Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I consider an independent educational consultant (IEC)?
Our country is currently in a cycle of budget cuts that have forced schools to make difficult choices. In some school systems, limited dollars for professional staff are allocated to the classroom teacher, sometimes resulting in a reduction in social workers and counselors. This means that excellent high school counselors have increasing caseloads and a wide range of responsibilities that make it difficult to give some students the time and attention they need for the college search. Social trends also are impacting the rising interest in independent educational consultants and college search advisors. Families with two wage earners have less time to oversee the college research and application process. Many families have become accustomed to purchasing services of all kinds, from house cleaning to financial advising. More than 26% of high-achieving high school seniors in this country now use a consultant, making IECs another of these accepted and valued services. The changing climate of the admissions world is another reason people turn to independent educational consultants. The process has become more complicated and the cost is increasing. Families want knowledge and expertise along with more opportunity to discuss their hopes and concerns.
What is important to keep in mind when hiring an independent college consultant?
The college search and application process can be a long and sometimes emotional process, so it is of the utmost importance that you find an independent college consultant that is a good match for you and your child. Beyond personality, there are a myriad of other factors to consider, including the consultant’s integrity, first-hand knowledge of schools, and approach to the process. The Independent Educational Consultants Association’s “12 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Independent Educational Consultant” and “12 Warning Signs that an Independent Educational Consultant is Not Worth Hiring” are two helpful resources on what you should look for (and what you should look out for) when considering a college consultant.
When should the college planning process begin?
To get the most out of high school, families often find it helpful to begin working with us in freshman or sophomore year. Our focus at this early stage is on helping them set academic and personal goals and think about summer internships, enrichment activities and jobs. The objective is to help students get the proper plan in place so they can be successful in high school. High school is an experience that should be enjoyed for its sake, not just as a means of getting into college. Meetings for younger high school students are held two to four times per year as needed. The formal college planning process begins by fall of junior year. The initial phase focuses on assessment (Who am I? Where am I headed?), education about the college process, and creation of a timeline, leading to an initial college list.
What should we take into consideration when choosing colleges?
Given the media attention received by the most selective colleges (particularly the U.S. News and World Reports lists), it is easy to think these particular schools are the best places for students to matriculate. However, these colleges represent just a small subset of all the schools available, and while they can provide some students with great opportunities, they are not suited for all learners. Rather than focusing on name recognition and perceived prestige, it is much more important to consider your child’s academic strengths and needs when coming up with colleges for research, visit, and application purposes. However, in general, you and your child should look for colleges that emphasize the importance of strong writing and communication skills; creative, analytical, and practical thinking; cultural knowledge and global connectivity; and ethical thinking. In addition to the academics, cost is an important factor to consider. When identifying possible schools for students, we take financial concerns into account so that you and your child can explore colleges that will offer strong learning experiences without compromising your finances.
What are some specific ways I can help my child with the college search and admissions process?
It is essential that students drive the college planning process, but parent involvement is key to a smooth, successful, and even fun admissions experience. While it is important that the students are the ones taking initiative in contacting the colleges, writing their essays, and keeping everyone involved in the process informed, parents can provide support in a myriad of ways. Helping students keep on track and meet deadlines, adding the student to the mailing list for their colleges of interest and arranging school visits are just a few ways parents can help students during this busy time.
I have a strong opinion about which school my child should attend. Is it okay to share my thoughts?
While the logistical help you can give your child during this process is important, it is even more valuable to give students a safe forum where they can share their thoughts, opinions, and concerns about colleges. Students sometimes come into the process with preconceived notions that are not always accurate—as do parents. That is why it is important for both parents and students to research colleges prior to visiting or applying. This facilitates better decision making by students as they draw their own conclusions about which colleges are a potentially good fit. This doesn’t mean that you can’t share your own opinions; you can and should do this at the right time. However, it is essential to first give students the chance to formulate and share their opinions before weighing in with your own views. This is a process, and both you and your child are likely to change your views as you proceed.
How do you assist families with financial or merit aid?
The cost of college is daunting for many families. We believe that an analysis of college costs must be factored into the early stages of planning for college. We explain how to determine eligibility for need-based financial aid and the limitations of net price calculators. When we review the student’s file, we evaluate the likelihood that the student will qualify for merit awards (scholarships) based on grades, test scores or special talents.
How can I be sure I am applying to colleges that I can afford?
We factor the family’s college budget or other financial limitations into the creation of the college list to ensure affordable options. In addition, we help parents define what value in a college education means to them. This definition will vary from family to family. During the parent meeting, we will discuss whether the parents have particular hopes or expectations for what their child will gain from a college education. We will also discuss the cost/benefit of colleges under consideration throughout the process.
Will you fill out our financial aid forms?
We review the process and time line for applying for financial aid and provide reminders along the way. We answer questions about financial aid forms, however, we do not complete them for families.