Statistics have shown that there is no benefit to taking the ACT or SAT more than twice. Spring junior year and then Fall senior year works out well.

Touring colleges in sophomore year will help you determine what characteristics are important to you for your college years. Thus, visit any and all colleges, large and small, public and private, rural and urban. And make sure you attend the tour and information session at least at two campuses. (The alternative are the self-guided tours).

Junior year is when it is essential to visit campuses that now you know are more likely to be a match. Attend the structured tour and information sessions. Take notes on what you like and what you do not like.

ACT or SAT Test Day… the night before in bed by 10 and Saturday morning eat a wholesome healthy breakfast.

75% of the students who take the ACT do better the second time they take the test. The SAT test does not have similar statistics.

The average in the industry that an Independent College Advisor spends working with and for a client, is 30-50 man-hours.

The college application experience is not about the ‘Getting In.’ It’s about the ‘Match.’ Finding the college where you will have the academic, social, athletic, artistic experiences and graduate within 4 years.


“Thank you Ellen!! I have so many happy tears. What a process!! I’m so happy our daughter is happy. She could not have done it with you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!” –Mom of a 2022 High School graduate whose daughter is attending UC Berkeley

“What I enjoyed the most about working with Ellen was how organized she was. As someone going into the college admissions process completely blind, it was so incredibly helpful to have someone who was so methodical and structured guiding me along the way.

I think that other students would want to work with Ellen because she’s genuinely so knowledgeable about every in and out of the college admissions process. She knows how to answer any questions you might have, from the biggest things to the smallest.

I was very happy with the schools Ellen researched and presented for me because they all felt very suitable to my personality and my wishes. I really felt like Ellen took the time to pay attention to everything I said about my ideal college and carefully crafted a list of colleges for me to look at in accordance with my desires.

The service that I found the most valuable was probably the incredibly fast turn-around and response time. If I was working on anything related to college and had questions or needed advice, Ellen was always easily accessible, which provided immense comfort to me.” –San Mateo High School 2022 graduate attending Reed College

“I enjoyed how Ellen was always on top of my deadlines and whenever I submitted work, she returned it in a timely manner.

It is extremely hard to find schools that you like and at the same time, would be a good fit for. Ellen helped by showing me different schools that I liked and through further research, I decided if I wanted to apply to them or not.

Every school she presented to me was amazing. They all fit my major and had activities and extracurriculars that I liked. She actually introduced me to my dream school, Northeastern, where I will be going to college.” –2022 Archbishop High School Graduate attending Northeastern University

“I didn’t know much about researching colleges or about the college application process and Ellen was able to help me so much with this. Looking back I really liked how we started researching schools very early into the process as well as finishing the common application before school started in the fall. Being done with a majority of the college application process made it much easier to focus on school during a very important first semester of senior year. I think the essay prep was the most helpful, Ellen helped me come up with great ideas to write about and really helped me expand my thinking. Ellen did a great job of critiquing my essays and making sure that they were the best they could be before sending them off to different schools.” –Saint Ignatius Senior going off to SMU in the Fall 2022

“I enjoyed the empathy and understanding Ellen showed for my schedule. I also enjoyed how often she would check in on me and how I was doing and not only making it about the college process. I think because Ellen really helps you create an organized TO DO list and schedule and helps you stick to it, creating more motivation to get work done. Ellen also really helps explain what colleges are looking for in essays and other work.” –International High School of San Francisco 2022 graduate attending Tufts University

“Ellen was thorough, keeping our son on track throughout the entire college application process. Ellen worked with our son on choosing the best fit for our son and the requirements for acceptance. The college process is involved and requires an expert and Ellen provided this expertise. And Ellen was very helpful to us as parents and was available when we had questions. Ellen was wonderful to work.” –Parents of a 2022 Gunn High School Senior who is attending UC Merced

“Ellen recognized how what our daughter needed differed from what we as the parents may have thought we needed and how in our attempt to be helpful, we can often make things harder for our child. Her process was tailored to meeting the needs of her client, the senior, and I am very thankful for that. Also, the fact that Ellen’s deadlines were 2 weeks ahead of the colleges’ deadlines was perfect for my super-organized, on-top-of-things daughter – that buffer definitely helped to keep the stress low, and even gave her a little boost of calm, confidence and self-assurance when she saw her friends scrambling to submit hours ahead of the deadline.

