Q: Why should I hire Dr. Debra Felix instead of another educational consultant?
I come to admissions from all sides: as Director of Admissions for Columbia University; as an Admissions Consultant to Swarthmore College, the University of Maryland, the University of Minnesota, the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Paris), Georgetown University, and other public and private high schools and universities; as a consultant to individuals applying to (and getting into!) their dream schools; and as the mother of twenty-somethings who have attended 17 schools and colleges between them. I have been admitted to Harvard, Columbia, Swarthmore, Franklin and Marshall, the University of Maryland, and the University of Michigan, among others. My clients are often pleasantly surprised by the schools I suggest to them, and by the "heartbreak" schools that admit them while passing over their peers.
I have a Master’s degree in Counseling, a Ph.D. in Education Policy, and the highest level of Professional Membership in IECA, the Independent Educational Consultants Association. There is no one anywhere with more education, experience, and insight when it comes to the admissions process. Having said all that, there are many excellent educational consultants in the U.S. and abroad, and I would encourage you to choose among them carefully. As in selecting schools, “fit” is just as important as reputation, experience, and knowledge, and it is critical that you (and yours) feel comfortable with whomever you choose. My advice is to pick a consultant who is a member of IECA and whose philosophy and personality works best with yours.
OUTCOMES: Last year, my Seniors were admitted to Yale, MIT, Brown, Smith, Cornell, Penn, Amherst, Wellesley, Stanford, Duke, Swarthmore, Barnard, UCSD, Vassar, UC Berkeley, Kenyon, Denison, Franklin and Marshall, College of Wooster, Skidmore, NYU, Oberlin, Georgetown, and more. Most importantly, everyone got in to his or her first choice school. My colleagues keep asking me how I achieve these outcomes year after year, while three of the best educational consultants in the country recently hired me to work with their own family members. I guess that makes me the doctor's doctor in admissions consulting!
Q: What exactly do you do?
I reduce the stress and confusion of the admissions process for understandably anxious applicants and their families. I help young people discover their unique talents, interests, and dreams, then help them find places where they can develop and achieve those in their academic and extracurricular lives. I reveal what admissions committees are actually looking for in the applications they receive. I assist applicants with the entire application process, from generating a list of possible "best-fit" schools to advising a waitlisted candidate, from brainstorming essay topics to proofreading applications, and from choosing the right recommenders to preparing for interviews. I advise clients on which standardized tests to take and when, and I answer any questions that arise throughout the process. Finally, I use my experience as an Ivy League Admissions Officer and my knowledge of the unique cultures of different admissions offices and schools to help applicants customize their applications to maximize their chances of admission.
Q: How often do you communicate with your clients?
It depends. We need to "meet" at least eight times throughout the process, but because each applicant’s needs are different, I do not impose a predetermined schedule on everyone. Instead, I do whatever it takes to help each individual to navigate the process smoothly. For some clients, this requires frequent points of communication, which can take place in person, by phone, by text, by email, and/or by Skype, Tango, or Zoom. Other clients are able to complete the process with less frequent communication.
Q: My child has an excellent school counselor. Do I really need an educational consultant, too?
It depends. If your child’s school counselor has an extremely small caseload (under 30 students) and knows a lot about the first 14 years of your child's life; if your child is self-motivated, does not procrastinate, and has an excellent relationship with the counselor; and if you have current, inside information about the admissions process and about all of the schools to which your child might apply, then you probably do not need an educational consultant’s advice or assistance. However, even the best school-based counselors have many other responsibilities and do not have time to help students as much as most parents would like.
Back in 2010, the group Public Agenda produced a report for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with the title “Can I Get a Little Advice Here?” The report highlighted dissatisfaction with the quality of college counseling at many public schools. Sadly, school counselors are an endangered species in many school districts as budgets are cut, and counseling offices are repositories for duties like testing and truancy such that actual college counseling is a low priority. Furthermore, many graduate programs in school counseling don’t include course work on college counseling. Note that I have just as many clients from private as public schools.
An independent educational consultant offers you extensive personal time and attention, individualized assistance, a broader perspective on your child's personal life and goals (beyond what s/he does currently at school), and a wealth of information about colleges and the admissions process that a school-based counselor just cannot match.
Q: Do you work in conjunction with my child’s guidance counselor?
Yes, if possible. Many school guidance counselors are open to working with outside consultants (as are many admissions officers), and I prefer to have their buy-in and be able to tap into their knowledge and experience. But, if they see the hiring of an independent consultant as a negative reflection on their ability to do their job, it can be better for us to work behind the scenes.
Q: When should I hire an educational consultant?
The sooner, the better. As soon as you know that you or your child will be applying to high schools, colleges, or universities, be in touch! By starting earlier, I can inform your choices of academic classes and non-academic pursuits to maximize later options. In addition, beginning a relationship earlier allows us to get to know one another without the immediate pressure of applications looming over our heads. Finally, because I can only do this work well if I have a limited number of clients at a time, my slate fills up quickly.
Q: Do you call schools to help your clients “get in”?
