Sep 23, 2009

Tips for Hiring a College Consultant

College consulting is definitely a growth industry. The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) reports membership has more than doubled over the past five years. The number of high school seniors hiring consultants to assist in the college search and application process has risen to 160,000. And these are typically suburban, public school families earning between $75,000 and $100,000 per year.

But as with any rapidly growing profession, there are some quality control issues that families need to be aware of when hiring or contracting with businesses providing college counseling services. To avoid wasting time or money, families should consider 9 key factors in the selection of a college consultant:

1. Credentials: Make sure the consultant is credentialed. Time spent in an admissions office or within a high school guidance office does not necessarily translate into highly qualified. Ask about specific college counseling certification or membership in organizations with established and rigorous standards, such as the IECA or NACAC. Steer clear of counselors without formal training or education and those with very limited relevant experience.
2. Continuing Education: Certification and membership are not enough. Counselors keep current by attending any of the many continuing education programs offered by organizations ranging from the College Board to NACAC to the local community college. Look for specialized training and think twice about a counselor who has not kept up with continuing education relevant to the profession.
3. Conferences and Networking: Professional conferences offer opportunities for counselors to learn about policies and trends in the industry. They also serve to reinforce networks and ties which can be extremely important in the counseling business. Consultants generally attend at least one major conference per year and otherwise keep up-to-date by regularly reviewing information posted on professional discussion boards.
4. Campus Visits: Counselors should visit no less than 12 colleges per year—preferably two or three times that many. Those who spend all their time behind a desk are losing touch with all that’s going on in the way of new construction, technology, and campus personalities. Ask how much time a counselor spends touring colleges and if they’ve recently visited any of the schools in which you are interested.
5. Fee Structures: Counselors offer a variety of packages and hourly rate plans. Make sure the fees are stated up front, in writing, and clearly document what services will be provided. Ask for a contract to review in advance of any meetings.
6. Convenience and Availability: Whether working over the internet or on a one-to-one counseling basis, make sure you know how and where services will be provided (your house or mine). Ask how available the consultant will be to answer questions outside of formal counseling sessions. Try to minimize extraneous time spent driving and never expect to be kept waiting for an appointment. College counseling should not become another time-consuming extracurricular activity.
7. Writing Sample: Most college counselors are extremely articulate and many are accomplished writers who publish newsletters, author columns, or maintain blogs. Ask to see writing samples. Don’t depend exclusively on what may be a professionally developed website. This is particularly important if you expect to receive writing or essay support.
8. Integrity: The counselor you hire should subscribe to the NACAC Statement of Principles of Good Practice and accept no compensation from colleges, universities, or other institutions in exchange for placement. Most independent counselors also accept no compensation or special consideration from schools, test prep services, tutors, lenders, or financial aid advisors in exchange for recommendations or references.
9. References. Ask for them. If a counselor advertises that he or she has served over 1,500 clients, this should be no problem. Even if the list is smaller, names and phone numbers of satisfied customers should be readily available.

If a counselor promises admittance to any college or university, walk away. If he or she claims to know the secret formula employed by all colleges to make admission decisions, keep walking. Don’t limit yourself to ivy specialists. Look for someone who will empower the student to make sound decisions and who will gladly support the entire family throughout the college admissions process.

No comments:

Post a Comment