With more than 3,000 four-year colleges and universities in America alone, the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. The question is not so much “getting in” as “fitting in” at a college that’s a good match. While some young people thrive at large, public universities with abundant majors and social options, others are looking for a smaller and more personal college setting, perhaps at a private liberal arts college. Some want the energy of a cityscape; others love the idea of a cozy college town. D1 sports? Engineering co-ops? Russian language house? Equestrian team? The goal of College Well Planned is to match all students with those colleges that best satisfy their wish lists. Financial fit is also part of the matching process and a prime consideration for many, if not most, families. Right-fit colleges are right fits academically, socially, geographically and financially.

Something to keep in mind: There are thousands of great colleges and universities, but no college is great for every student.

Why would we use an independent college consultant? Can't we just figure this out ourselves?

Many families do try to figure it out themselves, but the process has become markedly more complicated in the past five to 10 years. Keeping track of all the moving pieces, evaluating dozens of college programs and traveling across the country to visit campuses can be stressful enough. Add in the family dynamics of dealing with a teenager on the cusp of adulthood facing the biggest decision of his or her life to date, and the whole process can become quite overwhelming.

An independent college consultant can defuse much of that stress by managing the details, supplying well-vetted knowledge based on years of experience and training, and acting as a moderating voice between teenager and parent. Most high schools provide some college counseling, but most school counselors have a heavy caseload and added responsibilities beyond college advising. Diane purposely takes on a small caseload so she can provide very personalized counseling; you’ll have her full attention, your emails will be answered quickly (usually within just a few hours), and she’s even been known to respond to midnight panic attacks.

No one can guarantee admission to any one college. What Diane can guarantee is that the process will go more smoothly, you will feel confident that you have explored all options and considered all angles, and that your child will complete her college applications feeling good about herself, her choices and a job well done. This entire crazy college process is a huge opportunity for growth, and when done properly – when “well planned” – can be a very special rite of passage for both child and parent.

How do high school counselors feel about students working with independent consultants?

Most high school counselors are actually pleased to hear that a student is getting an additional level of support during this often confusing process. As a former high school counselor herself, Diane understands how the two relationships can assist each other. Additionally, each student and family decide whether to tell their high school counselor about working with College Well Planned; all information shared with Diane is completely confidential. Diane will encourage her clients to be honest and open about the relationship, however, and can provide coaching on how to discuss this at school.

Does College Well Planned provide test prep for the ACT and/or SAT?

No. But we do have strong relationships with a number of test prep tutors and companies that specialize in test preparation. Diane has worked closely with many of them, and can provide recommendations. She also helps her clients choose the appropriate tests and decide when to take them.

Do you only work with high-achieving students?

Absolutely not. Although a number of Diane’s past students have attended extremely selective colleges and universities, that doesn’t mean that Ivy-bound students are her only clients. Every young person is uniquely talented and a high-flyer in his or her own way … regardless of GPAs and ACT scores. Diane helps each one identify appropriate college paths, with the goal of finding a college home that offers a wonderfully supportive place to thrive and grow.

Do you know about colleges and universities outside the Southeast?

Yes. Diane has visited more than 120 colleges and universities herself, and continues to add more schools to her list every year (as well as revisiting old favorites). The 400-plus students she’s counseled over the years have been accepted at more than 200 schools across the U.S. and U.K. And if Diane hasn’t visited a college herself, she has a wide network of professional colleagues who can provide first-hand insights.

Additionally, Diane has quite a few personal connections outside the Southeast. Although she’s lived in Nashville for more than 25 years, she grew up in Pennsylvania, graduated from Indiana University, married a man from Florida, and has children who have gone to college in Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, New Jersey and North Carolina. She loves the Southeast, but she also loves to see young people spread their wings and try new locations.

I'm interested in working with you, but I don't live close to Nashville. Could we still work together?

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, students and families can still connect with College Well Planned via Skype and services like Google Docs and OneDrive. Diane can make arrangements to use video conferencing to meet one-on-one with her clients, then use shared documents to do real-time research, edit essays and go over calendars and deadlines. Meeting in person is great, but online meetings are the next best thing.

How late is too late to start?

Ideally, college planning begins as early as ninth grade. But ideally doesn’t always happen, and students can start working with College Well Planned even in the fall of their senior year.

How much does it cost?

Diane has several packages available to meet a variety of needs and budgets; her Comprehensive Package includes full support through all phases of the college process, but there are also packages that offer more targeted support. The best way to price services is to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss how College Well Planned might best help your family.