While some educational consultants call admissions offices, I've gotten great outcomes by working behind the scenes and helping each applicant present him/herself as well as possible. Besides, I’ve been hired to represent you, so the schools do not see me as objective. In the case of college admissions, I will occasionally encourage a family to ask their child’s high school guidance counselor to call a college on the student’s behalf, and I will call an admissions office if I have a question for them. Fortunately, as a Professional Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, I have access to a list-serve that reaches over 1,000 other top-notch educational consultants around the world with whom I consult, as needed, for information and advice.
Q: If you do not have openings for comprehensive clients, or if we cannot afford the “full package,” is there anything else you can do for us?
Yes. I work with a limited number of students each year, and if my docket is full, I can certainly refer you to other good independent educational consultants. If you cannot afford my Comprehensive Package, you should at least consider taking advantage of an Individual Assessment. After that, time permitting, I can help you with a finite part of the admissions process on an a la carte basis. Alternatively, you can arrange a session about admissions and financial aid for three or more families, and I will provide a two-hour talk and Q&A just for your group.
Q: Do you do test prep?
No. Whereas I am very familiar with the tests and can advise you on which one(s) to take when and whether or not you need test prep, my services focus on the admissions process. However, I am happy to help you decide if you need test preparation and which type of test preparation to use based on your location, strengths, needs, preferences, and budget. I refer clients only to the best tutors in the country.
Q: I do not live in the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area. Can you still work with me?
Absolutely! Since I began helping applicants about 30 years ago while living in Manhattan, most of my clients have been in faraway places such as Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, and France, and working remotely is normal for me. Right now, I am working with clients in California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington DC, Washington state, Nepal, France, India, and China. I have worked with clients from Africa, Azerbaijan, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Russia, Taiwan, and Tajikistan. I thoroughly enjoy working with people from other parts of the United States and the world. We meet in person, talk by phone, and communicate by text, Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, email, or whatever works best.
Q: What are your fees?
The bottom line is that spending a few thousand dollars to work with an experienced admissions consultant is well worth the investment. You probably wouldn't think twice about paying for braces, contact lenses, summer activities, or winter vacations for your child. The return on an investment in education is far greater in the long-term, and my clients often receive tens of thousands of dollars in financial aid and scholarships, usually in amounts that far exceed the fees they have paid for my services.
For the college-bound: You should know that 25% of high-potential high school students now employ an admissions consultant, and the number is increasing rapidly. Keep in mind, too, that you will spend $120,000 - $275,000+ for an undergraduate education, or more if you do not get into the right school and transfer or take more than four years to graduate.
This is an investment you have only one chance to make. Do not leave your child at a disadvantage in the process. Be in touch.
To request a FREE 10-minute consultation and current fee schedule, click on "Contact Us" at the top of this page.
-Dr. Debra Felix
A client story:
“Our son was attending high school in France. Due to the complicated nature of his background, we approached Dr. Deb Felix for assistance. Her experience and knowledge of American colleges, foreign education systems, and the admissions process were invaluable to us in the assessment she did. She talked to us about how to approach the process and what to look for to find a program that would best meet his needs. She invited us to continue to work with her on our son's college list, etc.
But, we thought we would be fine from there. We had already been through the admissions process ourselves long ago and with our older daughter five years ago, so we did not continue to work with Deb after the initial assessment. What a mistake. Everything is different, even from when our daughter applied to college. Our son chose schools with his “professors” at his private school, then completed his applications without professional guidance. He was waitlisted at his first choice school, admitted to a school he had no intention of attending, and rejected everywhere else. What was the only thing he wanted when he Skyped home to tell us? “Please call Dr. Deb, NOW, if possible.”
He had a barrage of questions for Dr. Deb: “What do I do to increase my chances of coming off the wait list at my first choice? What is the protocol in terms of communicating with the admissions office? Can I write a letter begging for an interview? Should I fly there and stand in the Dean's parking space until she has to come or go? Should I send gifts from Europe, maybe a French wine & cheese basket? Would they be impressed by the business plan I just wrote that blew away the competition? Should I re-take the SAT’s, try for perfect scores? And, most of all, WHY DIDN'T I GET IN?"
Deb handled the situation with ease and compassion. She answered his questions thoroughly and helped him come up with a proper plan, with the ultimate goal of allowing him to present himself in the most positive, yet personal way. Speaking from her own experience as an admissions officer at Columbia, she also made him understand that the colleges were not rejecting the young man we know, respect and love. “No one institution’s decision determines who you are or who you will become,” Deb told him. “You are a great kid, and you will get in where you are supposed to be.”
We have already reserved a spot in Deb's Class of 2019 for our third child so they can work together throughout the entire admissions process!”
-Parents of a student who attended Naples High School (FL) and Mougins School (Mougins, France)
In my work as Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Westtown School and the Baldwin School, I have spent decades engaging with educational consultants from across the country. I have known Debra Felix for 29 years, and can say that her skills, experience, and commitment are on par with the very best consultants with whom I have worked.
-Former Director of Admissions at the Westtown and Baldwin Schools (PA)