores do not predict which colleges your student will get into. The reality is that highly selective schools all have significantly more applicants than there is space in their freshman class. The only thing that can separate your student are the essays. Sarah worked well with our daughter who is a good writer, but was stuck starting the process. After going to her home in Berkeley and answering some questions, Sarah was able to jump start her essay topics. She is a professional writer and her systematic method results in excellent essays written entirely by the student. She kept our daughter on schedule and the entire process was successful. Our daughter was accepted to 9 out of 10 colleges many with generous merit scholarships and honors programs. We were thrilled and felt that Sarah played an important role in her success. Sarah Shankman can be reached at 510-528-8111 or or sarah [at] Happy Danville Parents

May 2015

As grandparents of a very talented young lady, we engaged Cynthia Robley, with College-Watch, in our granddaughter's sophomore year of High School. Cynthia was given one main task: Get her into the best school possible at the lowest net cost no matter where the school is located. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Even due to a unique set of personal circumstances and some difficulties our granddaughter endured, Cynthia performed well above expectations. Cynthia is very knowledgeable about the college admission and aid process and if a student listens to her and follows her advice, success will be had. I could not recommend anyone for a position in any field more than Cynthia. She takes her job very serious and realizes that this college process is the beginning of future success or failure of the student. Cynthia individualizes the search for the right college as not all students are the same. I would give her a 10+ on a 1 to 10 scale. Lois W

April 2015

We used Sarah Shankman ( to help our son with his college application essays and wanted to recommend her services.

Our son could write reasonably well to begin with, but on topics that are impersonal. When it came to college apps, where the essay prompts required introspection and narrating personal experiences his initial attempts did not touch the reader. Sarah started working with him and had a few sessions where she talked to him (and briefly to us) where they verbally mapped out story lines for each prompt. Then, she worked out a schedule with him and iterated on each essay till it was up to his (and her) satisfaction. The really good part we liked about this process was that she was keeping him on schedule and making sure the quality was good. She kept us in the loop on his progress and prodded him gently when he as falling behind. She was very prompt in providing feedback and my son and Sarah mostly communicated by email/skype. They met in person only a few times on the weekends and she was very easy to schedule.

In the end, she got stories and essays out of him that we could not! We are pretty sure these essays helped in getting into some very good colleges. Thanks Sarah! SouthBayDad

April 2015

My daughter lost her original college admissions counselor about two weeks before her first applications were due last fall. Cynthia Robey (College-Watch)graciously and enthusiastically stepped in and agreed to take my daughter on and shepherd us through the entire remaining admissions process (including interviews and choosing schools which we are still doing now). I cannot say enough good things about Cynthia! She did a fantastic job! My daughter got into her number one school plus these others, including Wellesley, Johns Hopkins, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UCLA, USC, Tulane, and with healthy scholarship money and/or financial aid. Cynthia knew what the schools wanted to see in the applications and she worked with my daughter to tailor her apps/essays to give her the best chance of being admitted to each school. Through regularly scheduled Skype sessions, she enthusiastically motivated my daughter to do her best work and enjoy doing it! Cynthia is super sharp, assertive, positive, easy to work with, and best of all, thoroughly steeped in all that it takes to create applications that have the highest potential to be accepted by the school your child is considering. She can be reached at 925-548-0002. We will never be able to thank her enough for picking us us off the ground and taking us through to a supremely successful application conclusion. Patricia

College Application Guidance and Tutor for student

Feb 2015

Could anyone recommend a coach/tutor for the college application process? I have several friends looking for someone who can help them manage the process from start to finish. Said I would seek guidance here! Thanks!' Interested mom

I highly recommend Cynthia Robey as a college admissions consultant. She has worked in college planning for over ten years with many credentials to her name (and has evaluated thousands of applications for UC Berkeley Freshman admissions) - her experience shows. We met Cynthia when my son was in 10th grade. She developed a close rapport with him and customized a plan so he maximized his high school experience and was ready to start the college process early. She was friendly and fun yet kept him on track with deadlines. She was tireless in her enthusiasm and generous with her time. She listened to his dream of becoming an engineer and helped him get into a very selective engineering camp junior year and made suggestions for colleges (since she has visited hundreds). When it came time to tackle the college applications, her help was critical. She showed him how to highlight his experiences (several of of which she had encouraged him to pursue) and to craft essays that were powerful and reflective. She is an outstanding mentor - she works not just on the essay but on developing the potential of each of her students. She’s incredibly insightful, caring and smart. As an engineering student the competition is fierce and she helped Jonathan create the strongest application possible. Jonathan has already been accepted into several universities with merit scholarships. Cynthia’s first consultation is free - what she will say is priceless. email: crobey60 [at] tel (925) 548-0002 Barbara

I gifted my niece the essay-writing assistance of Carla Castillo. I emailed my sister to get her view on Carla's help, and this is how she replied: 'Having Carla in the picture helped me do what was most important in this whole college application process, at least as far as the writing anyway, and that was to stay out of it unless asked for input. Carla was very helpful in keeping my daughter, a notorious procrastinator, on track by simply asking, 'when might you have a draft ready to discuss with me?' My daughter, who I think is a good writer to begin with, says, 'My final essay in its post-Carla form was about a gazillion times better than my first draft. Her suggestions were really useful, as she had a much better idea than I did of what colleges were looking for, but she always made sure to let me know that I had the final say. She was very easy to work with.' Here's Carla's contact info: ph 510-847-3789 barbwille

My daughter is a senior and currently working with Nicole Hosemann in Berkeley. We are more than satisfied and would highly recommend her! My daughter was really comfortable with Nicole from the beginning and the support has kept her super motivated and organized throughout the application process. She ended up applying to 10 colleges and has already been accepted to 4 of them - whoo hoo! Nicole helps with applications and essays, and also financial aid applications (which are far more complicated than we ever imagined!) We didn't think we'd actually qualify for anything, but Nicole directed us to sources of financial aid we didn't even know existed. We actually didn't think we wanted to pay for a private college counselor, but Nicole's rates are so reasonable we decided to go for it - best decision we could have made! Her website is or her email is nicole [at] She's amazing, I highly recommend her! Andrea-

Our current senior at Albany High School has been working with Carla Castillo for the past several months. She was extremely helpful through the college application process, in particular on the essay writing. Not only does she, of course, provide corrections for grammatical issues, but she thinks big picture and in many ways nudged the essay into providing more insight into who are son is, adding structure to his story, and punch to his strengths, all without affecting his genuine voice and tone. From our perspective, his essays were significantly improved with each round of reading and revising. She was also gracious in providing a quick turn-around even when our son put her into the corner with essays due 'tomorrow'. She was easy to work with, via email (actually through Google Docs) as well as in person. You can check her out at or call her at 510-847-3789. Kym 

RE: Looking for college advisor who is warm, thoughtful, responsive and effective

Oct 2014

My son has been working with Nicole Morello. I first read about Nicole here and saved her info, because I liked her comments. Indeed, she has been a godsend: calm, organized,informed... a real advocate for finding the best school fit. Quickly getting and staying on track (we started senior year!) has been possible through Nicole's guidance. She's got a great rapport with my kid, too. Knee deep in it all right now I can say she's stellar! nikkimo [at]">nikkimo [at], (510) 493-6476