Working with the right college advisor can make for a nearly stress-free experience. Having an advisor “project manage” the process so you know that things are on track or even ahead of schedule without having to constantly check in with your child is great. Also, while you have Google, knowing what information to trust isn’t easy, so having a go-to person for any questions that come up during the process is fantastic. “ –Mom of a 2022 graduate attending Reed College

“The thing I enjoyed most about working with you was how much stress it took off me. As the oldest child I really had no idea what had to be done in order to apply for college, and before working with you the whole thing felt entirely overwhelming. You helped break it down in a way that made it manageable for me.

I think other students would benefit working with you instead of on their own because it makes the process so much simpler. It is really hard to keep track of everything that needs to be done and to hold yourself accountable on your own.

I think that all the schools I ended up applying to would have been a good fit for me, and that they were across a good range in terms of my chances of getting in.” –2022 Torrey Pines High School graduate in San Diego

“He got bio molecular engineering at UC Santa Cruz. He chose this because in future he will have more career opportunities in this field. We really appreciate your work & dedication for your students. Thank you so much for your support till the end.” –Mom of a 2022 High School Graduate who will be attending UC Santa Cruz

“The two things I liked most about working with you were 1) your ability to keep my son focused and on task throughout the process, working gradually over time to make it manageable and thoughtful, versus rushed and overwhelming and 2) your direct and honest personality, which helps you ask blunt and tough questions, set clear expectations and deadlines and give really candid, clear and productive feedback on progress and writing throughout the application process. I would absolutely recommend you to other parents debating if they want or need a college advisor! You took the stress out of the entire process for me — I knew that you would ask the right questions, push my student to identify and consider a range of options that I might not know about, and navigate deadlines throughout the process with experience and confidence. Working with you allowed my son to truly own his own college process from start to finish. I knew he had all the support and resources he needed — but so that he was also totally accountable for his own journey and its outcome, and he can be proud of his accomplishment and confident in his ability to manage these types of challenges on his own going forward.” –Mom and Dad of a University of Oregon freshman in the Fall 2021

“Other students would want to work with Ellen rather than by themselves because they learn tips regarding how to write college essays that one may not have known on their own. For example, I learned things like show vs. tell, how I need to spend majority of my essay evaluating upon my growth, and how to make my sentences short yet effective, which I couldn’t do as well before. Ellen also provided me a good schedule to stay on track and brainstorming activities. The services I found to be the most helpful were the Application Log, ECL, Likes and Dislikes, and Activities and Awards sheets. The App Log and ECL put all my colleges’ information in one document, which was super efficient and helpful when it came to test policies and application deadlines. For the Likes and Dislikes, I was able to really nail my list of my first, second, third, and etc. choices, which helped in my overall decision process. The Activities and Awards sheet was just super efficient because I filled out 4 different applications (CA, Coalition, UC, and CSU) and was just able to copy/paste my extracurriculars very easily.” –University of San Diego freshman in the Fall 2021 from East Side Union High School

“Parents would want to hire College4u to help with researching schools, keeping students on track in the application process, assisting with essay writing, always available to answer questions that arise.” –East Coast Mom whose son is off to the University of Vermont in the Fall 2021

“Ellen provides clear direction. Expert advice. Accountable at the student level. The application process is difficult to juggle. The essay portion is so critical to establish the persona/voice of the student for “why” University should select them. We (Parents) are already so involved and managing a number of aspects for children, it is good to have a trusted partner to help in this process.” –Dad of a Senior going off to UC Riverside in the Fall 2021

“I found the editing of my essays and supplement questions very helpful. As well as the papers and research on how to write a good essay that Ellen provided me with. Lastly, I found the Likes and Dislikes section very helpful because it helped me narrow down schools.” –Notre Dame High School senior going off to Baylor in the Fall 2021

“Other students would want to work with Ellen because it is super helpful to have someone with lots of experience to edit essays and give you potential schools you may not have ever heard of! The great majority were all incredible matches and I felt that my list was super balanced (which also showed in my overall acceptances and rejections). What I enjoyed the most about working with College4u is how Ellen kept me on task constantly and set dates for me to get things to her because that helped me manage my time better.” –St Francis High School graduate going to College of Holy Cross in the Fall 2021

