I don't know anyone who hired a private college counselor 30 years ago when I was a high school student, but now they're surprisingly common among many suburban families with college-bound kids. I had thought it was just for families aiming for the Ivy League schools, but friends with older kids told me they found the counselors incredibly helpful and knowledgable about a wide range of schools.
Moreover, it removed a ton of stress because parents didn't have to nag the kids and become "college experts" themselves. I was surprised that they even have a national association for college admission counselors! I figure hiring one is more for the parents' peace of mind so our kids learn about more options, have an experienced guide who is up-to-date on current challenges, and feel confident about the process. We'll see how it goes.