What should you look for when choosing a professional educational consultant? Here are some tips from the Higher Education Consultants Association on how to find the right consultant for your family:
Start with your child. Every student is unique, and so are their college planning needs. In selecting an educational consultant, consider your child’s personality, academic background, and college dreams. The educational consultant you choose should be a good match for your child’s personality, have experience with students with similar admissions profiles, and be supportive of your child’s college aspirations.
The consultant should focus on minimizing stress and anxiety, not increasing it. Professional educational consultants understand that college planning can be stressful at times, and they should strive to reduce that anxiety for both students and parents. They should not belittle a student’s academic and extracurricular accomplishments, and should also be sensitive to family dynamics. You and your child should both feel comfortable when interacting with the consultant. The consultant should respect everyone involved in the college admissions process. Professional consultants strive to work as a team with families, high school counselors, and college admissions staff. They respectfully and skillfully guide students through the application process, offering feedback on essays and application review.
The consultant should demonstrate college admissions-related knowledge, experience and training. A professional educational consultant should be knowledgeable about a wide range of colleges and universities as well as current admissions trends. They should also have experience helping students through the college search and application process. Effective consultants will also be committed to on-going professional development, including participation in professional organizations such as the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), or a NACAC regional affiliate. Upon request, consultants should provide referrals to other families that have worked with them in the past.
The consultant should clearly explain their services and associated costs. The services to be provided and the fees the consultant will charge should be clearly established up front. Fees may be structured on an hourly rate, as an inclusive package, or by session.
The consultant should be committed to maintaining high ethical standards in their practice. Ethical consultants do not guarantee admission into specific colleges or promise financial awards. They do not suggest that they have “special pull” with certain college admissions professionals. They also do not write essays or other application materials for students. Member consultants of the Higher Education Consultants Association have pledged to abide by HECA's Professional Standards and Ethics Statement for educational consultants.