How to Start a College Consultant Business


For the high school teen trying to decide which universities to apply to or an adult who's looking to brush up on skills, get an advanced degree or train for a new career, college can be a bewildering venue to try to navigate alone. If you have great communication skills, are adept at doing research, and have a zeal for helping others succeed, a college consulting business might be a perfect match for your interests and time.

Things You'll Need

  • College degree
  • Website
  • Business license
  • Brochures
  • Business cards

Identify what type of college consulting you want to do. Here are some possible avenues to consider: (1) Assisting students in researching colleges and deciding which ones to apply to; (2) assisting students in filing paperwork, such as transcripts, applications and personal statements; (3) assisting students in identifying a college major; (4) assisting students in researching options for financial aid such as student loans and scholarships; (5) assisting at-risk students in making a successful transition to a two-year or four-year institution; (6) assisting foreign students who want to attend American colleges; (7) assisting students in locating affordable housing and managing a budget; (8) assisting students in finding employment.

Assess how much time you have available to devote to your new business, and whether you intend to work alone or with partners. Freelance consulting businesses are often solo operations and can easily be run from the comfort of your own home. If you're currently employed and want to test the waters before leaping into consulting full-time, you can do this by setting evening and weekend appointments, as well as conducting consultations by phone and email with your target clientele.

Decide whether you want to confine your consulting services to students in your own city, or if you want to branch out to other parts of the state or country. Many consultants, for instance, start out locally and then begin participating in state and national workshops that not only provide them with expanded visibility as an expert, but also allow them to distribute their promotional brochures and business cards to students who can subsequently follow up by email or phone.

Research the competition. For instance, you'll want to find out if area high schools utilize any freelance counselors to come and give talks to students. You'll want to see what sort of mentoring/counseling resources are available to students at the nearest two-year and four-year institutions. Likewise, you'll want to look in the phone book to see if there are existing college preparatory agencies, and whether they place as much emphasis on personal consulting as they do in grooming students to pass exams.

Assess your personal qualifications to be a college consultant. In addition to possessing excellent communication skills, you need to be a self-starter, a hard worker and have a demonstrated expertise relative to the demands of college life and the real world. The more professional experience you have, the easier it is going to be to attract a clientele that will trust you to help them with their decisions. If, for example, you are/were a financial adviser at a bank, you're likely to be perceived as having good judgment about student loans or about how someone who has just moved away from home can set up a realistic budget. Another scenario might be that you're a woman in her 50's who went back to college to get a degree after raising a family and would be more sensitive to the concerns of other women than a male consultant in his early 20's.

Get a business license and register your new company's name with the secretary of state's office. The website of the Small Business Administration (see Resources) can walk you through the steps of acquiring the necessary licensing in the state where you plan to work. To register your company's name, visit your state's official website and click on secretary of state.

Design a website and promotional materials, such as brochures and business cards. The website should describe the services you provide, list a fee schedule and contain a bio so people can see what your background is. You might also find it beneficial to include an online questionnaire so that prospective clients can tell you what sort of consulting assistance they're interested in.

Familiarize yourself with the content of the following websites (depending on your area of specialization): (1) The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers an overview of numerous jobs, their median salaries and future employment prospects; (2) Top 10 Rules for Selecting a College is something you'll refer to often when students are undecided about staying near home, going away or even studying abroad; (3) How to Gather Information About Colleges is a great research tool whether you're doing the legwork yourself or directing your clients; and (4) The Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid is a primer for finding sources that students and their parents may not have thought of. It also has a free scholarship search link.

Network. Talk to the administrators of area schools, and explore how you can work together in making your services available to their students. In addition, you should join your local chamber of commerce and other civic organizations that will bring you in contact with lots of people. This is not only beneficial if they have college-bound family members, but will also keep you abreast of what is going on in the business community, especially if a component of your consulting services includes job placement and internships.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you're fluent in another language, this could be a bonus in establishing a college consulting business geared toward other native speakers who are prospective students. If you're going to be meeting students at a home office, check with your insurance agent first and make sure that you're covered in the event of accidents. A better option is to meet on the campus (i.e., library, conference room, cafeteria) or at the student's home with the parents in attendance.
  • When young people in particular are anxious and confused, they'll sometimes latch on to the first adult who takes an interest in their problems. While it's natural to be concerned about all of the clients who come to you for consultations, your job isn't to be their new best friend that they can now call at 3 in the morning. Keep things professional. If you sense that maybe they need psychological help for their problems, don't try to solve it yourself; refer them to someone who has the medical background to treat these conditions.

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