School Admissions Consultant The Buzz


Finding the right school for a student can be a complex and frustrating process. School admissions consultants offer a way to change that.

School admissions consultants are often called educational consultants. Educational consultants work with children and families during a period of change. Sometimes that change is from private to public school. Or it could be the placement of a troubled teen or a child with special needs into an alternative learning environment.

One specialized area of the field deals with the transition from high school to college.

While some consultants deal only with university-bound students, many work in a variety of areas. There are even admissions consultants that work with specific professional fields. Some of these fields include law, medicine and business.

"Educational consultants evaluate a student's needs," says Mark Sklarow. He is executive director of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) in Virginia. "This includes social, educational, familial and emotional needs. Then they suggest the best possible placements based on their knowledge of schools."

Judy Libman is an educational consultant who focuses on university admissions. The demand for her services is increasing.

"The university admissions process can be very intimidating and anxiety-producing," Libman says.

"There are so many choices to be made and so much information to research and digest. That's why many people find that the help of an expert is invaluable. In some ways, educational consultants are like personal shoppers for educational opportunities."

Sklarow believes the field is growing and will continue to do so on both sides of the border. "Educational consulting is currently undergoing a huge growth in public awareness and use."

There are several reasons why this profession is on the rise. First, the cost of going to university is increasing, so it makes sense for students to get help choosing their school.

Also, school guidance counselors are overworked and can't offer a lot of time to each student. In the U.S., the average student to counselor ratio is 477 to 1. Independent consultants see about 40 students per year.

Plus, independent counselors are available outside of normal school hours. That allows parents to take part. This is especially important now, when families often have both parents working or are single parent to begin with.

Mothers and fathers simply don't have as much time to guide their child through the process. For parents of university-aged children with learning or emotional challenges, the use of an educational consultant makes even more sense. Many consultants specialize in this type of placement.

School admissions consultants spend up to 30 percent of their time on the road, according to Sklarow. They visit campuses to see what students there are really like. They also meet with the school's admission reps to find out what that particular institution is looking for in potential students.

"Consultants have a real pool of information that can't be matched," says Sklarow.

So how do you get started in this field? There are no legal requirements for calling yourself an educational or school admissions consultant.

"Anyone could hang out a shingle and declare themselves an educational consultant," says Sklarow. "That's why families should insist that they have some credential, like membership in [the] IECA."

To be a member of the IECA, you need a master's degree in a related field and three years of experience. You also need to have visited 50 campuses and served at least 25 clients. Potential members also need to supply three references and sign the organization's Principles of Good Practice document.

"In order to be an educational consultant, you need to be both broadly and widely experienced," says Libman.

"Most people in this job are former teachers. In my case, I have spent many years teaching in both high school and in university. I've also spent many years working in both university recruitment and advising."

Think you have what it takes to succeed in this field? Be sure that you're prepared to keep information private, work flexible hours and travel.

"Get out and visit campuses," advises Sklarow. "It's not cheap, but you cannot be an educational consultant without walking the footways, observing classes, spying on dorms, eating in dining halls and talking with students, professors and admission reps."

Sklarow advises potential consultants to get some training in counseling. They should also learn how to run a small business.

"People thinking about entering this field need to be highly ethical," adds Libman.

"It is important to be able to keep student information confidential. Also, there are always pressures to 'help' students a little too much. For example, some consultants apparently will ghost write a student's application essay. Unethical behavior of this kind reflects badly on the profession."

Consultants work irregular hours. Students and parents might only be able to meet in the evening, on weekends or during school holidays. As application deadlines approach, the workload increases.

If you like helping people make choices and are prepared to lay the necessary groundwork, being self-employed as a school admissions consultant could suit you well.

Links

Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA)
Represents full-time experienced independent educational advisors

National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
An organization of 8,000 professionals from around the world

Navigating College Admissions: A Series Overview
This site has a series of articles on the college admissions process