Do You Need an Educational Consultant?

A common question I receive all the time is about educational consultants. Students and parents want to know if they need to have an educational consultant to get admitted to highly selective colleges. The short answer is ‘no.” However, let’s explain what an educational consultant is, what they do, and what you can do if you cannot afford to hire an educational consultant.

What is an educational consultant?

An educational consultant (EC) is someone who helps students and parents with educational planning. Educational consultants can help with boarding schools, at-risk students, and learning disabilities. However, what most people know them for is helping with college admission. Much of the information ECs provide is information a school counselor can also provide. The reason they are different is that an EC can focus much more on individual students. Unfortunately, the average student-to-counselor ratio in the United States is almost 500 students to every one counselor. And, in some states, the ratio is almost 1,000 students for every one counselor!

No two educational consultants are the same. Background, education, and experience will all be different.

Background – There are many ECs who have experience in college admission. Some are former college admission counselors while others are former school counselors who have experience counseling students on college admission. There are others who have personal experience with college admission and want to share their knowledge. Sometimes ECs are former students (or their parents) who were admitted to a highly selective college and want to share what worked for them.

Education – Most ECs will have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some have post graduate education as well. There are special certificates ECs can obtain that are specifically for college counseling. Classes for certificate programs include college admission, financial aid, and testing.

Professional Membership – There are some great organizations for educational consultants. The two main professional organizations are the Independent Educational Consultant Association (IECA) and Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA). Both organizations have specific standards members must meet to obtain and continue having membership. Requirements include education and/or experience with educational placement, college visits every year, continuing education (conference and course attendance), and professional references.

While ECs are all different, there are no specific requirements individuals need to meet to start a business. Anyone can say they are an educational consultant. Therefore, if you are thinking about hiring an educational consultant, you need to do your research. Find out about their experience and education. Professional membership in IECA and/or HECA means they have experience being an EC and will continue learning about college admission trends by visiting colleges and attending trainings.

What does an educational consultant do?

Educational consultants can offer a wide array of services. Some common services include:

  • College list building
  • College application assistance
  • Admission essay writing assistance
  • College interview prep
  • Finding and applying for scholarships
  • Paying for college strategies

Students and parents can typically get help with a single item or they can purchase a package that will include all things related to college admission from start to finish. A real EC will provide assistance on all things related to college admission – they will not do the work for you. For example, the student will still need to write their essay, but the EC can provide recommendations to make the essay stand out from the crowd.

Educational consultants will provide their expertise on college admission. If they have had students admitted in the past, they will be able to share what worked and help you do the same. They might have contacts on college campuses and can reach out to their contact for information. And, an EC should be honest and should be able to tell you things that might not be easy to hear. For example, if they think getting admitted to a specific college just isn’t possible, they should share this with you. If you still want to apply to that college, they should help, but they should be realistic with you.

What does an educational consultant NOT do?

As you are researching ECs, you might find that some ECs will guarantee that you will be admitted to your dream college. If you see this type of guarantee, do not believe it. No one can guarantee you will be admitted to a specific college. An EC will be able to help you make your college application more attractive by strategically including information on the application and essay. However, no one can guarantee admission because college admission is subjective, especially for highly selective colleges. A student who was admitted last year might not have been admitted this year!

What if you can’t afford an educational consultant?

The cost for an educational consultant can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. The cost is not possible for the majority of students. If you can’t afford to hire an educational consultant, you can still do well in the college admission process.

School Counselor – Reach out to your school counselor for assistance. Yes, they will be busy, but they should still be able to help you. Make an appointment with your school counselor to ask your questions and figure out how best to work with them.

Teachers – Need help crafting your essay? Your teacher might not be an expert in college admission, but they know a good essay and can spot areas where an essay is lacking. You can ask your teachers if they could read your essay to provide feedback.

Time Management – One way ECs can be really helpful is by keep you on track. They will probably be sending you reminders on things that need to be done. You can do that yourself. Set up a calendar with all things related to college admission and stick to your schedule.

Online Resources – As you probably know, there are a lot of free resources online with information on college admission. I try my best to provide as much information as I can to help students and parents with college admission and paying for college. There are many other great resources as well. Do your research! But, don’t wait until the last minute. Start reading now on tips and tricks for college admission and bookmark the resources for future reference.

Ask the Colleges – Admission counselors are great resources! If you have a question about a college, contact your admission counselor. If you have questions about paying for college, ask your admission counselor or a financial aid counselor at the college.

Educational consultants are great and they can offer a lot of great help for students and parents as they are working through the college admission process. However, if you’re like many students and can’t afford an educational consultant, don’t stress! You can still be admitted and pay for college without the help of an EC. There is a lot of free resources available!


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