Getting That Big Fat Envelope
A Q&A with Private College Counselor Betsy F. Woolf of Woolf College Consulting in Mamaroneck.
Photo by John Rizzo
Did you work with a private counselor when you were applying to college?
No, I grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and we didn’t know from such things. I don’t even remember a guidance counselor.
Tell us about your educational and professional background.
I graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from NYU with a BA in political science and history. I practiced law for about fourteen years after receiving my law degree from Hofstra University. Since 1992 I have worked as an editor and writer for various magazines and, in the spring of 2004, I started doing private college consulting. I hold a certificate in college counseling from UCLA and am a graduate of the PACAC Institute of College Counseling.
What exactly do you do?
I help students decide where and when to apply, make sure they meet all deadlines along the way, and help them choose where to attend.
What do you charge for your services?
A typical package starting in junior year is usually between forty-eight and fifty-five hundred dollars and includes unlimited access to me. If a student is just coming in during senior year, it might be between twenty-five hundred and four thousand dollars.
Why pay someone like yourself when every school has a guidance counselor?
Because high-school counselors are totally overloaded.
What geographic areas do Westchester kids tend to gravitate to or avoid?
They don’t like applying to Long Island or New Jersey schools. Generally, they like to stay east of the Mississippi River. They frequently want to be within driving distance and often someplace warm.
Which under-the-radar schools do you like?
For an average kid, one of the schools that really blew me away was Ohio University. For the above average kid who likes the personal educational experience of a smaller liberal arts school, Kalamazoo College in Michigan, and for kids who have an unusual mix of interests and want flexibility, Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. And for very bright students who want a more laid-back experience than typical of the East but one that’s still very academic, Lawrence University near Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Do people want to pump you for information at cocktail parties?
Oh, yeah. Boy, am I popular.
What’s the question they ask you most frequently?
‘Which schools are most popular?’ Last year, the University of Michigan was enormously popular, Syracuse and NYU are perennially popular, and Cornell is still big. The school people are talking about today is the University of Richmond, which is looking for kids from the Northeast. Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t ask me what I know about it.