“While I had different schools in mind compared to the universities Ellen presented me with, the process of researching with her was still very informative. She showed me how to do in-depth research and what to look for in a college that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. And with Ellen’s help with the personal essay editing made the process much more efficient and easier to navigate through. Instead of being overwhelmed by the amount of essays I had to write, Ellen made sure that we went at a consistent speed and helped me complete essays on time.” –2021 Notre Dame High School attending LMU in the Fall

“Ellen did a great job at catering to the types of schools I was interested in. We did many activities that helped me learn what I wanted for my own future, and she was able to help me learn about schools that would allow me to pursue my interests. Moreover, I found it really useful to have someone be able to comment and suggest on my application letters so I knew the right direction to go in. One of the hardest things of working on your own is staying organized and motivated and I feel like Ellen definitely kept me working more efficiently than I would’ve if I was alone. By organizing college prep and applications in different stages of learning about yourself/needs in a school, to research, to writing applications, and finally to editing and submitting them I could manage my work in a more timely and easier way. The reviewing of application essays was very helpful and unique to working with Ellen versus being alone.” –Aragon High School 2021 graduate attending UC Davis in the Fall

“I felt that the work was spread fairly evenly over four years. Also Ellen did a very good job explaining how to search through college websites and what specifics to look for. I think other students would want Ellen’s advising because Ellen helped narrow down the college search very quickly, and she knew about plenty of opportunities for students.” –Fall 2021 University of Rochester Freshman

“The assistance with the college essay and the “Likes and Dislikes” document was the most helpful for me. Having someone who knows what a college essay should look like rather than me doing it all by myself without knowing definitely helped me. The Likes and Dislikes document helped me to narrow down colleges and dig deeper into colleges.” –University of Vermont freshman in the Fall 2021

“I could tell that Ellen did the research to find schools that were notable in my major, and if there were schools on the list that didn’t connect with me, Ellen had plenty of others at the ready. In retrospect, I’m glad Ellen chose schools for me that were very specific to my personality, because she was cognizant of the type of environment that would be most beneficial to me personally. I also found Ellen’s essay editing the most helpful and valuable. The writing style for college essays and supplementals requires a balance of confidence and modesty that I was not familiar with, and I can imagine most students feel the same. Having Ellen as a mentor throughout the process helped my writing abilities improve drastically and I now have a better understanding of how to sell myself without coming across as overly cocky or narcissistic.” –A Carlmont High School 2020 graduate attending Connecticut College

“Ellen understood the process. She had a clear plan from the beginning of the summer to when the applications were due. It was nice to have my applications done early and not to have to worry.”” –2020 Graduate who chose Villanova for college

“My favorite part about working with Ellen was her quick response time. Ellen responds really quickly to emails and provides a lot of information if one has any questions. She really enjoys helping students and it is very evident in her heartfelt responses. And Ellen is very knowledgable about the current college admissions process. She shares any updates and new insights that she may have. In addition, Ellen knows what the college admissions people are looking for. Without Ellen’s help, I would not have written my essays in the way college essays should be written; college essay writing is different from any other kind of writing.” –A 2020 high school graduate attending University of British Columbia

“We appreciate your direct style and all of the mentorship you have shown to our daughter. It is making a considerable impact on her.” –Dad’s note during the process of his daughter’s Road to College

“Ellen made the whole college application process super easy and smooth for me. Whenever I had questions about something, Ellen always responded within an hour, if not within minutes. She also got back essay edits very quickly, and she helped to prepare me for my scholarship interview well… I liked how she had me start early––researching colleges throughout junior year and starting essays in the summer before senior year. Without Ellen, I don’t think I would have been motivated enough to start the college application process so early… Most of the colleges Ellen presented seemed to match what I asked for and what I wanted to see in a college. If I didn’t think one of the colleges she presented to me fit what I wanted, it was no big deal and she would happily cross it off my list.” –2018 San Mateo graduate attending UCLA

“Our son had an excellent list of schools to apply to and was greatly rewarded with acceptances from the schools he cared the most about. Can’t get much better than that. We’re beyond thrilled with the outcome. We thank you for your contribution to that. Thank you.” –Mom of a 2017 graduate