I agree that you can get caught up in spending a lot of money on college counselors thinking the more you spend the more it will get you the information you need. I have had two children apply to and attend Universities and I think it is important to work with someone who knows as many options as there are types of learners! There is no one-school-fits-all and the good news is there are SO many choices for college experiences. Working with someone who knows about the choices and can help fine tune the application list is invaluable.Berkeley High has an excellent career/college placement center, but many kids ( and parents) need one-on-one attention/support. My youngest worked with Amy Loebl(amy.loebl [at] who was an amazing balance or organizational support, exploration ( as in what ARE the options?), and guidance for the family ( YES! college decisions impact the entire family...don''t think otherwise). Find the right fit as far as amount of support and information and watch the experience unfold- who said launching kids was easy and linear??? kg

Excellent advisor needed

June 2014

My daughter is entering 11th grade next fall and is basically a solid student. However, we as parents feel the need for an advisor to help us navigate the whole crazy process of high school and college applications. Can anyone recommend a good tutor or advisor who might be able to help? Concerned Mom

I recommend you check out Lesley Quinn for help on the college essay. Lesley worked with two of my teens, and for both of them the experience could not have been better. She is patient and caring, but also holds the bar high and knows how to draw forth their best and most interesting selves ... in writing! My daughter liked to write, but my son did not and even so he really enjoyed working with Lesley, learned a great deal in the process and wrote an impressive essay. Both kids were accepted at their first choice schools. You can find out more about Lesley's services at Best of luck to your daughter for the year ahead! parent of 3 high school graduates

Looking for an experienced college counselor for bright sophomore

April 2014

Hi. I'm looking for referrals or recommendations for a bright experienced college counselor for my 16 yr old sophmore daughter. Though she may be interested in a UC, she'd like to explore other options around the country and wants to begin to learn about what is out there, how to determine if a college is a good match, etc. Any East Bay resources appreciated. Thanks for your help. GJ

I highly recommend Amy Loebl for college counseling. She understands the student who wants to spread their wings as well as the shy student. She works with a network of national college advisors and has travelled extensively visiting colleges. Amy puts the focus on the student and the student's passions and works effectively at making parent and student realize their joint aspirations for college. Amy can be reached at amy.loebl [at] Berkeley parent Sara S

s I would like to recommend Wendy Walker Moffat of Walker-Moffat Higher Education Consulting for college counseling services. Prior to working with Wendy, I was under the impression that searching for colleges would be a wonderful parent-child bonding experience. When it became clear what I envisioned was not happening in our house and every conversation about the subject became stressful and unproductive, we called Wendy. I appreciated that she had kids that had gone through admissions and acceptances and I found her expertise as a professional and a mom invaluable. Under her guidance, my son was able to craft an excellent list of schools that met his criteria as well as explore the option of playing his sport at a Division 3 school. Her recommendations for summer sports camps put him in front of coaches from places he was interested in and resulted in an offer to play at a college on his list. Another plus was her location near the Berkeley High campus that made after school appointments very convenient for us. My son is still weighing his choices before the May 1st deadline but we are extremely happy with the options and with all of the assistance Wendy provided throughout the process. mj

April 2014

My daughter didn't use a college coach when she went through the application process this year, and it worked out well. But when one Ivy League school put her on a waitlist, she wasn't sure how best to handle it or what to expect. I found two names of highly recommended college coaches on BPN and contacted them via email. One of them replied that it was a very complicated situation, and suggested we hire her for $300/hr. to help navigate the process. I realize that this is absolutely to be expected. But the other coach, Wendy Morrison (, wrote back immediately with great advice, good wishes, and an offer to answer any further questions! I was so impressed and grateful, that I just had to post here about the experience. Empty nester-to-be

Feb 2014

I would HIGHLY recommend Sean Brennan (wordguild [at] for help on the college application process. He helped my daughter extensively through multiple drafts (including additional ones beyond the three full exchanges guaranteed in his price) of her application essays and supplements. She was struggling with topics and the initial essay did not showcase her well, and we were paying thousands to another college counselor who did not provide enough detailed feedback and guidance. By contrast, Sean is quick, affordable, in-depth, easy to work with, and made a very positive impact on my daughter's application process. The finished essay communicated who my daughter was in a way that reflected her own voice. She had a time-crunch for one of her essays and Sean worked through four drafts with her in just 5 days - he is very efficient in his editing of the essays, the draft revisions were thorough and well thought out, they preserved all of her original content while focusing her ideas and drawing out the more important parts. She will be attending Harvard University next fall because of Sean's advice and essay editing work. He is also available to help with the rest of the application process, and provides and unique and valuable service! Jessie L

Feb 2014

I'd like to recommend Jamie Keller very highly as a writing coach for college application essays. Her email is: jamiekeller1 [at] She worked with our daughter to produce multiple essays. Jamie has been doing this for a long time and truly understands how to advise without overwhelming the students own voice. Jamie's guidance is kind but honest, so that our daughter actually enjoyed the process! Margaret C

Jan 2014

I am writing to recommend my daughter's College Admissions Essay Coach, Sarah Shankman. Sarah was recommended to me by a friend who had been through the admissions process with her two children.

From the beginning, my daughter felt strongly that her essays should reflect her thoughts, goals and accomplishments as faithfully as possible. She also felt overwhelmed by the thought of writing several essays in a relatively short period of time. She emerged from her first meeting with Sarah with a strong sense of direction and focus. Most importantly, she knew she could count on Sarah to be there, providing thoughtful recommendations and guiding her work as needed. This was key in allowing my daughter to manage what can be a very stressful process.

In addition to her talent as an essay coach, we found Sarah to be very responsive and professional. My daughter recently completed her final application and we realize how incredibly fortunate she has been to have had Sarah by her side.

Sarah's website can be found at Her email address is: sarah [at] Nadine

Jan 2014

Who knew that the high school application process could be so nerve-wracking? We were totally overwhelmed as we attended tours, open houses, scheduled shadows and got advice from our neighbors and friends. Luckily, we connected with Kerryn Pincus who has recently started advising families on high school and college admissions. She had a great sense of our daughter as a student and was able to clearly narrow the field for us. It was a relief to get straight-forward advice from an insider (she is former Dean at Julia Morgan School for Girls) with intimate knowledge of each high school's strengths and weaknesses. I highly recommend her. RelievedMom

Lamorinda Area College Counselor

Oct 2013

Hi. I'm currently looking for a college counselor. Although my daughter's high school is great in many ways I'm wanting more information earlier than the school thinks is necessary. Also, there seems to be an assumption that kids want to strive for acceptance into the UC system. UCs are great but there is so much more out there! My daughter is a sophomore and wants to start exploring her options now. I don't want her to get anxious about admissions; I'm thinking that having concrete images and info will be motivating. Do you have any recommendations?

We worked with Joanne Fraser-LeGates in the Oakland Hills. She was wonderful. We have one teen enjoying freshman year at his first choice school and three more who will work with her. Good luck! Nina

College Counselor - Arts Programs

Feb 2013

We are looking for an advisor to help our high school junior figure out his post-high school plans, and none of the recommendations in the archives seem to fit the bill. We are not (at this point) looking for someone to help him write his application essays. We are looking for someone who can help him figure out the best way to move toward independence after high school. He is very smart and a talented artist but has never liked school (with the grades to show it). I think he would do best in a program that is very hands on and allows him to start doing what he loves (digital arts) right away, without a lot of prerequisites. Obviously, we are also concerned that he end up with a marketable degree.

