Why work with an independent education consultant to help with college applications? Here are five advantages.

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Why work with an independent education consultant to help with college applications? Here are five advantages.

Peace of mind. If you are the parent of a high school senior, your child’s first name is likely to turn into “Didyou” — as in, “Didyou see the counselor to order transcripts for your schools?” and “Didyou finish your personal statement?” or “Didyou ask your teachers for letters of recommendation?” If these questions sound familiar, then consider seeking help.

This advice especially rings true if you are the parent of a current junior, as many IEC’s schedules fill now for 2019 grads.

Cost-effectiveness. While some families might initially balk at the cost of hiring an IEC, the out-of-pocket expense can more than make up for itself in the form of locating and applying to best-fit colleges. IECs use a wealth of knowledge tools to help families create appropriate college lists and avoid painful transfer situations. A 2015 study by the National Student Clearinghouse Center found that 37.2 percent of freshmen who began their college careers in 2008 transferred, and that of that number, almost half changed schools a second time. Extending the time to graduation results in lost credits and increased expenses.

Availability. When you have questions regarding the complicated nature of the application process, having direct access to a knowledgeable professional feels great. Have a spare five minutes while driving down I-5 and suddenly need to know whether or not your student needs to register for the SAT Subject Math II test? Call your IEC and get an immediate answer! Given the case load public school guidance counselors carry, students could wait several days for a response. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, each public school counselor is responsible for 476 students, on average (2013-14 data). There are not enough hours in the day for most counselors to offer individual help for students and their families in the college application process.

Expertise. The application process continues to spawn complexity. Students are confronted with myriad strategic questions from when to apply (early action, early decision or regular) to how to construct the activity list. Independent counselors can be great resources helping students position themselves best for acceptances into their top-choice schools. In the high-stakes admissions world, students are responsible for representing themselves across several electronic application platforms (Coalition, Universal and Common, for example). Access to an expert’s insight into shaping the application as a whole is advantageous. IECs help families strategize the student’s application package.

(Courtesy of Emily Wagner Gallagher)
(Courtesy of Emily Wagner Gallagher)

Essay advice. What and how a student shares about his or her life experience in essay writing factors heavily into an admissions officer’s decision-making. A savvy IEC with several years of experience reading and coaching students in personal statements and college-specific responses is a resource treasure for an applicant.

Some caveats on what IECs cannot do. They can’t write students essays/applications for them — the student needs to put in his or her own serious thought and effort. Nor can IECs promise admission to certain schools, despite perceptions that IECs can use connections to wield influence. Lastly, an IEC isn’t the ultimate oracle/arbiter on what a student’s dream school should be — he or she must discover for themselves what they want out of the college experience.

Seeking assistance from professionals in their field of expertise is common in today’s world. To locate an IEC, visit the Higher Education Consultants Association or the Independent Educational Consultants Association.

Contributed by Emily Wagner Gallagher, an independent educational consultant at Edge Academics & Athletics in Lake Forest Park.