Sue Luse loved advising students on their college choices but not so much the other aspects of being a high school guidance counselor, like discipline.

So she did something others might only dream about and turned the best part of her job into her own business. Luse launched College Expert in 2001 to advise students and parents on choosing a college. Since then, Luse, a certified guidance counselor and educational consultant, has worked with more than 2,000 students and visited more than 330 campuses. The pennants from each now decorate her office.

“My only business plan was just to treat every kid like a rock star and do whatever I could to make sure every client had a good outcome, and they were happy,” Luse said. “I never thought about money because I just loved doing it.”

After majoring in elementary education, Luse concluded teaching wasn’t for her.

Instead, she stayed home with her children.

In her first entrepreneurial steps, she taught piano lessons and helped students prepare for college admissions tests. She also did college consulting for a few families. That, along with a master’s degree in counseling, led to four years as a high school guidance counselor before she set out on her own.

Luse initially just wanted to pay for her daughter’s tuition to Duke. But College Expert quickly grew through referrals, which continue to drive most of her business. Remote counseling sessions that began during the pandemic have expanded the Eagan-based College Expert’s reach to students and families around the country. To handle the growth, Luse hired two more counselors and more essay experts, bringing her staff to 12. Luse owns the business with her son, Ryan, also an educational consultant at College Expert.

College Expert works to save families money by advising against traveling to campuses or applying to schools that wouldn’t suit their student.

It also can identify schools students and parents have never heard of that might turn out to be a good fit. Luse declined to specify the cost of College Expert’s consulting services but said she offers free initial consultations.

Luse’s company often works with students who are recruited athletes, in the arts or have certain needs related to dyslexia or neurodevelopment disorders, she said. The firm’s “Class of ’23” includes students at Northwestern, Duke and Stanford, a school she said accepts just 3% of applicants. Luse makes sure students apply to a mix of “reaches, possibles and colleges they’re sure to get into.”

“If families are looking at highly selective colleges, definitely having a college consultant can help,” Luse said. “We can help your students stand out.”

Brian Kensicki of Minneapolis said that’s exactly what Luse did for his son, Charles. He went from having no extracurricular activities to put on a college application to, with Luse’s encouragement, becoming captain of an e-sports team that won a state championship and starting a stock finance club in addition to tutoring, volunteering and other activities.

“I could have told him the same thing, but kids don’t listen to their parents,” Kensicki said.

“I give Sue a lot of credit for helping him do that, which in turn allowed him to grow up immensely through social growth, leadership growth and the ability to communicate. It was night and day from where he started to when he finished.”

Kensicki’s son gained acceptance to Boston College, and the father will have his daughter, a high school freshman in the fall, also work with College Expert. Ben Santelman said Luse helped his son highlight his activities — from lettering in three sports to being in choir and a musical to taking part in church activities — schools would prioritize.

“It’s kind of like a coach in sports, having someone that’s not your parents giving encouragement and advice and counsel, and that’s a good thing,” Santelman said.

Santelman credited Luse with understanding his son holistically. Hope College, a school in Michigan that wasn’t on his radar, accepted him.

But when the pandemic hit, he opted against going out of state and now is at Bethel University.

“He’s doing well academically and has a great set of friends that look like they’re going to become those lifelong friends, that sort of thing that you want for your kid,” Santelman said.

Luse describes what she does with College Expert as a calling.

“It’s my purpose in life,” she said. “Helping the family dynamics so the parents aren’t stressed, so they’re not arguing with their kids.

They turn everything over to us, to help them enjoy this process.”

For others who would follow her path from a job to business owner, Luse advises starting part time, as she did.

“Whatever it is that you love to do, be the best at that,” Luse said. “Learn every single thing you can about that and then start doing that on a part-time basis while you’re still working.”

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His email is