09/03/2009 | FARRON GOODELL PEATROSS
Training and Background
For many consultants, their academic training is usually a master’s or doctoral degree in education, counseling or psychology. The national organization of Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) is the premier professional organization for consultants. Membership in the organization requires, among other requirements, a minimum of a master’s degree. Some consultants come to the profession with past experience in education through varied avenues such as a guidance counselor or teacher in secondary education, or from the admission offices or administration of colleges or universities. Additionally, there are consultants that have come from the mental health field with degrees in counseling or psychology whose specialty might be educational alternatives for children with special needs. Indeed, as the field of consulting has grown in the past two decades, there are now consultants that begin their work career as consultants. There are a few colleges that offer certification of course work completed specifically for the profession of educational college consulting.
Additional training is offered to new consultants through the IECA Summer Training Institute. Many consultants have been certified through The American Institute of Certified Educational Planners (CEP). How does this training and background save parents money?
All of this prior experience and education helps the consultant quickly identify the important strengths and needs of each individual and separate the appropriate schools from the inappropriate for that particular child. It is the academic background and additional training that allow the consultant to identify the individual needs through a very thorough interview and information gathering process.
The Consulting Process
All consultants use a process that, although different with each consultant, essentially is gathering the same information. After the initial contact with the family, an appointment is set for the initial interview. It depends upon the particular educational search, whether it is for a private local school, residential boarding school, college options, an option for a student with special needs or a program for a troubled teen, on the kind of information and records needed. However, it usually includes the student’s educational records, scores from standardized testing, psychoeducational evaluation reports, and teacher recommendations.
The consultant has interviews and obtains a social history from the family and the student, as well as, any other professionals that might have additional information. This information is obtained to help the consultant understand the student’s strengths and needs for a successful experience. It is exactly this process, and the consultant’s training, that enable the consultant to suggest appropriate educational options.
A family member may spend hours on the computer reading each web site and still not be able to differentiate between the programs. Consultants spend a large portion of their time traveling to all of the different schools, colleges, and programs, so they have a different perspective than what is gleaned from a Web site. For instance, what colleges and schools mean by “LD support” varies widely from college to college or school to school. A consultant who has been on the campus or who has had a client use the services will be able to describe the benefits and limits of different programs to help the family find the one that meets their child’s needs. The consultant also has a complete client file and a deeper understanding of the student and his needs and it is this knowledge that is attractive to schools. If the consultant is well regarded, a school or program may value the consultant’s objective assessment of the student’s needs. Some schools and programs, when speaking with a family who is not working with a consultant, may believe from their initial conversation with the family that the student sounds appropriate for their program. However, after the family has traveled to visit a school, it may become apparent that it is not a good match. The consultant can help a family eliminate that travel cost with information regarding the “good fit” of particular schools.
Consultants not only help students with appropriate college, school, or program options, but they spend time with the student during the entire search process with helpful tips and suggestions. Any parent who has gone through the college selection and application process with a teenager knows how valuable an objective professional can be in helping their teenager meet application deadlines. A teenager will take the same advice from a professional that they ignore when a parent offers it. The college process has become a complicated maze and most parents are grateful for the consultants’ expertise. Again, having a consultant suggest a list of appropriate options among the 3000 plus colleges is a huge time saver. Besides, the visits to campuses, consultants have the experience of past clients’ experience at a college or school and can determine if the two clients are similar in their characteristics. A family friend’s child may have had a wonderful experience at a school or college, but the two students may have completely different profiles and only the consultant has that confidential information.
Travel and Networking Among Colleagues
It is the consultant’s personal know-ledge of a school, college or program, which is invaluable to a client. It is this personal knowledge — through constant traveling and conference attendance or the knowledge that other consultants and admission professionals share — that help consultant’s remain up-to-date in their field. This saves their clients money and endless time trying to investigate their options. In the past, many mothers took on the job of helping their children with a school choice, but now in many families both parents are working and a consultant’s service is a valuable time saver.
Consultants Make Cents!
An analogy might be a person who has a fever, takes an aspirin, and believes he has the flu, but unfortunately it is not the flu, although the symptoms may seem the same. Valuable time and money are lost because the person did not call the doctor, and now has to go to the hospital for tests and loses time at work, and is burdened with more expenses. It is so much less expensive to have a professional help you with your needs and receive up-to-date information based on education, training, knowledge and experience. Why struggle with thousands of Web sites wondering if it is as good as it sounds, or does the campus look the same way as the video, or are the other students like my child, or is the curriculum right for my child? An independent educational consultant can help you answer those questions, find the best fit for your child and save you money!