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Suniti's Advice Corner

Dispelling Myths About Independent Education Consultants

Posted by Urvashi Mathur on Wed, Oct 17, 2012

If someone asked you for $2 million dollars in exchange for well…just about anything, wouldn’t that raise a red flag and make you think that it might be a scam? 

The headline “Chinese Parents Sue Consultant After Sons Are Rejected By Harvard” has quickly become a cautionary tale about hiring independent educational consultants. However, this headline isn’t about hiring IECs. It is a cautionary tale about being scammed and should be not be turned into a generalization about a valuable profession. 

The TestRocker team recently attended an extremely informative presentation by members of the Independent Education Consultants Association at NACAC 2012 in Denver. Here’s what we learnt. 

“The New Admissions Reality”

Public high school counselors in America today are, for the most part, completely stretched thin. Due to limited funding and resources, they are required to play multiple rolls at school, resulting in an average of 22% of their time spent on their actual job: college counseling. To put this in perspective, this means, that on average 

Public School students in America
get 38 minutes of personal college advising during
their 4 years of High School.

The above statistic is by no means reflective of how dedicated the counselors in these high schools want to be, but of the fact that they’ve simply got too much on their plates. 9.5 minutes of college counseling in a year is obviously not sufficient for students to receive the guidance and support needed to be successful at the college application process. Students, parents and universities alike must face “the new admissions reality”, according to Executive Director of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, Mark Sklarow. 

Independent Educational Consultants can be valuable resources for students who, for whatever reason, require guidance in the college application process from an expert outside of their school.

Independent consultants typically help students short-list schools, help pick essay topics that work well for that student’s individual story, review and edit essays, review the entire application for typos, apply for scholarships etc. Their years of experience can also provide an intangible service of reducing student and parent anxiety during the college application process. 

Dispelling Myths about IECs 

Myth #1: IECs are money making machines 

Many people think that IECs charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for their services. According to Marty O’Connel, Executive Director of Colleges That Change Lives (a non-profit organization), “we [IECs] don’t charge [our customers] $120,000 a year and aren’t in this for the money.” The 2012 IECA “State of the Profession” survey results revealed that the average cost of a comprehensive college service package is $4,035.

Myth #2: IECs are not experts 

Susan Sykes, President of SS Advisor said that consultants who are affiliated with the IECA know the business. Many of them are former high school counselors or college admissions professionals who simply aren’t ready to be done helping students. Others come from the business world. She continued to say that professionals in the Independent Educational Consulting industry "love young people, education, and the desire to help students find the best school possible so that they spend 4 years in a place they love."

Myth #3: The IEC industry does not add value 

Director of admissions at Montana State University, Ronda Russell, said that many universities value IECs because they succeeded at finding a perfect fit between a student and a school. In all her years of working with IECs, she has “never had a bad or unethical experience” with a consultant. She also mentioned that students who work with IECs are 3 times more likely to attend out of state colleges because their eyes are open to options they might not have initially considered.

Additionally, the 2011 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College & University Admissions Directors shows that the majority of admissions directors at four-year colleges and universities list IECs as one of the top 5 information sources for students seeking admission to their school.  

How should you, as a parent, go about selecting an IEC?  

First, you should set an expectation for yourself – a consultant will not and should not write essays or complete the application for your child. Admission professionals can detect the voice of an adult and will dismiss the application immediately. After all, the application is an opportunity for an admissions professional to ‘get to know’ the prospective student and not their consultant. 

Here are our top 5 tips on picking the best independent consultants:

  1. Independent Educational Consultants Association Logo

    Search for an IEC in your area on the Independent Educational Consultants Association website. The IECs who are part of this association have already been vetted.

  2. Do not hire a professional who can ‘guarantee’ an admission or a scholarship.

  3. Ask your friends or seniors in your child’s school for referrals

  4. If you don’t know anyone who has used an IEC, ask the consultant to provide you with references so that you can get a sense of his/her working and communication style.

  5. Ask for a complimentary first time session to see if your child works well with the consultant you have shortlisted.  There needs to be a meeting of the minds for the relationship to work.

Tags: For Parents

About Suniti

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Suniti is the creator of TestRocker, an online learning platform that helps you unlock your dream PSAT, SAT and ACT scores. TestRocker is based on Suniti’s highly successful and proven method of teaching thousands of students how to maximize their PSAT, SAT and ACT scores for over a decade.

TestRocker is an award-winning PSAT/SAT/ACT program that empowers students to take control of their test preparation. After taking a diagnostic test, students receive a customized study plan, individualized to their strengths/weaknesses. Students practice and learn concepts through videos. Each of the 2000+ questions on TestRocker is accompanied by a video explanation from Suniti. TestRocker has the largest video library in the world for PSAT/SAT/ACT preparation. 

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