We'd also like some short term advice on how to best focus his time in the limited time remaining before he applies to colleges. Given that his grades are pretty bad (C average), is it worth it to expend a lot of energy studying for the SATs? PSAT scores were not promising. Or is it better for him to focus on building his portfolio? He would definitely enjoy the latter more, but I think he would need some structure/advice on what the portfolio should contain, and we (his parents) have no idea. And if it's better to focus on the SAT, are there any programs that work for kids who hate studying??? I can just imagine him completely zoning out at Kaplan sessions and would hate to throw away money like that. Please advise if you know any college advisors who have successfully advised students like our son. Thank you.

Don't know for sure if he would fit the bill, but you might talk with Casey McCarroll. He's not a college counselor per se, but he created the Transition Counseling program at Holden High School, helping juniors and seniors envision and plan for their lives after high school. Some of the students are interested in 2-year or 4-year colleges, but many are interested in something more hands on or practial. Casey has a private practice doing the same kind of work with teens and young adults, specializes in working with young men. My 16-year-old son, who is following a very non-traditional educational path, really likes him. Terry

My son has Learning Disabilities and had the exact same GPA in high school. I can't remember who we used but, Contact Bay hill High School in Oakland and ask them for some possibilities. Bay Hill is a High School for kids with Learning Disabilities.

Lots of schools have good Services now. I was really, really impressed with Southern Oregon State U in Ashland, Oregon. They had lots of great help. Don't let anyone suggest Evergreen College in Washington. It's an interesting college but not if you learning disabilities. Tracy

March 2013

I read your post in Parents of Teens Issue and I can definitely say that having a college consultant is the best thing I've ever invested in for my son who is now a high school senior. He began with Cynthia Robey, MBA at College Consultants his sophomore year.

My son's weighted GPA was 3.6 with average ACT and SAT scores when he submitted his college applications. Because of Cynthia's extensive knowledge of what colleges look for when accepting students, she has guided my son in completing and submitting his college applications. So far, he has been accepted to 11 of 15 colleges and universities.

Today, he was accepted to UC Davis, his number one choice. My son chose schools based on the best fit for his profile. We could not have completed these great accomplishments without her.

I highly recommend Cynthia. She can be contacted at 925-548-0002 or R

Feb 2013

For the College Admissions Consultants section of BPN.

For the single and married parents who want the ''Best AND Most'' for their child, Cynthia will get you top Results. She has a special gift of connecting well with her students and is very knowledgeable when it comes to preparing each child for acceptance into the college of their choice. Every student may not have the highest GPA or SAT/ACT score, but Cynthia knows how to be creative and think out-of-the box to help your child develop and implement ideas that will definitely strengthen his/her profile, increasing their likelihood of being accepted. If you want to help alleviate the worry and stress that comes with writing essays for college applications, choosing top colleges and universities most appropriate for your child's interests, while making sure you receive all possible scholarships available, connect with Cynthia. You'll be extremely pleased. I am!

My son's weighted GPA was 3.6 with average ACT and SAT scores when he submitted his college applications. Because of Cynthia's extensive knowledge of what colleges look will for when accepting students, she has guided my son in completing and submitting his college applications. So far, he's been accepted to 8 of 15 colleges and universities; as of yet, he has not been denied. He has been accepted to Sacramento State, San Francisco State, University of Nevada, La Sierra University, St. Mary's UOP, UC Riverside, and Cal Poly. We are still waiting to hear from UC Davis, UC Berkeley, USC. My son chose schools based on the best fit for his profile.

Even if he doesn't get accepted to another college, he has great options. With Cynthia's help, he developed excellent personal essays and became involved in a variety of extracurricular and community service activities. I could not have accomplished this great task without her. Cynthia's college consulting service has been one of my best investments yet and I highly recommend that all parents reserve an appointment with her just to hear what she has to offer. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Cynthia can be contacted at 925-548-0002 or Rosalind

June 2012

I want to recommend 3 Moms who just started their business together in the Bay Area. Their business is called San Francisco Admissions Advisors and their website is - I have already learned quite a bit from them. All 3 are certified college admissions advisors who have been doing this type of work for years. They also have experience working with International students, High School admissions, graduate school admissions and students with learning differences. Check them out - great women who know their stuff! Debbie L.

May 2012

My son, husband, and I recommend Barry wholeheartedly as both a college counselor and a portfolio preparation adviser. Barry is smart, experienced, and great with teens. He offered superb advice, encouragement, and support to our son, who needed to create an art portfolio for undergraduate architecture programs. A wonderful artist himself, Barry's guidance was thoughtful, insightful, and professional. Barry had a lovely, compassionate approach with our son, who was not a confident artist, but Barry also knew how to nudge tactfully and firmly when deadlines loomed and our son got cold feet. The result of their process together was successful: our son was offered spots in three top-ranked US architecture programs that require an art portfolio. If the opportunity arose, we would work with Barry again. Deborah

College Advisor for A+ student in East Bay

March 2012

I am looking for a recommendation involving a college advisor that could guide my child towards her journey to a suitable college. We have some reservations about ''College Quest''. Any input would be really appreciate it. thanks

We have worked with Sue Kim in Pleasant Hill. She knows her colleges and is great with the financial aid. She sometimes takes a while to respond to emails or phone calls when she is busy.

We had a horrible experience with College Quest. Not only were they outrageously expensive, but my kid came home from every session in tears because of the putdowns. The same essays that my kid wrote (that Austin said were horrible) got favorable reviews from every other essay reader and subsequent college adviser. She also kept suggesting schools my kid had zero interest in. Fortunately, several people lifted my kid's self esteem back after this unfortunate experience at College Quest. Parent of happy college sophomore

Our daughter was a top student and test taker. Wendy Morrison of Kensington (sorry don't have her number handy, but I thinks she's been recommended by other parents; look at old posts for her number) was fabulous. Our daughter got into ''elite'' colleges such as Harvard, Stanford, Cal, UCLA, Pomona, etc. Good luck to your daughter, and get ready for a wild and thrilling ride! anonymous

I run a private SAT/ACT tutoring company in Berkeley, and often get requests for a college counselor. I would highly recommend Wendy Morrison. She has worked with many of my students, and has got nothing but rave reviews. My students love working with her. She can be reached at wendy [at]

College prep resources for deserving low income student

March 2012

Hi. My nanny has three amazing school-age kids, destined for college. One of them will be turning 16 soon so her college preparation needs are quite imminent. She wants to be a doctor. The situation is this. The girl's parents are immigrants and not savvy to the college admissions/preparation process. She has a very good GPA at a local charter school. The school seems great, but I'm not sure they have the resources to offer comprehensive college preparation counseling. I've asked, and I don't see they are working closely with her. Because the parents are low-income, it would really be best for this child to attend a school with a large endowment for scholarships, ie. a very good school like Stanford. I think this child could possibly get her GPA in range, but needs a lot of advice regarding extracurricular activities, and needing someone to check that she is taking the right kind of courses to attend a top-tier school. She will also need assistance with her application, getting letters of recommendation, personal statement etc. I really wish we could afford to hire a college counselor for her but our resources are truly stretched. Does anyone know of any affordable or possibly free resources out there to help deserving students like this get the kinds of college prep assistance that kids in the private schools get? berkeley mom

10,000 Degrees (formerly the Marin Education Fund) provides exactly this service in San Rafael. I'm not sure whether East Bay kids are eligible but it's worth a call to find out. JM

Hello, I suggest that you look into two nonprofits that help young people become first generation college students.

