Inspiring confident college choices

Edina firm provides college-going students personalized attention

From left to right: independent educational consultants Kate Malczewski, Emily Crawford and Jenny Buyens help students navigate the college process, from finding the right schools to essays and financial aid. Not pictured: Laurie Macgregor. Photo by Nate Gotlieb

By now, many seniors are waiting to hear back from colleges about acceptance decisions.

Kate Malczewski and Emily Crawford hope their students have a little more peace of mind by this point.

Malczewski is the co-owner of and Crawford is an independent educational consultant for College Connectors, a firm that helps students search for, apply to and choose a college. The firm’s Twin Cities team, based in Edina, helps students figure out what they want out of school and guides them through the application and selection process.

“We’re really focused on where students are going to thrive,” Malczewski said. “It’s about where they’re going to do well and have a really good outcome.”

Malczewski started with College Connectors in 2012 after years working in student services in higher education. She and her team members each work with about 20 seniors annually, a level that allows them to get to know each student well.

Families often come to the firm for additional support in the college process, Malczewski said, noting the often large guidance counselor-to-student ratios at public schools. She estimated that each student at her office gets between 12 and 20 hours of one-on-one counseling during the process, adding that her firm does additional behind-the-scenes work.

Most students are sophomores and juniors when they start working with College Connectors. But the firm will start checking in with students as early as eighth grade, moreso on helping them choose high school courses.

The firm’s counselors get to know the students before talking about colleges, Malczewski said. Later on, they help students research colleges and majors, assess their own skill sets and identify criteria that are important to them. They also help with interviews, financial aid and making the most out of campus visits.

The process, Malczewski said, helps students feel confident about their college decisions come spring of their senior year.

“The hope would be that it’s really challenging in April, because you’ve been accepted to all the schools that fit you,” Crawford said.

Malczewski said most of her firm’s students apply to three to seven colleges, adding that her team tries to limit students to 10 applications. Her firm charges $4,500 for its services, a price Crawford said is comparable to other firms.

“I think it’s important when families see that, they understand the amount of individual attention and amount of time that we really take to get to know the student,” Malczewski said.

Malczewski noted the years of collective experience of her team and each team member’s professional memberships. The firm’s consultants are members of the Higher Education Consultants Association and the Independent Educational Consultants Association, she said.

Each team member visits about 20 colleges a year, which helps them better know the schools, Malczewski said. She added that the counselors are familiar with the curricula and cultures of Southwest and Washburn high schools.

Kate Cosgrove, a 2017 Washburn graduate, worked with Malczewski starting at the beginning of her senior year. Cosgrove said Malczewski helped her realize what she wanted in a college, criteria that included a small school, flexible course sequences and no math and science requirements, if possible.

With Malczewski’s help, Cosgrove applied to and was accepted at six colleges. She chose to attend Sarah Lawrence College, a private liberal arts college about 15 miles north of New York City.

“I don’t know how else I would have found any of these schools that were so amazing,” Cosgrove said. “Sarah Lawrence seemed like a dream come true.”

Mary Fiala, a 2016 Southwest graduate, began working with Malczewski at the end of her junior year. She said she was looking to get out of her comfort zone a bit when it came to college but didn’t know where to start the process.

Malczewski helped Fiala narrow down her list to eight schools. She eventually settled on Muhlenberg College, a private liberal arts college in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

“I wouldn’t have known a lot of those schools if Kate hadn’t helped me,” she said.

Visit to learn more about Malczewski’s firm.