Admissions Advice

Hyslop Educational Consulting guides students and families through the stress of college applications and beyond
Excelsior's Heather Hyslop uses her experience in college admissions to counsel families going through the process.

Applying to college is an exciting time, but it’s far from stress-free. With increasingly competitive admissions rates and rising costs of tuition, it’s understandable if your junior or senior is feeling anxious—and if that anxiety is rubbing off on you. Luckily, there are people who have made a career out of guiding students and families through all the postsecondary stress. Heather Hyslop is one of them.

Hyslop, who lives in Excelsior, is the founder and owner of Hyslop Educational Consulting, which specializes in boarding-school placement and college guidance. Having previously worked as a boarding school admissions officer and a college counselor, she’s intimately familiar with the ins and outs of both processes. “One of the reasons I started doing this is because I wanted to alleviate that overwhelming feeling that kids and their parents have,” she says. “College is this huge thing—I like to bring it down and figure out how to chunk it out so that it’s a manageable process.”

Hyslop went to boarding school herself and graduated from Carleton College with a bachelor’s degree in religion. After undergrad, she returned to her boarding school—this time in the admissions office rather than the classroom. “I loved that educational setting,” she says of her first full-time job. “Admissions was a cool thing to get into—it was very personal, and I really believed in the product.”

Boarding schools often work with educational consultants, which led Hyslop to consider entering that line of work. “I thought, ‘You know, that would be cool to do at some point,’ but I knew I needed to add the college piece, too,” she says. “People are always going to college. Boarding school is not as necessary—it’s definitely a discretionary thing. People say the college piece is what pays your bills, and the boarding school is just a different beast.”

Hyslop went back to school for a master’s degree in educational administration and then earned a certificate in college counseling and started taking on students, though her passion for education continued to serve her well. “The way I describe it is that I went from working for a school to working for the kid,” she says. From there, her own consulting business grew. After living and working on the east coast, Hyslop returned to Minn. and has been in the Lake Minnetonka area for nearly two years.

There are many misconceptions about the college admissions process, but Hyslop’s job is to set them straight. She says money is among the biggest. There’s no doubt college is expensive—yearly tuition can be as much as $50,000 at some private schools—but there’s more money out there than most people realize. “I used to hear it all the time: ‘We can only pay for public school.’ But actually, private school might be cheaper for you,” Hyslop says. “The financial aid that I see families get is really incredible, both from a needs-based side and from a merit side.”

Above all, Hyslop emphasizes each school and year is different—just like each student. “It might be that three years ago, your friend down the street didn’t get this or that, but this year, [the same school] could be looking for that kid from Minnesota who plays the tuba,” she says. “Every year, a school is building its next class—that’s what I tell kids all the time.”

Hyslop says she looks forward to seeing her business grow and loves her work for the ability to connect with students and see them gain confidence throughout the process. “It’s such a milestone in a kid’s life, and so to be a part of that process is really a blessing,” she says.