1) College Track, which has a program in Oakland. Check them out on line at

2) First Graduate, based in San Francisco but might be able to recommend resources in East Bay. Rachel

Aspire Education Project is a nonprofit ''dedicated to providing the best academic support to all K-12 students.'' From their web site, ''Students whose families can not afford market rates receive reduced price tutoring and Aspire Education Project collaborates with partner organizations to provide test preparation classes to groups of promising students from struggling schools.'' They may have suggestions as well on overall college prep for a student without financial means. Aspire Admirer

free SAT prep

Haas summer program


main UCB pipeline site:

college counselors may be willing to give an hour or so pro bono--try contacting some

depending on your time, you can do a lot w/o any special skills--remind her to take the PSAT/SAT and apply to the UC's on time (deadline is super early), offer to read her essay, etc. best wishes

There is an organization in Oakland called College Track - - and I think there are other similar organizations that help teens of families who will be the first in their family to go to college or teens in other similarly disadvantaged situations. Mary

College Counselor to Help with Sorting Options?

Feb 2012

My son is a junior in high school. The only family I know that used a college counselor engaged her services during the student's freshman year to work with him all through high school. We were thinking it would be helpful to hire someone on a short-term basis, or even just for a few consultations, to help my son go over what colleges could be a good fit for him, maybe go over his essays, and so on. Our main problem is that my husband and I just went to the UC closest to home (Berkeley) and didn't apply to too many other schools. I know there must be plenty of great colleges out there I don't know about, and I'd like my son to have broader horizons in that area than I did.

We have the two Loren Pope books (''Colleges that Change Lives'' and ''Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College that's Right for You''), but I feel my son would benefit from talking one-on-one with someone.

Can anyone suggest a counselor who works on this kind of short-term consultation basis? Any idea what such a service might cost? Thanks a ton! Mary

I highly recommend Barbara Manierre in Berkeley. She helped our son on a short-term basis with college choices and the application process. She is organized, extremely knowledgeable, and kept our son focused and on task. Working with her, he was able to identify the colleges that would be a good fit for him, submit his applications early and ultimately had seven college acceptances to choose from. He is happily completing his Freshman year at the college that was his first choice. Barbara's contact information is: Barbara Manierre barbara [at] (510)655-9065 College Mom

You should contact Amy Loebl, College Admission Advisor. Amy worked with my daughter and was very helpful in coming up with a great mix of schools that would be a good fit, some that we did not know about. My daughter enjoyed working with Amy and found the experience extremely valuable. In addition to being knowledgeable about the College Admission process, Amy is a delightful person. Contact her at: amy.loebl [at] BHS mom

You will undoubtedly receive a host of names of experienced, competent private college counselors. Before spending the money on a session with one of them, I would highly recommend that you speak with the college counselor at your son's high school. Your son can make the appointment and you can go with him. My son and I were in the same position as you are and paid for one session with a highly respected private counselor. Her advice turned out to be much less valuable and accurate than the advice that my son received from his college advisor at BHS.

The college center at BHS has up-to-the-minute information about colleges, has worked with students of diverse backgrounds and learning styles, has relationships with admissions officers across the country and really has the knack for fitting the right student with the right school, whether it is an Ivy League school, a community college, a public university, etc.

As an aside, the private counselor told my son that he had no chance of getting into an Ivy League school. Not so his BHS college counselor who encouraged him to pursue his dream and helped him work through the steps he needed to take to get there. Ivy League Mom

My son and I sat down with David Elliot and he was INCREDIBLY informative on what different colleges and universities have to offer. Many of these ''counselors'' charge a ridiculous sum, because they know its a wealthy families choice, but in our case, we just needed to see what was a good fit. HE was wonderful and reasonable. (He also looks like Harrison Ford, which makes the experience quite delightful) Reenie

2010 - 2011 Reviews

Dec 2011

I feel I absolutely must let the world (or the East Bay) know about Rebecca Field, a most amazing college counsellor who works out of an office near Lake Merritt, Oakland. She guided my son through the process of applying to colleges and actually made it fun and enriching! She connected with my son immediately. She took the time to get to know him and she was with him every step of the way. She helped him organize, set his tasks and introduced him to try a few schools that she thought would be good for him. My son wanted to go to a small college back east. We thought this would be a challenge, but Rebecca was familiar with the full spectrum of public and private schools nationally. She was able to suggest a few additional schools that were not in Forty Colleges but just as good. Jake submitted the last of his applications yesterday and ahead of the deadlines despite a somewhat late start. He feels great about his choices, is excited about college and was able to really think through what he wanted to get out of school. I can say with absolute certainty that Rebecca made all the difference. While some of the choices might have been the same, the quality of the applications, essays and the confidence were entirely due to Rebecca. Debra

College advisor in Fremont/Pleasanton area

Dec 2011

I am looking for a recommendation for a good advisor, preferably in the Fremont/Pleasanton area, who can help my 16 year old daughter narrow her college choices. She is not sure what she would like to study, but does want to go to school outside of California. There are lots of firms out there, but would appreciate advice from parents who have already been through this. May also want help on preparing college essays, but I don't want to get locked into any long-term contract. Ruth

I think that you ought to talk to Elizabeth LaScala who is a very thoughtful and successful college adviser covering the locations and needs you've stated. Dr. LaScala works with students on college and graduate school applications and writes a number of newspaper articles for the general public. She can provide an alternative to a ''package'' arrangement and she can be reached by phone at (925) 891-4491 or by email at elizabeth [at] Best of luck. A reputable reference

The college advisor our son worked with four years ago isn't in the Fremont area, but we just had an excellent experience with an essay coach who helped him with his personal statements for medical school. Her office is in San Francisco but because she can work remotely by phone and e-mail (and the wonders of Skype!) they were able to get everything done with him at school on the east coast. She's pricey but gets great results. Leslie Quinn: (415) 341-1110 or Good luck to you! Margaret S.