“You made it easy for us as parents, since you did all the nagging :-). [Ellen] keeps the kids on schedule, answers questions quickly, and provides info about things you don’t know about.” –Mom of a 2018 high school senior

“Having Ellen know all of the steps required to identify, select, apply, and decide on a college. I had no idea how complex it is, how early you need to start, and the subjectivity in college applications involved. And focusing on the messaging of ‘matching’ vs. just going after a name brand school helped calibrate me as a parent. I also appreciated the honesty (‘this school should be no problem,’ ‘this school is unlikely,’ ‘this school may not be a good match,’ etc).” –Parent of a 2017 graduate

“The other day I was thinking about my decision to come to Mount Holyoke, and I thought of you! I love it here, and I am so glad you helped me get here. The professors are so passionate and the classes are so engaging. I guess I just wanted to say I how grateful I was for your help and Thank you again!” –2016 graduate who attended Mount Holyoke

“The College4u service I found most valuable was the assistance on my Essays. Essays. Essays!!! We would go over each essay a multitude of times, I believe each has no less than 5 drafts. This is not because I am a bad writer, it is because Ellen catches every little comma, every misplaced word, everything! My essays went from good to amazing and that is a blessing.” –2017 graduate

“Ellen helped me get my essays to a point where I felt comfortable turning them in. I thought the process worked really well for me and I was accepted into almost every school I wanted to attend.” –2018 private high school graduate attending Clemson University

“Ellen offers another perspective that many colleges do not provide on their websites… After giving my initial profile, I thought that the colleges Ellen presented to me all were a good fit for me. Each college had a student atmosphere and academic program that most fitted my tastes. I found the service of Ellen editing my essays the most valuable… I could send [them] over to Ellen and get feedback in 2 hours. The experience was great, and the most helpful part was Ellen’s resourcefulness.” –2018 public high school graduate attending UC Berkeley

“Working with Ellen was great because she really helps take the stress out of the college application process. I liked that she came to the house for face to face meetings and was always a phone call away. One of the most helpful services was Ellen’s essay editing. The essay was a crucial part and I was glad to have someone there to guide me and give a second opinion.” –Graduate attending University of Colorado Boulder

“Teens need deadlines because it’s the best motivator and College4u does that for us. Instead of leaving things to the last week, deadlines help us space things out.” –2018 private high school graduate

“For someone who is prone to procrastinate, Ellen kept me on track. For once, I was actually able to stay on top of my college applications, thanks to the schedules provided by Ellen. I also came to Ellen believing that I would not be accepted into any four-year university. She gave me the confidence that I would be accepted into such a school.” –2018 freshman at NYU

“The colleges Ellen researched and added to my list were amazing and a perfect fit for me!” –2017 graduate who attended the honors program at Howard University

“The number one reason a parent would hire Ellen is it’s outsourcing to a professional a job that is painful, detailed, and time consuming. For a kid like my son, it was a removal of a huge burden. Adding the personality profiling helped my son tremendously in filtering down to a school profile he was comfortable with.” –Parent of a 2017 graduate who attended Colorado School of Mines

“Really valued your working with our son to “keep a watchful” eye on all the important deadlines for the application process. Appreciated your guiding our son through doing the homework and evaluating schools. Really valued your reading ALL the application essays our son submitted. It’s not something I would’ve wanted to do. This service is available, for free, via at his high school, but you’re a “one stop shop” that’s more beneficial. Most importantly, I loved our son working on his “personal statement” over the summer, so the load was lessened during application season.” –Parent of a 2017 graduate

“For us, your total package was exactly what we needed. From the session of helping us figure out what we really want from the undergraduate program, to location of the schools, to determining the final list, to the actual application process. Everything that you did with and for us helped lift the stress of our shoulders. I also appreciate your honesty, and preventing me from getting all stressed and doubting about whether [my daughter] would be admitted into a great school.
Thank you again for all your help, and especially support for me, the nervous mom. You have made our college application process so much easier to manage. THANK YOU!!!!” –Mom of a 2016 graduate who attended Willamette University

“I wanted to let you know that I have committed to UC Berkeley as a member of the class of 2020. This definitely wouldn’t have happened without you, thank you so so much!” –2016 graduate

