As with all professions, there are highly qualified, ethical independent educational consultants (IECs) who are well equipped to help you define and achieve your post-secondary educational goals.Sadly, there also exist a handful individuals who claim to be an IEC but simply lack the education or experience you deserve or, worse, are full-on scammers, out to prey on your anxieties and fears. So, with approximately 8,000 IECs in the US alone (and growing), how can you assess what type you are getting?
Here are some red flags that should tell you when to run away from an independent educational consultant:
- Their qualifications are limited to the fact that they helped their own child get into Dream U and can help yours, too.
- They claim to be an expert in everything – athletic recruiting, visual and performing arts, international schools, financial aid, students with learning differences – without significant proof.
- They are unable to adequately explain their college admissions philosophy or the process they employ.
- They don’t attend workshops or conferences in order to learn best practices or to stay on top of industry trends.
- They don’t visit college campuses because they can “learn enough from the college’s website”
- They have no formal training or experience.
- They are unwilling to specifically state the services they offer, as well as those they don’t.
- They guarantee you admission to a certain school.
- They accept incentives or finder’s fees from institutions or vendors such as test prep companies.
- They offer to write your essays for you.
- They agree to secretly work with you even though you are already working with another IEC.
- They tell you that you must do a specific activity or attend a specific program – even if you aren’t interested in it – in order to get into college.
- They give you a college list without doing necessary research about your academic and extra-curricular interests, learning style, cultural or geographic preferences or considerations of support resources or financial need.
- They fail to outline what they expect of the student/family in order to be successful.
For your best chances of finding a qualified IEC, look to those who have been vetted by national organizations such as the Independent Educational Consultants Association (www.iecaonline.com), the Higher Education Consultants Association (www.hecaonline.com) or the American Institute of Certified Educational Planners (http://www.aicep.org). Members of these organizations have sufficient experience, abide by ethical standards and are required to conduct continuing education annually in the forms of workshops, seminars, and college campus visits. Happy hunting!