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Kelsey Nassetta, a senior at Waterford High School, works with Betsy Perkins filling out an online college application. Kelsey and her parents are working with Perkins & Murphy College Admissions Consultancy.

Dana Jensen

Tim Murphy talks with Kim and Lou Nassetta while their daughter, Kelsey, works with Betsy Perkins to complete online college applications.

The Bumpy Road To College Admissions
Consultants can help make the ride smoother

By Richard Norman, Day Staff Writer
Published on 12/25/2005

It is startling to think that a lot of people make an investment of fifty or a hundred thousand dollars or more while seeking little or no expert advice on that investment.

Who are these careless investors? They are moms and dads, sending their sons and daughters off to college.

There is a potential for problems when mom and dad and youngster try to manage the college admissions process on their own. When the student is still in high school, the family may not design the curriculum that will best prepare the young person when she applies to colleges. When she begins applying, they may not do the paperwork correctly. They may overlook financial aid that is available to her. They may choose a college that is not well suited to her goals. They may experience the stress of taking on themselves a complicated task with which they are unfamiliar. They may come away with a sour feeling about the whole episode, sending daughter off to school wondering if the college she has chosen is the right place for her.

Kelsey Nassetta, a senior at Waterford High School, will head for college in the fall. With her parents, Kim and Lou, she has embarked on her search for the right college under the supervision of Perkins & Murphy, a college-admissions consulting firm in Waterford.

“We wanted some assistance in becoming knowledgeable about programs and colleges out there,” explains Lou.

“It's a lot different than when we did this,” adds Kim. “When I applied to college, I did it myself. I even went to the bank by myself and signed the financial-aid application. Now for Kelsey, we want to know a lot more about it.”

Tim Murphy, one of the consulting partners, recalls when he was heading for college.

“The thought of sitting down at the kitchen table with my parents for a couple of hours and trying to figure all that stuff out, it was awful,” he says.

What sort of experience are the Nassettas having with Betsy Perkins and Tim Murphy?

“We always walk out of here with smiles on our faces,” says Kim. “It's a positive experience. We know we're going to be confident when it's over that Kelsey has made a good decision.”

Of course, the most important person in this equation is Kelsey. How does she feel?

“It's been excellent,” she says. “I started out wondering, how am I going to do all these applications and all this research? But Tim and Betsy have helped me get into it in depth. In the applications, they help me to stand out as a person. My friends are all stressed out, but Tim and Betsy have made me ecstatic for college.”

The whole group has met today at Perkins' and Murphy's Waterford home. Kelsey's mom recalls the beginning of the search for a college.

“Kelsey wanted to go to the Tampa area, but I didn't want her that far away,” says Kim. “It's a very different culture than New England.”

The family looked at several colleges on the Internet. Ultimately, Kelsey went to visit the campus of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield and decided this was the place for her. Now Perkins and Murphy are helping her and her parents navigate the treacherous waters of college admissions.

Perkins, with a background as a school counselor, and Murphy, with experience as an administrator and consultant, have worked with more than 1,000 students in the area of college admissions. Their consulting packages are all-inclusive; they manage every phase of application, financial aid, interviewing, visits to colleges and preparation in such areas as understanding what dorm life will be like and what sort of curriculum they will have when they begin college. They reduce the stress of the family in undergoing this process, and they devise a strategy that will help the student present herself in the most favorable light when she applies for admission.

“It's important that a student make a good case for himself or herself,” says Perkins. “College admission is more competitive than it has ever been before. More students than ever are attending college.”

“It usually takes us from 35 to 40 hours of work with a student,” says Murphy. “High school counselors do a great job, but they simply don't have enough time to do this for every student.”

An important tool used by Perkins and Murphy is a questionnaire filled out by both parents and students, independently. The questionnaire is designed to help them get down on paper their expectations, their goals for the student and their concerns. The student and the parents sometimes begin the process far apart; Perkins and Murphy can help them come to agreement on the right course for the student.

Perkins & Murphy's consulting packages start at $300 and range upward. Consultation by the hour may be available as well. Parents who have used the firm's services agree with Kim: “This investment is part of the whole process,” she says.

The Nassettas and the two consultants emphasize that you can hardly put a price on avoiding the contentious work that parents and student have to do if they undertake the college-admission process on their own.

“A lot of people aren't speaking to their kids right now,” says Murphy. “But we love doing this.”

Reproduced with permission of The Day Publishing Co.


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