Oct 2011

Sean Brennan helped my daughter immensely with her college application essays. She is applying to a number of very competitive universities this fall, and between her class load and other activities, she had little time to spare. Sean was able to work with her essays via e-mail and very quickly provided extremely detailed and insightful feedback and instruction for an exceptionaly reasonable price. He also has a blog with detailed discussion of the major prompts this year. You can reach him at wordguild [at] I strongly recommend his services. c.c

College advisor for gifted teen in tri-valley area

Aug 2011

I need to find an advisor for my high school junior ASAP. She eventually wants to get into a school like UCSD and I'm concerned she has a Fall semester class schedule that isn't right for her. Her high school counselor just let her pick her own courses. (Unfortunately that's a problem with the summer AP work.) I would appreciate recommendations for college advisors who work well with gifted teens who have lost confidence in their academic abilities. We live in Pleasanton, so prefer someone in the Tri-valley/680corridor region. Stymied parent

I highly recommend Elizabeth LaScala. She is an outstanding college advisor with an excellent track record and she is located in your area. You can reach Dr. LaScala at 925-330-8801. A reputable reference

Sounds like you're putting the cart before the horse. If your teen has no confidence in her academic abilities, she's not going to get the help she needs from a college advisor. What she really needs is an ed psych. Once the problem has been taken care of, then she should see the college advisor. Now if the ed psych works in tandem with a college advisor, then she can see both. Anon

June 2011

Marilynn Aiches is an incredible college councilor and tutor. She's great with all kinds of students. She worked with my son and daughter and saved us all kinds of angst. Her expertise, insight and support was invaluable every step of the way from curriculum choices, extracurricular suggestions, to college choices. Plus, nobody can get a student to write an essay like she can. She's passionate about what she does and gets amazing results. I recommended her to 8 other friends and all of our children have been accepted to their top colleges, including the most selective ones. An added advantage is the fact that Marilynn, in addition to her private practice, works for UC Berkeley admissions. This gives her insight into what makes a great college application. I'd call soon because she gets booked up. Believe me, you won't regret it---and better yet, your student will thank you. Mine did. Marilynn Aiches 510.559.8815 collegeadmitpro [at] Kathy

College Admission Advisors

May 2011

We are looking for a college admissions advisor for our sophomore son at Acalanes. Have any of you used Karen Maas, Jan Hale, Lynda Phelps, or Shelly O'Neill? We would love to hear your thoughts. Anybody else in Lamorinda that you would recommend? Thanks

Hi, I would like to recommend a knowledgable college advisor. Michelle Myers from Walnut Creek guided our son and us through his college choice and application process. She helped him discover what major would fit his interests. She researched colleges that would cater to his major all while taking into consideration his location preferences. She guided him as he completed his UC applications, state and private college applications too. We were pleased at the number of colleges he was accepted to. We believe Michelle's guidance played a part in this. If you need advice for your high school junior to be sure they are prepared for college as well as help with applications and recommendations for scholarships contact Michelle Myers at 925 788-6953 or michellemyers [at] Kristen

College counselor to advise about art college programs

May 2011

My son is a junior in high school and wants to major in visual arts with a BFA. Does anyone know what are the best California state colleges, (not the UC's as they are too big), or a small private colleges locally in California they can recommend with a strong fine arts program.? Also can you recommend a college counselor/coach who is familiar with strong art programs in college? SB

I recommend Susan Martin, Seize the Year Educational Consultant. Although many of her clients are working with her to put together a meaningful Gap Year (a year taken off either before or during one's college pursuits), she has 25 years in the field of education (most recently, undergraduate academic advising at a local arts college), and is also an exhibiting artist. I find her well-grounded and insightful, creative and focused. Best wishes for an exciting time for you and your son. Amy,Oakland

Hi, I am a Professor of Art (Painting) at San Jose State University. We have a first rate program with a BA in General Studio Practice (120 units) and a BFA (132 units) concentration (portfolio review required). Unfortunately, I do not know of any college counselors at the high school level with whom to speak. Other CSU alternatives (that offer the BFA) are Long Beach. Other than UC, there are several great accredited private art colleges to recommend (but if tuition is factor, note that they are very costly). The San Francisco Art Institute, California College of the Arts. There are many good state schools that offer the BA in Visual Arts (SFSU, Humbolt, Sac State, Fresno, San Diego State, to name a few..) Hope this helps. Gale

College advisor to support daughter through the decision-making process

Feb 2011

Hi -- I'm searching for a college adviser who can give my daughter some support through the college decision-making process. She's a junior, with great grades and the right temperament for college, but she seems paralyzed in terms of starting the process. She's expressed concerns that she feels she has to know what she's doing (going to be/study) before she can even think about/look at schools, and that she's afraid of making a ''mistake''. As parents, we've tried to express our views that going to college is when you discover these things about yourself but she's unconvinced.

I'm really looking for someone creative and open who can help her to think imaginatively,and maybe help free her from this need to judge herself overly harshly and over-analyze. She's like this in other things, too. She responds better to adults who are more sharp-witted/edgy rather than the sensitive (= motherly) type. Thanks! Mom whose teen needs to look before she leaps

Wendy Morrison is the best. She is very knowledgeable, very engaging, very responsive, and did an amazing job helping my son to navigate through his applications. She had great ideas about schools that he might be interested in, and schools that would be interested in him as well. Her contact information is Wendy E. Morrison, Educational Consulting, 225 Cambridge Avenue, Kensington, California 94708 Phone: (510) 384-5962, wendymorrison [at] Teresa

We had a great experience with Barbara Manierre. Our son worked with her (we as parents were hands-off) through the entire college admission process - initial exploration of college choices, guidance for HS classes, applications and essays, and weighing the pros and cons in the final decision on college to attend. Our son found that when working with Barbara, he felt organized, ''on-task'', focused, and in control. Working with her removed much of the stress of the college admissions process and we had a most satisfactory outcome. Our son is now off to the college that was his first choice and is very happy. Barbara's office is in Berkeley. barbara [at] 510-655-9065. College Mom

I've written in on this topic before, but your daughter sounds exactly like mine, two years ago. She was stuck in terms of thinking about how to even approach the college process, and I think feeling very insecure, and I was totally ineffective in dragging anything out of her.

We interviewed several college counselors and ended up working with Ethan Ris, who made house calls and was definitely different from the rest of the pack. Instead of just going through a standard spiel (i.e the same thing we could get from the high school counselor ...) he took the time to really get to know our daughter personally and then helped her formulate a strong list of colleges and a game plan for the college process. (He's also much younger than most counselors, around 30 I think, which seems appropriate for connecting with teens). She saw the possibilities and got excited about going off to school for the first time. She is now a very happy freshman at a great school back East!

Ethan has a website at Good luck!! There is a light at the end of the tunnel ... Erica

I felt a little 'stuck' with our Junior last Fall as well. I think the hard part is on 'where to start'. We ended up working with . It has been most helpful. His counselor spend some time getting to know him, 'sorting' through his interests and grade history, and now they are working on a college short list together. He has his personal counselor, and then there are other consultants who specialize in financial aid and essay writing. The fees are about $100 per month for a once a week consultation, but they have different program options. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions. Sonja

Nov 2010

I would like to recommend an outstanding college admissions consultant in Berkeley. Edith Zinn has over 20 years of experience and is a former University of Michigan Admissions Officer. She worked with my daughter two years ago and with my son last year. Edith typically begins working with students in the winter to spring of their junior year, and assists them with planning senior year coursework, when to take tests, and recommending prep work/materials/tutors, if needed. She spends time getting to know each student, drawing out individual strengths and qualities to highlight in the college application resumes and essays, and helps the student to develop a list of colleges that are a good match. She helped both of my children craft really remarkable essays, and ultimately present themselves in a way that gained them admissions to their first choice universities. With Edith's assistance, my son was one of 600 admits (out of 10,000 applicants) to the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at UCLA last spring where he now attends. Edith works on either a flat fee or hourly basis depending upon your need/preference. She is a true professional and I recommend calling her as soon as possible. Edith can be reached at 510-528-0503. Chris