“Ellen worked well with [my son] and was able to get him to complete all tasks without any parent involvement. She made the entire college application process painless.” –Mom of a 2016 high school graduate who attended UC Santa Barbara

“Working with Ellen really motivated me to get my tasks done on time and turn in quality work. I felt very lucky and privileged to have her by my side because she kept me on track and worked really hard on my essays to ensure that they were top notch!” –2017 graduate who after acceptance to Howard University, was then asked to be in their Honors College

“We are very grateful for your help, it was a very positive experience.” –Mom of a 2016 graduate

“Thank you so much for all your help and guidance, and for pushing me to do my best. Hiring you was undoubtedly a wise decision, and the correct one given my lack of orientation when we began. I am extremely grateful for your experience, and your kindness as well. Checking up on me, and following up even after there was no response to the first two attempts only serves to solidify my sense of your dedication to my excellence and future.” –2016 transfer student who attended California Institute of Integral Studies

“Thank you so much Ellen! I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done without your help.” –2016 high school graduate who attended UCSB

“Thanks again Ellen! You are just awesome. Period.” –Mom of a 2016 high school graduate who attended Willamette University

“One of the things I loved best about working with Ellen is that she is there for us 100% of the time. She pushed me to do my best but was also there for me on an emotional level during the stressful process. I also want students to know that Ellen is always there to answer literally any question, but she also helps you learn answers on your own! It makes the whole process so much less stressful. And Essay help was definitely the most helpful because I feel that we really worked through it until perfection.” –2014 high school graduate who attended Oxford College

“Ellen, thanks for all your amazing help through the college process!” –2014 senior upon completing all her applications before Thanksgiving

“Our daughter graduated with a major in Broadcast Journalism and 2 related minors. You picked this college for her that was not even on our radar. You told me to relax and let go, that this college was the fit for her. Thank you for being so right. Thank you for all your help with both our girls. Just thought you would like to hear how your influence and help was so positive.” –Mom of 2014 college graduate. Her sister graduated a few years earlier.

“What I liked best about working with Ellen and College4u was that Ellen kept track of everything, communicating directly with our daughter, and held her accountable. And College4u decreased stress between parents and student in our household. Finally, with College4u, we felt the services were just what we needed.” –Dad of a 2014 high school graudate who attended University of Notre Dame

“By working with Ellen you are not completely on your own during the college application process. This gives you security as you know that you have someone experienced to help you solve your doubts and answer your questions. And the Schools Ellen provided for me to research and eventually apply to met the guidelines I provided Ellen with and allowed me to consider opportunities I had never been aware of. I really can not think of any improvements for the College4u service. Indeed, Ellen, working with College4u helped me feel closer to the United States, given that I live in Peru, and thus, less disadvantaged of lacking various resources kids in the States have. Ellen provided me all the tools I needed to pave my way into Stanford University. Thank you!” –2014 international graduate of an IB high school in Peru

“I am very excited to be done with school and I couldn’t have gotten it all started without you! Thanks for everything.” –2014 graduate of Columbia College of Hollywood

“Even though some parents may have the information I didn’t have, I think working with Ellen has an advantage over working on your own because, having a third party – and a professional third party – directing your student, will ease the tension that arises naturally between parents and kids during this process. Ellen made my daughter feel that she was “her” advisor, that Ellen was working “with her” (not with me), so her advice and pressure was well accepted and created no tension between us. Teenagers receive advice from a third party they consider is on their side, much better than from parents – no matter how close a relationship they have with their parents. In my case, I felt I had no knowledge or experience about the application to university process, and even though I fully participated with my daughter (reading all of Ellen’s suggestions, ideas, proposals, etc. and also all of my daughter’s essays) when it came to taking decisions or making corrections, I left my daughter consult Ellen and decide on her own. Knowing Ellen was there to guide her, I felt I could take that position.” –Mom of a 2014 international student who attended Stanford

“Students would want to work with Ellen for college advising instead of working on their own because Ellen allowed me to expand my look on the colleges available. Without Ellen I would have discarded many colleges even the one I picked.” –2014 high school graduate who attended Arizona State University as an Engineering Major

“I enjoyed working with Ellen because she was very helpful in her criticism and because she had the student’s (my) best interests at heart. Other students would want to work with her because of her ability to keep students up with deadlines.” –2014 high school graduate who attended Connecticut College

