Working With An Independent Educational Consultant

Many people think that only superstar, top-scoring students can benefit from working with an independent educational consultant (IEC).  Not true!  In reality, IECs help students at all academic performance levels find the best education for the best value.

Independent educational consultants often have more flexibility and more time to spend with each student, as they undertake their college research and begin to prepare their applications.  While school counselors have other responsibilities – and frequently, a much larger caseload – IECs can focus solely on guiding students through a thorough college search and application process.

Here are some examples of students we’ve worked with, and how we can help students at any academic performance level successfully undertake a college search and application process.

Magellan college counselors
Four of Magellan’s counselors: Debbie Liebert, Evelyn Jerome-Alexander, Diana Hanson and Suzie Wynne, all based in Los Angeles

Top studentsSometimes, students with top grades and top test scores (or sometimes what we refer to as “strong, but not top” test scores like 31-33 on the ACT or 1300-1450 on the SAT) assume they are strong candidates for top tier schools.  While they MAY be strong candidates, unfortunately strong/top scores don’t guarantee acceptance anywhere.  An IEC can help top students create a balanced list of colleges and see themselves realistically in the larger applicant pool, which will end up producing more actual college choices once decisions come.  We can help students see themselves thriving in places they may not have thought about – maybe the Honors College at a public university, where only the top 5-10% of students are admitted.

For our clients who are now attending top tier colleges, we never took anything for granted, helping them chart out the application process for a broad list of schools, submitting application long before deadlines and keeping stress levels low.  Estelle, for example, applied to 16 colleges and received 10 acceptance letters, including several very generous merit-based scholarship offers.  She will be attending Georgetown University.

“Average” or A/B studentsAn IEC can help middle-performing students see that they have many college options, and prepare to present themselves in the best possible way.  We guide students who are not exactly sure where their grades and test scores put them in the larger pool of college applicants to explore multiple college options, as well as their own strengths and what they will offer a college community.

Sid, for example, had a 3.6 GPA and was interested in both computer science and music.  He applied to 14 schools, received 7 acceptance letters at schools he really connected with, and chose to attend UC Santa Cruz. (by the way – Sid is anything but “average!”)

Below average studentsFrequently, a parent will call and apologize for their student’s sub-3.0 GPA, believing that community college will be their student’s only option.  THIS COULDN’T BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!  An IEC can show a lower-performing student that they have options beyond community college, or help them transfer successfully if they start at a community college.

When we first met Erin, she was beginning 11th grade.  Her GPA was just a bit below 2.5, and she was only on track to complete Algebra 1 and Geometry by the time she graduated.  This fulfilled her high school graduation requirements, but it does not fulfill most four-year colleges’ entrance requirements – most colleges require students to have completed Algebra 2.  We accelerated Erin’s math by advising her to take all of her math classes outside of her public high school, and we also advised her to take Chemistry outside of school as well.  Starting in early 11th grade was the only way we were able to bring her academics up to speed and get her to the point where she was four-year college eligible.  While she was never made to feel successful at her high school, in the end, she received five college acceptances – including two PAC-12 schools, which was a big priority for her – and she has just completed her freshman year at the University of Arizona…with a B average! [Update: Erin has GRADUATED from the University of Arizona and she has a JOB!!!]

working with an independent educational consultant
Debbie, Evelyn, Fay and Suzie getting ready to hop on a plane to go visit colleges!

What do we look for in an IEC?

If you’re ready to start working with an independent educational consultant, choose someone who has the training and experience to meet your needs.  Unfortunately, there is no official licensure for IECs, so you should seek out consultants who approach their work with a high degree of professionalism.  Here are some questions to help you you ensure that your IEC is truly qualified – and the right person – to help you:

  • Work with someone who belongs to at least one professional organization. There are two national organizations for independent college counselors:  IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) and HECA (Higher Education Consultants Association).  There are also organizations for people who work in various aspects of college admissions, including the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), as well as its regional affiliates.  Ask how many conferences/workshops/webinars they have attended in the past year or two.
  • Ask how many colleges your potential advisor has visited in the past few years.  Most full-time counselors visit 20 or more campuses per year.
  • Work with someone who has experience in what you are looking for: college, athletics, transfer, visual/performing art, learning disability.
  • College advisors cannot make guarantees, either regarding admission or financial aid. Don’t trust anyone who guarantees you acceptance or money – they shouldn’t tell you that they “have connections” and can “get you in” anywhere.

Here’s IECA’s extended list of questions you should ask before hiring an IEC.

Magellan has nine counselors – seven in the Los Angeles area, one in Ft. Collins, Colorado and one in Chicago.  We work with students across the country, both in person and by video conference.  If you have questions about how an IEC can help your student, no matter what their academic performance, or if you’re considering working with an independent educational consultant, please feel free to get in touch with us!

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