“Helicopter parents are very apparent—no pun intended,” says Jessica Donovan*, founder of Red Brick College Consulting
. “A lot of parents tend to be that way, but there are some on the other end of the spectrum as well. I get both.”
According to Donovan, anxious parents often relax once they see a plan and a timeline for their child's college planning. Once everyone is comfortable, she turns her attention to each student’s strengths and weaknesses, and helps suss out which college might truly be the best fit.
“A big part of consulting is getting the parents and the students to talk to each other,” she says. “Mom and Dad have an expectation and Sally or Joe has a different expectation.” In these cases, Donovan says she’ll help students identify their strengths and goals, then give them data to discuss with parents.
A former assistant dean at the University of Cincinnati
, Donovan launched Red Brick last October to advise students and parents during their college search. Donovan, who is “part student advocate, part counselor, part admissions guru,” meets first with students and their parents to identify broad goals and gather ideas. After that, she keeps in touch with students in person or via Skype— and both parties leave each meeting with homework.
For Donovan, having an academic background sets her apart from her peers, many of whom have guidance counseling or psychology backgrounds. Her services range from evaluating academic records and course schedules to recommending co-curriculars and test-prep services. She offers services bundled as a package deal, a la carte or hourly, including timelines, preparation for college visits, essay critiques and even detailed lists of scholarships by institution.
Still, when it comes to completing applications, Donovan says she expects students to take the lead. “I don’t write the essays, fill out the FAFSA or fill out the application. The student owns that process.”
Donovan says students as young as middle school age can start taking the steps toward finding the right college for them. Although she says a student’s sophomore year is an ideal starting point for her services, she’ll work with students, including transfer students, at any point in the process.
Donovan is currently accepting students for her fall caseload and advises families to begin their work with her during the summer months.
By Robin Donovan