According to a recent study by Lipman Hearne, conducted in cooperation with the National Research Center for College and University Admissions (NRCCUA), 26 percent of “high achieving” seniors used independent educational or college consultants to support college search.
If so, you’re not alone. Even the leadership of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) didn’t expect these results, despite evidence of growth in membership and the number of students annually served by member consultants.
Nevertheless, based on a survey of 1,264 students achieving 1150 or higher on the SAT (1600 point scale) and/or an ACT composite of 25 or higher, it seems that educational consultants are now very much “mainstream” and may work with as many as 160,000 college applicants each year.
Not so long ago, college consulting was considered a “Park Avenue” kind of luxury, which only the wealthiest of families could afford. But with in-school counseling workloads reaching the breaking point, middleclass parents and students are increasingly reaching out for additional support and information on colleges and the admission process. And many of these families live in the Washington metropolitan area.
But the real reasons behind this trend may be because independent educational consultants are
- Available. Consultants aren’t tied to a school, a school district, or a school calendar. They work with students in the immediate neighborhood or across the world thanks to readily available technology. Not surprisingly, consultants do much of their most important work over the summer months getting seniors ready for the admissions process, and many work long weekend and evening hours—after team practice or between dinner and homework.
- Responsive. It’s part of the business model. Consultants have to respond promptly to emails, phone calls and other forms of inquiry or they’re quickly out of business (see 6 below). Deadlines are everything in the world of college admissions and no one is more aware of time constraints and the need for immediacy than independent educational consultants.
- Knowledgeable. Consultants spend significant time visiting college campuses and attending professional workshops or conferences. It’s no secret that colleges have different personalities and management practices. But it’s virtually impossible to get a feel for these personalities or keep up with changes in programs and facilities without visiting on a regular basis. Yes, it’s expensive and time-consuming, but the best consultants travel as much as 20 percent of the workweek to be the eyes and ears of the families they serve.
- Credentialed. Reputable independent educational consultants maintain memberships in organizations such as the IECA, the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) or local NACAC affiliates—each of which sets individual membership requirements demanding years of specialized experience, education and training, and a firm commitment to continuing education.
- Ethical. As members of the above-mentioned organizations, consultants subscribe to specific Principles of Good Practice governing the actions of consultants in their relationships with students and families, schools and colleges, and with colleagues.
- Parent-recommended. Anyone in the consulting business will tell you no amount of marketing will ever bring in as many clients as simple word-of-mouth. Informal surveys of educational consultants suggest that as many as 90 percent of families seeking college consulting services are referred by other families. The best consultants are well-known in the community and are respected for the service they provide. It’s as simple as that.