Need references for college advisers and fee info

Sept 2010

I would like to get references for college advisers in the Bay area (Contra Costa/Alameda counties preferred) as well as fees etc--I have heard those professionals are great but I don't know much about how they work, fees etc. I have a 15 yr old son and feel we need to get all the help we can before deciding on which school is the best for him. Thanks in advance! Patty

Wendy Morrison is an absolutely incredible college counselor. She is kind, knowledgeable, energetic, efficient, and relates well to all different kinds of students. She helps students and their families through every stage of the college search and application process, and assists them in finding public and/or private schools that would be a good fit. My husband is a former BHS teacher who has written college recommendations for countless students in his career. We were both extremely impressed with Wendy from our very first meeting, and our son, who had been ambivalent about the entire college search process, couldn't wait to go back to talk with her again. It's hard to describe, but from the very first meeting, Wendy made all of us feel positive and optimistic about what can be a very daunting process. She reinforced our belief that the college search process really needed to be a search for the best fit for our son, based upon his talents and interests. We found Wendy on the recommendation of some friends (she is also recommended in the BPN archives), and we couldn't be happier. We, in turn, have referred another friend whose daughter was so thrilled after their first meeting, they are driving all the way from Cupertino to utilize her services! They say they couldn't imagine how stressful the process would be without Wendy. My son is now happily settled in a college that is a great fit for him. I recommend you email or call Wendy to find out more about her and her services. Wendy's contact information: wendymorrison [at] 510-384-5962 Happy mother of a college freshman

I recommend Lesley Quinn ( as an extraordinary college essay coach. When my daughter was looking for help with the college application process, I found that the college advisors often didn't make very good essay editors, even though they offered essay assistance as one of their services. My daughter worked with Lesley on her essay over a period of about 3 months, and both the process and the result were outstanding (Emma was accepted at all but one of the schools she applied to). Lesley is patient and kind but also has very high standards and is able to get the very best out of her students. Emma learned so much from working with her, and enjoyed the process as well. I think Lesley is the very best essay advisor/editor around. Heidi

Aug 25 2010

Barbara Austin, PhD (English), inspired my son to work hard at grades, SATs, leadership and community service. She was able to help him clarify his essay ideas and figure out to which schools he wanted to apply to. She meticulously prepares students for the SAT/ACT and hires a very skilled math instructor for the math section of the test, and coaches the English herself.

In 2009 my son got into Brown University with her excellent guidance. He was also accepted at Swarthmore, Amherst, UCLA,UCB College of Creative Studies, Washington U St. Louis, UC Davis, and several other schools. I have nothing but the highest praise for Ms. Austin's college counseling. Thanks. Dorothea D

May 2010

Re: Timeline & strategy for high schoolers
for our BHS senior we used a college councelor who I highly reccomend- he does the SAT/ACT prep, essay prep, college selection guidance, checks the applications and even help with deferring for a GAP year. Fees are mostly 1X set fees and I thought he was amazing: Terry MacClure 510-898-8040 terrence_macclure [at] We started at the end of 10th grade. mm

College Advisor for Junior at BHS

Jan 2010

Does anyone know of a college advisor they can recommend? Our son is a Junior at BHS in Academic Choice, overall a B+ student, and we are looking for some guidance on college choices/opportunities and planning. We find the website very helpful, but want to take a more targeted and personal approach. Thank you. Mom

We are happy with our college counselor - Dorothy Sivazlain - phone is 510-304-3690. She's in Orinda - picks my daughter up at bart (might also come to your house) and is helping my daughter, a B student at BHS with a learning disability, find appropriate colleges for her interests and needs. Anon

I highly recommend Dr Paul R Wrubel as a college counselor and college fianancial counselor. With out his help and guidence I do not think that I could have gotten through the experience of one son finishing at UCSD and one son a Sophmore at The College of Wooster in Ohio. David

I can recommend coach Damian Nash, he's wonderful. I don't know if he has a website but his phone # is 435-259-7886. Kristen

Wendy Morrison is an absolutely incredible college counselor. She is kind, knowledgeable, energetic, efficient, and relates well to all different kinds of students. She helps students and their families through every stage of the college search and application process, and assists them in finding public and/or private schools that would be a good fit. My husband is a former BHS (AC) teacher who has written college recommendations for countless students in his career. We were both extremely impressed with Wendy from our very first meeting, and our son, who had been ambivalent about the entire college search process, couldn't wait to go back to talk with her again. It's hard to describe, but from the very first meeting, Wendy made all of us feel positive and optimistic about what can be a very daunting process. She reinforced our belief that the college search process really needed to be a search for the best fit for our son, based upon his talents and interests.

We found Wendy on the recommendation of some friends (she is also recommended in the BPN archives), and we couldn't be happier. We, in turn, have referred another friend. whose daughter was so thrilled after their first meeting, they have decided to drive all the way from Cupertino to utilize her services! My son, now a senior, has begun receiving his college acceptances, and says he would tell any of his friends who are now juniors that they would be lucky to work with Wendy! I recommend you email or call Wendy to find out more about her and her services.

Wendy's contact information: wendymorrison [at] 510-384-5962 Happy mom of a senior

Please call Wendy Morrison. She helped us so much this past year while we went through the whole college application process. She's lively, positive, smart, reasonable and incredibly resourceful. She is terrific with teens. She helped my daughter choose the best colleges for HER, listening carefully to what was important to her. She was also totally supportive to me as a parent. This process can be hard, stressful and overwhelming. Wendy has been our brightest angel this year. She is passionate about what she does and it shows. Wendy Morrison: 510-384-5962. Helen

Wendy Morrison in Kensington is experienced and enthusiastic. She has a strong track record. Here's her number: (510) 526-1545. Good luck! Lesley

I would highly recommend Martha Black, a college counselor in the Berkeley/Kensington area. She is very kind, easy to talk to, and respectful of who your child is. She really focuses on what the student wants to get out of the counseling. In my daughter's case, Martha was able to draw her out and get her talking about her interests and what she wanted out of college and in the process helped her come up with a list of schools she felt really good about. My daughter felt very comfortable with Martha and enjoyed the process. Martha's contact info is 510-847-1205 or mbcollegeadvising [at] Sylvia

We'd like to highly recommend the college counselor our high school senior daughter has been working with, Dianne Ruyffelaere. Dianne has met with our daughter since junior year and helped with all aspects of the college selection and application process. We've all been impressed with her knowledge, warmth, and ability to help the students figure out what schools would work best for them as individuals. She's made the whole process much more positive, organized, and less stressful for everyone. Dianne's in Berkeley; email is druyffelaere [at] and phone number is 510-525-1619. Sandy

2008 - 2009 Reviews

Need College Advice for CSUs and Financial Aid

Dec 2009

My daughter is a junior in high school and now is the time to start looking at colleges. I don't know where to start! She won't qualify for a UC but could get into a CSU. However-I imagine there are plenty of great private colleges that would work for her too. I just don't know where to start---and also wonder how we can find out if it is worth it for her to apply to private schools knowing we will need tuition assistance. Please help.... wondering and starting to worry

For anyone looking for help with the financial aid applications for college, consider College Counselor Sue Kim of ECC in Pleasant Hill. We initially heard her give a talk at Berkeley High School last year. She has been in the business for 18 years and is smart and funny. She guides you through filling out the FAFSA and CSS forms, and can give you helpful advice about individual schools. She helped my daughter set up the Common Application and gave her instructions on how and when to submit them. Without her help, I would be stumbling through this crazy process. She is very reasonable priced. I highly recommend her. Her email is: suekim [at] Satisfied parent

A word of caution to those considering working with Barbara Austin of College Quest: She meets with your child first before she lets you know what she will charge, then locks you into a contract that costs several thousand dollars. Within a few weeks, my child became very unhappy with the counseling she was receiving. My daughter was frustrated when she showed up for her appointment and Ms. Austin had double booked and expected her to wait without even an apology. Whenever my child had her own opinion of how she wanted her essays to progress, Ms. Austin would just say how she had X years of experience and we needed to listen to her. She continued to recommend colleges that were of no interest whatsoever to my child.

