Stephanie Dhue, CNBC Producer

As the kids head back to school, the stress of the college application process isn’t far behind. The costs and complexities of college today have some parents turning to educational consultants for help.

For a fee, these counselors help students select schools that fit their talents and navigate the admissions system. This typically involves face-to-face meetings to set goals and deadlines, understand the testing system and reviewing college essays.

Margy Caccia started using College Coach, a division of Bright Horizons, when her daughter, Elizabeth, was a high school sophomore and their son, Joe, was a junior. Elizabeth is now a graduate of the University of Virginia and Joe is in his second year at James Madison University.

Margy, a Virginia teacher and her husband, a lawyer, found it helpful to have an independent third party in the mix. “Having another adult talk to them about their future just seemed to really work and provided an opportunity for our kids to be spoken to as young adults."

Caccia recommends it to other parents. “You have this one-on-one interaction [that] you may not get at the public school level because of the caseloads the counselors."

The cost of a college consultant varies widely by region and can be done on an hourly basis or as a package covering several years.

“Most charge in the $3,500 [to] $6,000 range for a complete package of services” said Mark Skalrow, executive director for Independent Educational Consultants Association. “The cost of getting it wrong," Skalrow said, is if a student goes to a college that’s not the right match.

"The transfer process is expensive, the time lost is expensive, repeating courses because they don’t transfer over is expensive," he added. "I would even argue that the biggest cost is the student’s self-esteem.”