The 5 No’s You Want to Hear When Hiring an IEC

When looking to hire an independent educational consultant, every parent dreams of finding the right person who can magically take care of all of their family’s college admissions needs. When interviewing candidates, we are wired to look for the YES. Yes, I can do that! Yes, I can do that, as well. And, of course, I’d be thrilled to do that, too. Well, just as there is no magic bean who can miraculously remove the 10 pounds that is stubbornly stuck to my hips, there is no perfect Mary Poppins of the college consulting industry who can solve all of your problems and bring you college utopia. While it may sound counterintuitive, I would caution you to beware of the YES. Instead, be just as conscious of the IEC’s willingness to say “no.”

Here are some “NO’s” to look out for:

No, I cannot tell you whether you will get accepted to Dream U: The only person who can tell you whether you will get accepted to Dream U is the Dean of Admissions at Dream U. At many schools, not even the admissions officer can tell you with 100% certainty because, often, they have to negotiate with the rest of the staff to secure your spot based on the needs of the class. Maybe they are looking for a new tuba player for the marching band or someone to join crew because their star coxswain is graduating this year. At many schools, admissions decisions are based on so much more than grades and test scores; and, given this, it is unreasonable to expect an IEC to tell you whether you will get accepted. Instead, work with your IEC to develop a list of “right-fit” colleges where you have varying levels of likelihood in securing a place in the incoming freshman class and partner with him/her to develop and execute a stellar admissions strategy.

No, I will not write your child’s essays:  Do I really have to explain this one? Not only is it fraudulent to submit an application that is not the child’s work, the writing of a middle-aged adult is drastically different than that of a seventeen or eighteen year old. And, admissions officers can tell the difference. So, work with your IEC to identify what you want your essay to say about you and their help in making sure your essay’s structure, grammar and level of insight accomplish your goals.

No, I cannot guarantee admission to Dream U:  Typically, there are two kinds of “consultants” who will make this claim. The first is not an IEC but an agent who represents the school and gets an incentive or referral fee for every student placed. This person is working in the school’s best interest and not your student’s. The second kind of “consultant” is the one who often takes exorbitant amounts of money in exchange for (often false) “guarantees” of acceptance. These, like the Boston Globe story of the Chinese family who paid $2.2 Million to get their sons accepted to Harvard (they weren’t) are the stories that give the industry a less than savory reputation.

No, I do not have expertise in XXX: Take comfort in the IEC who has the confidence to clearly articulate what is within – and outside – his or her area of expertise. While it may feel comforting to find a person who can help you with every possible situation, the reality is that the issues with college admissions are vast and complex. It is highly unlikely that the person who has strong expertise in athletic recruiting also has expertise in working with students who require specific physical or psychiatric accommodations as well as those who are aspiring performing artists. Instead, identify the specific areas of expertise your student requires and find the IEC who can help you with that. In some cases, it might mean hiring other professionals to supplement gaps in your IEC’s knowledge, such as test tutoring, international university admissions or financial aid support.

No, I cannot get you admitted: The job of an IEC is to help the student communicate to colleges why they should be admitted.

But, as the saying goes “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” So, be discerning in your independent educational research and, instead of the “perfect” consultant, find the right consultant who can say “yes” to the specific services that YOU need.

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