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New Princeton Review Offerings Underscore Need for More Information, Importance of Independent Educational Consultants

Mark Sklarow

by Mark Sklarow, Executive Director, Independent Educational Consultants Association

We have learned that The Princeton Review will announce, sometime today, new seminars available in person or online covering issues like writing a great college essay, building a college list, how the college application works, and other process-oriented topics. Such a development underscores two truths: there is increased anxiety and confusion over admissions; and most students don’t have many resources—especially in public schools where counselors are overburdened with unfair case loads, increasingly complex problems, and little support for professional development. This deprives students and families of the information they need to both navigate the process and fully explore their choices.

To be clear: we welcome any innovations that bring good, accurate, vital information to students. All should welcome that TPR has found a way to deliver information at a relatively low cost, using new technologies. Students need—and deserve—complete knowledge.

Of course much of this process information—standardized test dates, how to visit college campuses, what makes for a good essay—has been available for many years: scores of books are available at Borders Books on these subjects, Web sites number in the thousands, most college admission offices share that same information, and for many students their school counseling office can provide these details. If TPR has found a way to reach a new population, great! I hope they find a way to make such information available in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, and much more, as many first generation college families need assistance as well.

The important caveat here is that the college search and application process involves TWO components: the process details as described above, and the knowledge/match piece that is so critical. It is here where we talk about understanding students’ personalities, learning styles, social, educational, and community needs, and knowing enough about hundreds of colleges to assist in identifying appropriate matches. While the basic process information may be able to be disseminated in a group, the knowledge/match requires one-on-one consultation, sufficient time to really understand a student, exploration of essay topics, and evaluative tours of campus after campus. This piece can only be done through exceptional counseling. It is in this area that educational consultants shine.

With limited caseloads, extensive training, educational and professional development, continual travel to visit campuses, and the highest ethical standards, IECA member educational consultants provide families and students with amazing potential to not only understand the process, but also take ownership of it. To not only know what makes for a good essay in general terms, but to spend time with an expert to explore their lives, their interests, their values to discover an essay topic that gives real insight to who they are. And take the time, directed by a consultant, to explore the wide range of educational opportunities to find those that offer the best match. The goal of IECA consultants: a student who thrives, grows socially and academically, and achieves success at college.

As one of the nation’s leading educational associations, we welcome the use of new technologies and new efforts to reach students and families with critical information. IECA and its members will keep our commitment to the highest standards of service both to those who can afford independent consulting services and the thousands served through pro bono efforts, and the IECA Foundation’s initiatives.

One Response to New Princeton Review Offerings Underscore Need for More Information, Importance of Independent Educational Consultants

  1. I am in full agreement with Mark on this topic. The more information that is available to families about the college process the better off our students will be. While the Princeton Review will provide this information, it will not be as personal as the service that educational consultants can offer one-on-one to students. This personal service does come at a higher price than does the workshop model but there is one thing that we must not forget. Every IECA educational consultant that I have ever met does significant pro bono work to serve economically disadvantaged students and many also offer sliding scale fees so that we do not withhold our services from those who cannot afford to pay full freight.

    Charlotte Klaar

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