Families finding help with 'Path to College'

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Fri., Mar. 1, 2013
Erica White has seen business continue to grow since she started Path to College just under three years ago. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

Having worked as a college/career counselor, Erica White found a niche that she’s been able to turn into a business. She discovered that a student’s search for the right college is something that many families can use a little extra help with. While high schools in Connecticut perform this task to various degrees, few, if any, have the resources to offer individual attention that is valuable to college-bound students.

“As the demand on the high school guidance counselor gets greater, they are not afforded the time to do as much college process counseling as is needed,” she said, adding that the average time a counselor spends on one student's college path is about 38 minutes.

“People want the individualized one-on-one attention, and [to] know that someone has their back throughout the process,” she said. “There are a lot of steps, and they want to make sure they are doing it right.”

White created Path to College, LLC just over two years ago, and spends 10 to 14 hours, over several sessions, with each student. Due partly to that, she has seen her business grow as she serves client families who are either looking for assistance, or want that extra edge in finding the university with the right fit.

While White has been working with families from the greater Hartford area, she has found that with the high percentage of GHS students who go on to pursue higher education, business in Glastonbury is booming. “The majority of my clients are from Glastonbury,” she said, “[partly because] their numbers of graduates going on to four-year colleges is through the roof.”

White routinely visits campuses, along with others in her field, and then rates how each school presents itself, while taking note of “extra-curriculars,” such as the area surrounding the college. To date, she has visited 99 colleges – many of them in New England, but also as far away as Texas and Arizona. She also keeps on top of trends in college acceptance and application standards.

“I'm always trying to stay as current as possible,” she said.

When meeting with families, she said she begins by getting to know the student – reviewing their high school career and what college searching they've already done. She then identifies what schools are “reach,” “target” and “safe” schools to apply to. White then provides help with filling out the applications and essays, as well as any additional materials the colleges need.

She does also offer direction in applying for financial aid and scholarships.

White said she has received most of her business’s growth through referrals, and from families with successive children entering college age. Sometimes, family dynamics come into play.

“Sometimes the parents want one thing and the student wants another thing,” she said. “So it's trying to find the best middle ground so everyone is happy.”

The best moments of her job are seeing students be accepted to the school of their choice, but the moments when applications are sent can be exciting, as well.

“Acceptances are the best part – knowing you started with a blank slate and worked 10 to 14 hours over a two-year period, and then they get that phone call or letter and then they are on cloud nine,” White said. “Sometimes it's pushing that submit button, after we've looked everything over and know it's perfect. That's a nice moment when everything is finalized and packaged perfectly.”

For more information, visit www.thepathtocollege.com.

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