“What I liked best about the College4u service is that Ellen has a straight direct approach with no “sugarcoating” or wrong expectations. And other parents would want the College4u service because it makes a parent’s life so much easier and less stressful during the process.” –Mom of a 2014 high school graduate

“Honestly, this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. The campus is even more gorgeous than you had mentioned. So far my transition into the Sauder Business program has been very smooth.  Thank you for helping me achieve this great success, and I wish your next batch of students the same triumphs.” –2013 college transfer student at The University of British Columbia

“I really enjoyed the service and found it extremely useful. Having your help made me feel better about my applications and my essay as essay writing is my weakness. I can honestly say that there is nothing I would change about the service you provided. Thank you again for everything!” –2013 high school graduate who attended UCLA

“I just wanted to thank you so much for helping me apply and get in to Boston College. It couldn’t have been a better fit for me, and I love it here! If you ever have any prospective students that have any questions about BC, I would love to answer any questions they have!” –2012 high school graduate a few months after starting at Boston College

“Ellen, I’ve finally decided on the College of Charleston and I am going to deposit my enrollment fees this week! Thank you so much for these opportunities to go to schools I never would have found without you! I’m so excited.” –2011 high school senior

“Thank you for keeping us going and on track!! Caroline still says she has NO IDEA what colleges she should visit, so thank goodness you’re making the plan and itinerary!” –Parent of a 2010 high school graduate

“I enjoyed working with you Ellen, because of the relaxed but serious, straight-forward business nature of our meetings and calls. Working with you helped me feel like I was on track with my college stuff and I enjoyed being on a time schedule. It was a relief to know I had guidance along the way, step-by-step.”m –2009 high school graduate who was accepted at 15 of the 17 universities to which he applied

“College counselors at school can be helpful, but I found that it was REALLY helpful to have someone who knew me, knew which schools I was applying to, and who I could email constantly about my essays and applications. Ellen helped me find schools that were great matches for me, and she helped edit my essays so that they were the best they could be.” –2009 high school graduate who attended LMU

“One of the tasks that Ellen helped me on was consulting me on my essays. She helped me refine my essays so what I wanted to say is what got conveyed.” –2008 Hillsdale High School graduate who attended UC Davis

“I most enjoyed the ease of communication in working with Ellen. Other students would most want to work with College4u to help in all the organization that is necessary.” –Justin, 2007 high school graduate who attended UC Boulder

“College4u is the only reason I have the opportunity I have now. Without Ellen, I never would have found Trinity College or gotten the full tuition merit scholarship.” –Jake, 2006 high school graduate who attended Trinity College

“Ellen provides a lot more information about schools than a student would find on their own. She has experience with the colleges and has talked to many admissions counselors, coaches, students, and administrators, and because of this she knows more of the inside scoop. Also, she really gets to know her kids and is able to make a good analysis of which schools will fit which student. Ellen’s consulting services and coaching have been instrumental for my college career.” –2006 high school graduate who attended University of Santa Barbara

“As parents, we go through many emotional feelings as our children embark on the college admissions process and discuss being ‘away at school.’ Our goal was to have our son, Jacob, make his own adult decision on college and do this without major influence, input, or direction from us. We wanted him to ‘own’ the decision, as this would be something he would be committed to for at least four years. Ellen equipped Jacob with tools and assistance that gave him confidence in making a college choice that was right for him. We feel this is the best formula for his future success.” –Mother of 2006 high school graduate who attended Trinity College and 2008 high school graduate who attended St. Mary’s College

“The College Tour that Ellen sets up is very helpful and organized. Students will not only be given a tour of the selected campus, but she also arranges interviews as well. You learn a great deal about college life, and see various forms of the culture, especially if you are going to the opposite coast. The College Tour is definitely a fun experience and I recommend it to everyone.” –2006 graduate of Hillsdale High School in San Mateo

“Working with Ellen is the way to go. It is much better to work with her than to try to do the college process on your own. You can never answer your own questions! She really knows everything you need to know so you are prepared for every step!” –Stephanie, 2005 graduate of San Mateo High School attending her first choice school

“Thank you very much for helping me this year! You really made a huge difference.” –Audrey, student who attended University of Washington