In light of the recent scandal involving college admissions, the college admissions consultant (independent educational consultant or IEC) has come under extreme scrutiny. Since this profession is growing rapidly (2,500 in 2014, 7,500 in 2019), it is important for families to know what they are looking for in a good consultant and whether it is worth the cost to hire one.

There are several reasons why this profession has grown at such a fast pace. First, there is a lot of confusion about how colleges select who they will admit. Because applications seem easier to submit, students are submitting applications to multiple schools – sometimes as many as 15 or 20. This increases the applicant pool at the colleges, and admission becomes even more selective. Further, as more students have access to college consultants, more students present “better” applications as they are guided through the process, thus creating a disadvantage for students who do not use a consultant.

There is also an increased cost to attend college. IECs provide additional help to increase the likelihood that a student will find a good social, academic and financial fit so that they might graduate on time from the same college. Transferring and additional years of attendance add to the cost.

Many people ask, “Can’t my high school counselor do the same thing for free?” Unfortunately, most high school counselors do not have the time because of the many different roles they have to play. Many high school counselors are assigned to 500-1,000 students. The personal attention required when trying to find the best “fit” is not possible with these kinds of numbers.

There are few decisions in life that cause more anxiety than deciding where to go to college. Besides purchasing a home, there are few things that parallel the cost of a college degree. The IEC can provide reliable information, objective advice, concrete direction based

on interests and aptitudes, timely counsel regarding deadlines, college recommendations based on hundreds of college visits that IECs make, not to mention the stress relief provided to families who no longer have to do the “nagging.”

A quality college counselor will also guide students through the process of SAT/ACT testing, academic advising, essay writing, extracurricular advice, applications, letters of recommendation, financial aid and much more. Applying to college is a stressful and complex process, therefore, more and more families are reaching out for help. It is important that you investigate anyone you choose to help you with this process.

First of all, check to see if they belong to a professional organization with rigorous standards for membership (IECA, HECA). IECA requires a master’s degree, at least three years of admissions counseling experience, experience working with students, and they must have visited 50 college campuses before they can be accepted into membership. HECA requires a bachelor’s degree, with other requirements similar to IECA. Both organizations include the requirement to abide by high ethical standards.

Today, 26 percent of high-achieving students use an IEC. Although the fees are high, a survey conducted by IECA shows that the “typical” client attends public school and has a family income of $75,000-$100,000. Most families that hire an ethical and qualified consultant are happy that they did. They are happy they do not have to stress over knowing deadlines or how to fill out the complex applications. They are thankful that they do not have to read an essay and determine whether it is what the college is looking for.

Although the amount of money saved because of the help of an IEC cannot be researched or quantified, most families that use an IEC will attest to the fact that working with one netted them a lot more money for college than they paid for the service.