What does Professional Development Mean for College Counselors?

College counseling is a profession without set professional standards.  That is, there is no one governing body that licenses people who offer the services that Magellan College Counseling offers.  So if you are thinking about hiring an independent college counselor, how can you know that they are qualified to do what they say they can do for you?

HECA_Logo-largeWhile there are no official licensing standards, there are professional college counseling organizations.  The three most widely recognized organizations are NACAC, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, IECA, the Independent Educational Consultants Association, and HECA, the Higher Education Consultants Association.  Each one of these organizations offers its members opportunities to learn and keep up with trends in college admissions, including annual conferences, regular webinars, college tours, mentorship and more.  There is much to learn to be an effective counselor, and you probably want to work with someone who is a member of at least one of these groups.  I am proud to be a member of all three.

IECA Member Logo 4-C+TypeIf you are looking to work with an independent college counselor, consider looking at these 12 Questions To Ask recommended by IECA.  You might also ask about colleges the counselor has visited recently, and whether they meet with college admissions representatives who visit your local area.  For example, just in the past week, I’ve met with the Vice President for Enrollment at Becker College in Worcester, Mass., as well as admissions officers for Texas Tech University and the University of Houston.  Fall is a busy time for admissions representatives, many of whom travel during the months before seniors submit their applications.  By building relationships with these admissions representatives, independent counselors can learn important information about choices for their clients (ask me how California students can qualify for in-state tuition at Texas schools!).

I have visited over 100 colleges in the past 2 years, and I track the time I spend on professional development each quarter.  I include seminars, conferences, webinars, college visits, meetings with college reps, speaking opportunities and my volunteer efforts (I volunteer at two public high schools in my area, helping seniors choose and apply to colleges this fall).  In the second quarter of 2013, I had over 110 hours of professional development, and in the third quarter, 85 hours.  I feel very strongly that this is a career path for people who love to continue learning at every opportunity.

Finally, it’s important that you and your student have a good connection with your independent counselor.  We’ll be spending a lot of time together!  So it’s good to have a positive working relationship.  Part of our job is to take the stress out of the admissions process, show you and your student the wide variety of options (there are, after all, 2,200 four-year colleges in the U.S.!), and keep your student organized and on track.  While it is a business relationship, I am gratified when clients greet me at the door with a hug, instead of a handshake.

I took the photo in the banner at the top of this page during my visit to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, in the spring of 2013.

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