Fortunately, my daughter has now found help on the application process where she is being encouraged and valued for her skills and her writing. She is back to feeling positive and excited about applying to college. I am sorry we wasted our time and money with Ms. Austin. Learned the hard way

Advice needed about non-traditional colleges

Nov 2009

My daughter (a junior) is interested in exploring colleges that provide an alternative path to education. She is doing her share of research on-line and with books, but we are looking for a college counselor/consultant to help direct her with her search of non-traditional colleges. We would also appreciate any feedback from parents and students who have attended any alternative colleges. Thanks! Melissa

My son, who is now a freshman in college, worked with Wendy Morrison, who is fabulous. Our family walked out of the first meeting with Wendy full of energy and optimism. We were all so happy that we had found such a good person who totally understood and appreciated our son's quirks, strengths, learning disabilities, passions and interests. Her depth of knowledge about a wide range of colleges, and respect for all of us was amazing. We know many people who have been equally happy with her.

Her email address is wendymorrison [at] and her phone number is 510-384-5962. She is located in Kensington. I live in Central Contra Costa County and found it worth the drive - but a lot of the work she does with students is by email. I'd contact her right away if I were you. She fills up fast. Good luck! sunhopes

College counselor in Lamorinda area

April 2009

I am looking for a good college counselor in the Lamorinda area, who can provide assistance to an average student. If anyone has any recommendations, I'd be very grateful. Thanks for your help. Allison

My son worked quite successfully with Shelly O'Neill in Lafayette. She is extremely knowledgeable, energetic, has a terrific rapport with students, and really tunes in to individual needs. (Including LD students). Shelly assisted (him) in creating a focus to narrow the list and even added a few suggestions based on the criteria my son required. She set reasonable task lists with specific deadlines to keep the process on track. Shelly does not assist with the essay nor test prep however has wonderful suggestions and resources. I do not know if she is accepting (more) students for the 2009/10 college application process. Try to reach her @ sgo1986 [at] My son was offered admission to four out of six colleges including his top two choices! Good luck! Marcie

I would strongly recommend the college counselor I am working with for my daughter, Ethan Ris. He makes house visits and has been great working with my daughter who is very intelligent but not a top student. He has a website, Ethan's hourly rate was also very reasonable. Erica

College counselor to help sort through the options

Oct 2008

I am looking for a college prep counselor for my daughter who is a junior at Albany High. She asked me to help her find someone who can do some aptitude/interest testing for eventual college/career choices and to help her sort through the options for her college education so she can become more clear about what might be right for her. Any ideas or recommendations? --Diane

I can highly recommend Diane Ruyffelaere. I've been working with her for several years on the BHS College Application Handbook and she really knows both what the colleges are looking for in students (and on applications), and how to help students define what they are looking for in choosing a college. She can work with your daughter on finding several colleges that are good fits for her, on preparing for the SAT and/or ACT tests, and/or on getting that college essay written--before the start of Senior year! She knows her stuff and is super friendly and helpful. She's working with my son right now, and it's making the whole process of just finding a college a lot less stressful now than it was looking a few months ago. She can be reached at druyffelaere [at] Good luck! Nancy

Ellen Lerner is great-- Intelligent, experienced, kind, and resourceful. She is on the North Oakland/Berkeley border, and her phone number is 510-652-7222. --Stephanie, parent of BHS senior

Need smart, sensitive, straight- talking private college admissions counselor

April 2008

I need a recommendation for a smart, sensitive, straight- talking private college admissions counselor who is reasonably priced, for my high school junior child. We know the basics and can research schools. We need someone to help our child with writing essays, staying on task and meeting deadlines, so that Mom isn't always the bad guy. Advice on where to apply (what is a ''safety'', what is a ''reach'') will be helpful as well. We live in Walnut Creek/Lafayette area. I have read previous posts to this list, but would really appreciate up-to-date recommendations. I have heard from too many friends who have been unhappy with the counselor they used. THANKS!! Junior Mom

There is a wonderful private college admissions counselor in Orinda. Her name is Kit Prager and you can reach her at (925) 254-1309. Kit worked with my daughter 4 years ago and she was successful in getting into many schools. Kit was especially good at helping my daughter choose schools to apply to, editing essays and keeping to timelines. She's not inexpensive, but we found her guidence invaluable. sharon

College coach to identify schools to apply to

Jan 2008

Can anyone recommend a college coach to help a junior in high school start to figure out what type/size of schools they should look at. My daughter is an average student with lots of extracurricular activities who has no idea what she wants to study or where to begin the process. She'll be taking the SAT and ACT next month for the first time but we don't know what the next steps are beyond that. She is very busy with sports and her other activities and has asked if we could find someone to help us get organized, focused, and begin to navigate this process. Any recommendations? Thanks!

We are working with a wonderful college coach named Elisabeth Sandberg 510.295.5115. She has worked as a counselor at several schools, most recently at Berkeley High, and has been through the process with her own sons. My daughter has responded really well to her and Elisabeth put a lot of my anxiety about the process to rest. Jill

We worked with a woman in Berkeley named Tami Uecker. She is knowledgeable about many schools around the country, was patient and calm and answered all our questions. She was able to get our son on a schedule with her, so we didn't have to always be nagging. I still edited his essays quite a bit, but she really helped with selecting schools that were a good match for him and where he would be likely to get in (as well as 'safety' and 'reach' schools). I recommend her; you can reach her at tami[at] mom of a high school senior

2006 - 2007 Reviews

Sept 2006

My daughter left for college recently and I'm reminded how enormously helpful her private college counselor, Annissa Hambouz, was in helping her to find a good fit. Annissa has been a private school teacher here and in NYC, relates well to teens, is well organized, creative in her advice and selection of schools and really sees each student as an individual. She has students around the Bay Area, including Marin and the East Bay. annissa[at] (website 415-516-8998

August 2006

I wanted to pass on the name of a fantastic college admissions consultant. Edith Zinn in Berkeley is a former University of Michigan Admissions Officer who worked with our son. She helped him develop a strategy, find a list of schools that were right for him, and then present himself in a way that colleges found attractive. Importantly, Edith is not one of those admissions counselors who works via fancy marketing or a one size fits all formula. She helped our son craft his own strategy. With Edith's help he was admitted at Dartmouth, UC Berkeley, the University of North Carolina, Carleton, and other top tier schools. Edith has been active in the field for at least 20 years and gets her clients via word of mouth. Her phone number is 510 528 0503. She usually books up early for the college admissions season, so it is worth contacting her soon.

