CSU Advantage

Who We Are

College Search U provides independent college counseling to high school students and their families in each of the New England states and California.

We offer comprehensive advising services and guidance through each step of the college search process from an insider’s perspective based on over 30 years college admission experience.

We focus not only on the outcome of a right fit and affordable college but also on the special journey that families can and should experience together.

What You See Is What You Get

We love colleges and universities and the energy, optimism, growth and lifelong learning they instill. Yes, this is unabashedly Pollyanna-like. But after 30+ years, we still sense magic when walking onto college campuses around the country.

We love counseling high school students. There’s a difference between “recruiting” and advising or counseling. The former is focused more on numbers, the latter focuses on students.

But we’ve also been in the trenches of higher education. We’ve seen the impact of budget crunches, hidden admission agendas, rising anxiety among students and their parents over virtually every aspect of the college search. We’ve also witnessed how strapped for time and resources high school-based guidance counselors have become with greater student loads and expanding responsibilities.

We will not make false promises because we know from experience that the nature of college admissions today is incredibly fluid and increasingly unpredictable. Anyone who thinks otherwise has not worked in the profession recently.

Getting Started

With both our passion for higher education and our long experience in the profession, we know the college search process inside and out. We developed a highly-individualized, student-focused approach to the college search which we are eager to share with our clients. As such, we believe ourselves to be honest, forthright, and supportive partners to the students and families we are honored to serve.

Advantages of an Insider’s Perspective

Our experience, combined with the fact that we work only for our clients, and not their schools, gives us the ability to provide individualized service at every step of the college search process.

Here are some of the ways the depth and breadth of our experience directly benefits the college search journeys of our clients:

We get around. We have visited hundreds of high schools and conversed with multiple thousands of high school students across the U.S. – and many of their parents.

We see every year how stressful this process can be for all involved, and we have witnessed the same mistakes being made year after year; by hundreds of smart, well-intentioned students and parents.

In addition to schools, we have visited over 400 colleges and continue to do so at every opportunity. This first-hand experience helps immeasurably when making recommendations to our clients.

We have been on the front lines. We have reviewed/made decisions on thousands of college applications.

We know what goes into a strong application. We will teach each client how to complete all applications thoroughly and wisely, taking full advantage of the elements that are in the student’s control.

The insider’s perspective on institutional priorities enables us to help clients understand those factors in the college admission process that are out of their control.

We are active in our profession. We maintain membership in several professional organizations.

Involvement in organizations such as the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) provides regular valuable opportunities to develop and update our knowledge of the profession and best practices.

In 30 years of attending conferences and workshops sponsored by professional organizations and serving on committees, we have grown an extensive network of school and college colleagues around the world – important resources whose expertise can be tapped for the benefit of our clients.

We continue to provide a variety of contract services to colleges and universities. (see our statement on transparency below) Ongoing involvement in the day-to-day operations of college admissions ensures that our advice to clients is based on real and current information.

We have experience with financial aid. Affordability is a more important criterion to college-bound families than ever before. Our direct experience with how financial aid awards are made – and how the process can vary widely among colleges – allows us to advise our clients appropriately and cut through the confusion of disparate offers.

Our experience with enrollment management means we know how most colleges and universities strategically base their financial aid and non-need merit decisions on their enrollment management policies. As a result, our clients gain insights that enable more pragmatic shaping of their college list according to affordability as well as academic and social criteria. With this perspective, our clients can bring a level of predictability to what is largely perceived as an unpredictable process. This enables families to take greater control of the college search in a crucial way, through their pocketbook.

Contact Us

Important Notice Regarding Transparency:

W.C. McMurray & Associates strictly adheres to its core values and industry best practices and guidelines related to college counseling. As such, we disclose to our College Search U clients the names of any institutions of higher learning with which we currently or recently have had a contractual arrangement. Similarly, our work as independent college counselors through College Search U is made clear to institutional clients. We also communicate with clients the measures taken that remove any conflict of interest should the potential arise.


Mary Lyon Hall