BY STEVE DINNEN
Tuition and room/board at a top Ivy League university now runs about $65,000 a year. Add in books, travel back to Iowa a few times a year, a mom-and-dad-funded spring break trip—and your scholar is zeroing in on the $100,000 mark. Multiply times four to land a degree, and this makes college a very important financial decision.
It might make sense, then, to study very hard to make sure you get into the right school. A tutor in this endeavor could well be a college coach, such as Diana Hawkins at College Connectors in Ankeny. Her firm works with high school students to both formulate where they want to attend college, and then build applications that will be looked upon favorably by admissions officers.
Starting about this time of year, Hawkins likes to sit down with high school juniors and their parents to draw up a game plan. Big school versus small school, big city versus rural setting, liberal arts, science, Greek system, specialized sports, etc. She then works to refine their goals and aspirations, keeping parents in the loop but letting students lead the process.
“We want the student to be invested in this,” Hawkins said. “This is their first adult decision.”
Hawkins, a University of Iowa graduate, pulls together important data on retention rates, four-year graduation rates and academic standing for the selected schools. She said she visits about 25 college campuses a year to personally check their credentials.
This search process goes through the student’s senior year. By then Hawkins and the student will have developed a list of maybe 15 to 20 potential schools. Then they need more meetings with her as they go through the application process.
More than 700 universities accept a common application, so the task of applying to a dozen schools may not be as daunting as it first seems. It’s also easier that there is a common essay of up to 650 words that can be submitted with these applications. But many schools want a supplemental essay of 100-800 words, and this is a where a student—with the help of Hawkins —can craft a message that will be tailored to a specific school.
Hawkins didn’t provide what she charges for her services but said the fee “varies depending on student needs.”
Obviously you can do this on your own. And even if money is not a concern, the important thing is to develop a process. Doing so, Hawkins said, allows the student to learn about a school and learn about themselves.