Fall is a competitive season for area high school seniors, but it is not just about sports.

Fall is the time to think beyond high school, and that means preparing college applications to stand out among the millions sent each year.

Simply deciding what schools their children should apply to can be as daunting as writing essays for many families. That is where the educational consultants at College Inroads can help.

Started in 2009 as a small business, College Inroads today has grown its customer base nationwide offering an extensive, structured plan that can show students their strengths and talents and how to apply these to their college search. For parents, there is the opportunity to understand scholarships and other options to pay for college, said Annmarie Hatfield, a partner at College Inroads and past board member of the Lake Travis Education Foundation.

Often parents do not seek aid, fearing they will not qualify. College Inroads avoids this, she said.

“We know what we are doing,” she said. “What might take us an hour, might take mom and dad

40 hours.”

In 2019, some 2.1 million people, or 66% of those who completed high school, immediately enrolled in college, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

Hatfield said often those who apply are focused on the same set of colleges—from public schools such as the University of Texas to Ivy League colleges such as Harvard. In a competitive environment, it pays to have a broader set of options, Hatfield said.

“Everyone is applying to the same schools. One of the things we focus on is matching the student to the right college,” she said. “Sometimes the No. 1 college ends up being fourth or fifth on the list after going through the process.”

Educational consultants at College Inroads also push students along—making sure college essays are completed and submitted on time, Hatfield said.

“I had one parent tell me, ‘I got to be the cheerleader, and you were the nagger, pushing to get everything done,’” she said.