Independent College Counselors – Should We Or Shouldn’t We (Hire One)?

independent educational consultant
This book is co-written by Rick Clark, Director of Admission at Georgia Tech, which respects the work of independent educational consultants.

This article was published in the Wall Street Journal today.  There’s a lot of discussion about it among our clients, and in college counseling circles.

About half of the 100+ seniors our team works with each cycle attend public high schools, and about half attend private high schools.  Some private high schools have very specific 4-year college counseling programs, presentations and workshops and low counselor caseloads.  Some give students general information in 9th and 10th grade, but don’t allow students to meet with their college counselor until spring of their junior year.  Some private school counselors are available on evenings, weekends and during school breaks to help students in addition to meeting with them during school hours.  But some don’t have time for ongoing meetings about developing the right college list and working through all phases of essays.  Some don’t provide the level of one-on-one and task-by-task attention that some students and families prefer through the application process.

The work IECs do is very different from what school counselors do – we each have a different perspective on the students with whom we work.  School counselors see students in their academic environment, and talk with their teachers about progress and possible problems.  Most students must ask their school counselors for a letter of recommendation, so it’s in their best interest to develop a relationship with the school counselor, and let them know about what they do outside of school.  IECs, on the other hand, frequently see students in their home environment, interacting with their parents, siblings, pets and other family members; often we work with multiple students in a family.  In an ideal world, school counselors and IECs would work together to produce the best possible outcome for each student.  In some instances, this happens, but in most cases, school counselors don’t have enough time to collaborate in this way.  So we work in the background, guiding and supporting our clients through all the steps of their college search and application experience, without their school counselors knowing we’re there.

The college search and admission process isn’t about (or shouldn’t be about) “getting into” a college with whom the counselor at your school has “carefully curate[d] [a] relationship” (quote from the article).  It’s about finding the best fit – academically, socially and emotionally – for your child, and for you, the parent, financially.  This is why our team of counselors spends so much time on the road, visiting colleges all over the country, getting a feel for the broad variety of colleges out there, figuring out what kind of students fit at each one, and what kinds of students they are looking for as they fill their class.

I’ve written a few blog posts in the past about working with an IEC.  This one, Five Things an Independent College Counselor Can Do For Your Student, helps you understand what exactly a private college counselor does with high school students.  In this one, Working With an Independent Educational Consultant, we bust one of the biggest myths in our business, which is that only top-score and superstar students hire IECs.

If you do decide you’d like some help through the college admission process, be sure to hire an IEC who is properly trained, who participates in the many professional development opportunities we have available to us, and who visits colleges frequently.  This post has suggestions for questions you may want to ask as you interview IECs.

No one tells you to buy a Subaru instead of a Tesla.  No one tells you not to waste your money picking up dinner at the Whole Foods prepared food bar on your way home from work.  No one tells you that your child should just work harder in math, instead of hiring a tutor.  And no one should tell you that you don’t need some extra guidance in the ever-more-complicated college search and application process.  Nor should they shame you for working with an independent educational consultant.

This article brought up a lot of interesting discussion points.  Feel free to leave a comment here, or we’ll chat about the article on our Facebook page.

And as always – if you feel like you need some support through this process, please give us a call.

[I’ve shared a pdf in Google Drive that someone else shared with me, because I don’t have a subscription to the WSJ, but if you do, you are welcome to look it up in today’s paper!]


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