How to Hire an Educational Consultant
A very recently published article on The New York Times has provoked an explosion in diverse opinions. The article “Before College, Costly Advice Just on Getting In” talks about independent college counselors and the job we do. However, the author, Jacques Steinberg, seems to have done his job partially, depicting the larger pool of educational consultants in the same manner as he would a smaller breed of unethical counselors, who most of us, have nothing in common with.
But instead of focusing on this incomplete piece, I would rather share with you some valuable insight. What are we to expect when seeking help from an educational consultant? How do we choose a consultant who will do the job right? What is a job well done in educational consulting?
Here are some true observations and information you should have handy when choosing someone to work with you or your family (son / daughter) in college admissions:
1- Seek a professional with at least some experience in the admissions field. Someone who has worked as interviewer or within an admissions office, can provide an insider´s perspective on how admissions work. Also, this professional will probably have passion for the field, having demonstrated work experience in it, working with students and in academia.
2- Find someone who is familiar in working with students. A professional who has been in teaching, education, who has gained exposure in working with teenagers will be able to connect with the student better than someone used to work with executives.
3- Certifications exist! College advisers and Independent Counselors can get certified. At present, there are three certificate programs available, one provided by UCLA and called The College Counseling Certificate Program. This extensive online program not only demands hard work (usually takes over a year to complete), but it consists in seven classes, the last one being a practical course to be conducted in the college counseling office of a high school. It is a very rigorous certificate to complete. Same goes for the College Counseling certificate program offered by UC Berkeley, and the CEP – Certified Educational Planner, for which you can only apply after earning years of expertise in the field. Independent consultants can and should get certified. Ensure the person you are seeking advice from is!
4- One step above a certification is having earned a master in education or in counseling. Several graduate school programs allow for more expertise in the field. Even an MBA can work when considering the expertise of a college adviser, however, not on its own. An MBA plus experience in the field and a certification can provide a great combination of skills, allowing the professional to have a background in marketing, easily applicable to candidates, plus keen interest in education.
5- Membership to leading industry associations. There are several associations that group educational consultants, colleges and professionals related to college and graduate school admissions. Some of them are IECA, NACAC, SACAC, HECA and AIGAC. If you do not have at least three years of experience in the field, you cannot be admitted as a member. This means that professionals involved with these associations have to abide by certain rules and regulations that are hard to follow and comply with. These associations not only provide opportunities for continuing education, they also set standard laws for the industry which have to do with ethical and unethical behavior, what is expected and what is not allowed. A professional involved with these associations is one that you will be able to have more confidence that he/she will do the job ethically and responsibly.
6- Continuing education through educational consulting associations. Professionals that keep up to date with the latest market trends, technologies and industry information are the ones that will allow you to continue progressing when seeking your goals. Continuing education is as important in this field of educational consulting as in any other.
7- Crazy fees are not directly related to results. Some consultants decide to offer advice for tens of thousands of dollars, while others offer reasonable fees well below ten thousand. The ones that are able to provide more reasonable fees most of the times consider that the student should lead this process, working in their college admissions while continuing to be a high school student, teenager, sportsman, or anything else he/she desires to be. If college admissions will be the sole thing in the student´s life for months or years, the college adviser is not doing his job right. College counseling is a part of life, one we must dedicate energy to, but not devote completely ourselves to. Find someone who thinks this way and you will have one happy and triumphant teenager who feels good about him/herself and the next step they will be taking in their lives.
What do we look for in a great college admissions process? We focus on finding the right fit for the student academically, socially and in every single aspect of their lives. We seek an institution that will inspire the student to seek their maximum potential and provide growth opportunities like the student never imagined. This is the goal of college admissions and a truly great adviser, who is worth every penny of their wages.
By Claudine Vainrub, MBA and UCLA Certified College Counselor
Principal of EduPlan