If you're considering hiring an educational consultant, keep these things in mind:

* Make sure the consultant's and student's personalities mesh. An aggressive consultant with a shy student won't work.

* Avoid consultants who make promises. None should promise your top choice.

* Ask consultants what they will and won't do. Some assist with financial aid; some put more responsibility on the student (which is good); some keep parents in the loop, while others don't.

* Avoid consultants who place emphasis on getting in to a particular school. Favor those who emphasize a good match of student and school.

* Look for good credentials, such as a former school counselor, admissions director or educator, and someone who has a professional degree.

* Make sure the counselor stays current. It's not enough to receive brochures, look at Web sites and have admission reps visit your office. Good consultants visit 15 to 30 campuses annually. Ask for a list of the schools they've seen in the last three to five years.

* Good consultants belong to professional organizations, attend conferences and receive regular training.

* If the student has special needs or learning disabilities, or has a specific interest (such as athletics or arts), look for a counselor with experiences in those areas.

Source: Mark H. Sklarow, executive director, Independent Educational Consultants Association.

Below are some Web sites on the college admissions process and educational consultants:

* College Confidential: 574-258-6000; www.collegeconfidential.com.

* GreenesGuides: 203-226-4257; www.greenesguides.com

* Independent Educational Consultants Association: 703-591-4850; www.IECAonline.com.

* National Association for College Admission Counseling: 703-836-2222; www.nacac.com

* Thomson Peterson's, a New Jersey-based education services provider: 609-896-1800; www.petersons.com.