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Gold in Them Thar Hills: The Independent Educational Consultant

Last Updated: May 17, 2013 10:33:00 AM

A recent survey (Lipman Hearne & the National Research Center for College and University Admissions) found that more than a quarter of “high achieving” high school seniors use services of Independent Educational Consultants (IEC’s) to optimize college search. When 1,300 high school seniors with SAT scores of 1150 or higher (out of 1600) and/or ACT scores of 25 or higher were asked, 26% percent said they had worked with an IEC.

That’s a big increase. Until quite recently, consultants were seen an expensive luxury accessible only to the affluent. Even administrators at the Independent Educational Consultants Association were surprised by the numbers.

What’s behind this uptick in consultant use? A number of factors are likely involved, including increasing competition and globalization. Some have noted the egalitarian effects of the internet in bringing down the costs of consulting. Others still point to the impossible workloads of high school counselors. Whatever the macro-level causes, at the heart of this market growth are the consultants themselves.

Families choose consultants because the latter are…

1) Accessible – IEC’s and college planners are free agents, not bound by any particular school or policy. They are on hand to help students whenever the need may arise, working late into the evenings and on weekends to meet the needs of students during peak periods (the summer before senior year is especially busy).

2) Responsive – No closed doors, no busy signals. Responsiveness is their lifeblood, reflecting the fact that the college application process is driven by strict deadlines. Consultants who fail to tend to their flock often find themselves out of work.

3) Informed – Students approach IEC’s and college planners because navigating the college admissions process means staying on top of admissions developments in real-time. It also means seeking kernels of important information as they relate to individual students, amidst a deluge of extraneous data. You’d be amazed at the quantity of time college planners spend on college campuses, speaking with university staff, and attending professional workshops, conferences and fairs. Their work saves students and families enormous quantities of time, effort and expense.

4) Neighborly – The most effective IEC’s often serve the majority of their clients within a limited geographical area. Though the internet can be effective for some consulting, the value of local knowledge of school district policies and procedures as well as a network of community contacts (within the school system and outside of it) cannot be overstated.

5) Credentialed – They hold memberships in the IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association), the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), and the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC), among others, organizations that adhere to strict educational and professional standards.

6) Connected – Effective consultants can guide you into their own, excellent network of tutors and test preparation companies.

7) Committed – The best IEC’s always undergird the practice of their profession with the philosophy that education should be available to all – irrespective of race, income, or creed. Most great IEC’s still offer services to clients who fundamentally cannot afford the usual fees. In addition, consultants get the word out regarding financial aid, and help out in their communities wherever they can.

8) Parent-recommended – In the education business, word-of-mouth is the platinum standard. Happy students and families will recommend IEC’s to friends and, usually, the best consultants/college planners are renowned and respected in the communities they serve.

Topics: College Counseling


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