“Getting Kids Into” Ivy League Colleges: Absolutely NOT the Job of an Independent Educational Consultant
by Mark Sklarow, Executive Director, Independent Educational Consultants Association
I had a very frustrating week last week looking over applications for membership in IECA. To be clear, the applicants looked well educated, came with significant experience, and seemed to be dedicated to the independent educational consulting profession.
What triggered my frustration was the number of applicants whose marketing materials extolled their connections and power in guaranteeing students admission to an Ivy League college. Those who made such claims were, of course, denied membership. But the increase in such claims reflects a larger, national trend among independent educational consultants (IECs), most of who are not affiliated anywhere (and a reminder that few other organizations check Web sites and brochures as IECA does).
One candidate claimed that the major reason to work with her practice was “access.” Her claim was that the Ivy League colleges knew her company’s reputation and their long-time commitment to charitable donations, so students working with them would gain an upper hand with admission directors at elite colleges. It was an absurd, fictitious, and ridiculous claim. Anyone who thinks students are gaining admission to highly selective schools because an IEC gives to charity is either lying to themselves or the public. If you ever see such a claim, know that it is, simply put, a crock.
Others made claims guaranteeing admission to a student’s top choice of schools. I remind them that such foolish claims violate IECA’s Principles of Good Practice. When companies have “Ivy” in their name or “top colleges” in their description, the claim is doubly misleading as it also appears to be a guarantee of admission to a highly selective school—something that can’t be guaranteed to anyone, at anytime, in this highly competitive environment. Some make it even worse (if that’s possible) by claiming their success derives from knowing “the secrets” to admission or having “direct connection” or frankly even implying that because someone on their staff used to work in a selective admission office they know the right words, phrases, or claims that will increase a student’s odds.
Let’s be clear. Students get into highly selective colleges because of many years of hard work, academic success, and personal accomplishments. IECs do not “get students in” and should stop claiming credit when a client manages to beat the odds and gain admittance to such a school. How dare an IEC diminish a student’s hard work and accomplishment by claiming it was the IEC—rather than the student—who achieved success!
What then is the important role of the IEC? It is to ensure, as best possible, that a student’s strengths, weaknesses, and desires are a good fit with the colleges that make the short list. This means looking at learning style, competitiveness, social and financial needs, academic interests, region, and much more. Success doesn’t mean getting an acceptance letter. Success is about a student landing in a school that is an appropriate match on all these and other criteria. I often say success is about a student thriving during their time on campus, not about getting a fat envelope.
IECA will continue its vigilance. Only those who believe in an ethical student-centered approach will earn the IECA logo and membership. We cannot stop IECs from making outlandish claims, but we can stop them from joining our ranks.