Town Talk Features

The Professionals Who Help Students Succeed

As adults, we might feel nostalgic for our high school days, but the truth is, the average student’s experience may be more work than we imagine. With heavy academic schedules, time-consuming extracurriculars and big questions about the future, students have a lot to juggle. T&S talked with some of the consultants and tutors who make the load a little lighter.

The college admission process looms large over students’ (and parents’!) heads, but they don’t have to tackle it alone. Cindy Zelinsky, owner of Absolute College Consulting, says a college consultant can help students and their families find a school that’s the right fit academically, socially and financially. “The choices can be overwhelming, and hearing about peers’ plans can create unwanted pressure,” she notes. “I help students find the best school for them.”

The ideal time to start working with a consultant is the summer before junior year, according to Zelinsky, although she also works with freshmen and sophomores. “Students compile a list of schools they’re interested in and determine which ones they want to visit,” she explains. “This isn’t a cookie-cutter process. I get to know each student so I understand what is really important to them.” 

Zelinsky meets face-to-face with students weekly or biweekly, or she schedules video conferences. Along with helping determine which schools are the best options, she assists students with the application process and writing their essays. “The goal is to get the applications done the summer before their senior year,” she says. “That way, they aren’t overwhelmed and can enjoy their last year.”

career skills 
Sometimes it can be hard to see our own strengths. Master certified executive coach Beth Chesterton, owner of Chesterton & Co., says she helps everyone from middle school students to high-powered CEOs understand who they are at their best. “It’s not just cheerleading; it’s productive work,” she explains. “You can’t see yourself without the aid of others. I help people find what’s dazzling about them, so they can understand it themselves. With that knowledge, they become unstoppable when moving toward what they want to make happen.”  

Consultations can take many forms, including one-on-one meetings and group sessions, and Chesterton suggests starting around junior year. For students, a life or career coach can help develop skills in areas like resume crafting, public speaking and interviewing. “It’s about helping them learn to make an impact and stand out from a group of people,” she says.

Sessions also may benefit students who have fallen off track and need help getting back to the top of their game. “If your child is losing confidence or feels stuck, working with a professional can help them see they are making an impact,” she notes. “They might feel awkward learning about their strengths, but they get inspired once they understand how to be effective.”

Tutoring likely calls to mind memorizing scientific formulas, historical dates and mathematical equations. While learning content is certainly still part of it, academic support can mean so much more. “To help students succeed at school, you must address all of the issues that interfere with learning,” says Shelley B. Smith, founder of Special Solutions. The education consulting firm helps students improve in key areas, including organization, concentration, comprehension and social skills.

Smith says the biggest sign a student could use extra help is erratic academic performance. “As, Cs and Fs on the same report card mean they are struggling to manage their workload,” she explains. Other indicators include not wanting to attend classes and disengaging from the school community. Once red flags are noticed, Smith suggests getting school officials involved. “Reach out early in the semester, so teachers and counselors better understand your child’s needs and are more empathetic and patient,” she notes.

At Special Solutions, Smith meets with every student and their parents for an initial consultation to best understand the issues. An academic coach then helps students create a goal sheet for their sessions. It’s important that they meet regularly with the same tutor, she notes. “We value the relationship between student and coach,” she adds. “It’s more beneficial to meet with someone who knows you as an individual.”