Oct 2005

I would recommend Mrs. Judi Flannery who use to work at Holy Names High School. You can reach her at Jpflann99 AT
Former Parent from HNHS

Oct 2005

My daughter is having a very positive college counseling experience with Annissa Hambouz. Ms. Hambouz was a social studies teacher and college counselor at a private school in Marin until this year and is now full time in her own practice. She relates well to teenagers, is well organized, creative in her advice and really sees each student as an individual. She works in Marin and the East Bay. website 415-516-8998

Dec 2005

My daughter is a junior at BHS. We are thinking it would be a good idea to consult an independent college counselor for assistance. I have searched the archives, but found only one or two listings. Does anyone have current advice for me along these lines?

Regarding seeking college counselor: Try Wendy Morrison, 384-5962. Excellent reputation and vivacious, teen loving personality.

We used Sharon Rudnick, at 848-9350, in N. Berkeley, as a college counselor for our son. She was a pleasure to work with, and our son got into every college he applied to. (And got several very good merit scholarships.) She was very good at helping him with his essays. And, most importantly, he enjoyed working with her.

She seems to know her stuff, and she gives the kids lots of information, but also makes them research certain things independently (like she'll come up with a long list of colleges that might meet your child's needs, but then expects your child to send for the initial materials to narrow the list.)

Her hourly fee was reasonable, and ultimately, it didn't cost us that much-. And the hassle we saved in not having to be the ones to edit his work (it's amazing how much easier it is for teens to accept feedback from adults who are not their parents....)made it all worthwhile. Anyway, good luck! barbara

My son and our family have had a very good experience with an excellent college counselor, Wendy Morrison. She was warm, friendly, thorough, very knowledgeable, and very concerned. She can be contacted at wendymorrison AT or 510-384-5962.

Earlier Reviews

College counselor experienced working with homeschoolers

April 2003

I'm looking for recommendations for a college counselor who has specific experience working with homeschoolers and kids who have nontraditional high school experience. I've seen some of the posts on college counselors here, but I'm hoping someone knows of one that works with our particular situation - I have a 16 year old daughter who completed two years of public high school before taking the CHSPE exam and thereby ''testing out'' of high school. This year she is not enrolled in school, but is continuing to pursue academic work through other programs. She is a very high achieving student with great grades and test scores, but we need more information about what she'll need to do to apply to college without a traditional high school background.

homeschool parent

I am a community college counselor. In my discussion with my colleagues we all agree that your daughter would have to follow the Freshman Admission Requirements for UC Applicants if she desires to apply to any UC Campus. Please go to Go to the QUICK SEARCH DROP DOWN MENU and select Freshman Requirements. At this link you can gather all the information as it applies to admission to a UC Campus. Of interest is the Subject Requirements. this information has to do with the (a-f) subject requirements for high school students if they desire to apply to a UC campus ( the yellow box) Also please check out the Eligibility by Examination Only. this may also give her another opportunity for admission to the campus of choice. As you scroll down to the bottom of the Freshman Requirements page, click on the Selection Criteria link and you will be able to gather information regarding the UC applicant profile. As you do have a non traditional situation, please contact the campus of choice throught the office of admission or the Outreach Programs and see if there is a contact person who may have more experience in dealing with non traditional high school graduates. Hope this has given you a start and good luck

Have you checked the website (California Homeschool Assn)? There's a teen section, and in it you should find a link and info re Wes Beach. He's worked with many, many kids who've done alternative things for high school and gone on to college. As the mom of a homeschooler who did go to high school, and is now in the final days of college selection(!), I would suggest visiting as many college campuses as you can, esp. when school is in session. Don't just take the tours, even skip it if you're short on time, but have your daughter sit in on classes and talk to as many kids as possible while she's there. I've embarrassed my kid, but I stop everyone we see and ask all kinds of questions. It's been invaluable. (and she really doesn't mind.) The other thing to do is to meet the dean of admissions - face time is also invaluable. you/she can then describe your situation and ask for advice and recommendations. my daughter was accepted at 11 schools (some very competitive), most of which we were advised she could not get into. I think homeschooling set her somewhat apart (in a positive way), as did the fact that they had a face to go along with the application. try ''small colleges that change lives'' by loren pope. good luck and feel free to email me. and if your daughter is not quite ready to do tthe touring thing, call admissions yourself and ask for help. most (except uc's) will be happy to help you. peggy


To the parent(s) looking for a college counselor: If you can't find a local counselor who is available, as a back-up you might check out the college(s) that you attended. My alma mater has a free college-counseling service for alumni who are parents of college applicants. The service is available regardless of where the student wants to apply for college, and it can be given by e-mail, phone, or in person. I have gotten some useful information and advice from the counselor who administers that service. Juliann

If you want to discuss college, I suggest the newgroup. The posts tend to be about the more selective colleges. Achieva offered us a free introductory meeting during which they tried to make us as nervous as possible about getting into college.

From Tim
Two well-regarded private counselors in Berkeley are Trish Hawthorne and Dan Dean. I don't have direct experience with either of them myself, but both are friends and very good people. Dan is a retired BHS counselor. I believe they are both in the phone book (white pages).

Sept 2000

I highly recommend Barbara Manierre (464-1056). She brings enthusiasm and good humor to the college application process plus a wealth of first hand knowledge about schools, a high level of organization, and great editing skills. By setting up writing deadlines, she was able to get my 'leave it to the last minute' son to work on multiple drafts of his essays and reduce the overall anxiety of the process considerably.

I sent my daughter to a private college counselor . The college application process can be so overwhelming and she benefited by their counsel and they took their time and they were extremely helpful. Name: Walker and Walker and they live in Kensington. Their phone number is in the phone book. Good luck!

Two years ago we had an excellent experience helping our niece with a college counselor - Edth Zinn in Berkeley. Our niece is now a sophmore at Bard College in New York- her first choice. She was raisied by a terrific single dad (my brother) and needed help with applications, essays, and choice of colleges to visit - as well as interview coaching. Mrs. Zinn was very wise, expereinced in contacting admissions offices for infromation and scheduling and supportive. We plan you use her again when our son is ready in a few years. She also has a partner who i hear is vey good as well.

From Cassandra
Wonderful, thoughtful, knowledgeble, many years experience, specializes in educational advice including finding & choosing a college - Ms. Carol Goodell, Ph. D. (650) 345-7814 fax 650-570-5904

Sept 2000

Our experience with Jim and Dot Walker was unbelievable. Jim was head counsellor and principal at Albany High for many years, and organizes the college fair at St. Mary's every year - with hundreds of colleges from across the nation. They offer group classes for parents as well as individual counseling and even college tours. They know all the admissions officers and campuses and they understand the individuality of each kid - where they're coming from, where they want to go. They are incredibly supportive all along the way, and were a huge help with the tensions, insecurities, and overwhelming anxiety of the whole process. In the end, they were able to gently steer us toward some schools we might not otherwise have considered - and my daughter got in everywhere she applied. Call Walker, Walker & Assoc. :510-527-1930. Sally (9/00)