By Mark H. Sklarow, IECA, CEO

For those who are biding their time and just waiting for a return to normalcy, this blog is going to be uncomfortable. But I also hope it’s a wakeup call.

Yesterday I had the chance to record a panel discussion with the Executive Director of the Enrollment Management Association, Heather Hoerle. As we mused about the state of the world, the state of schools, the state of education, and the impacts of COVID-19 and systemic racism, Heather quoted a colleague who dismisses the common refrain of the “new normal” for a more insightful moniker: the NEW ABNORMAL.

Those waiting for things to return to where they’ve been—and even those waiting for things to settle into new patterns are likely both going to be disappointed. Rather, we have entered into a time of disruption, uncertainty, and constant and dramatic change.

For our admission colleagues, this means that moving forward cannot mean waiting until things “settle down.” Schools, colleges and programs that are creative, insightful, and nimble stand the greatest likelihood of weathering the storms. Conversely, those who decide to do nothing while they wait out the downpour will only find themselves facing hailstorms, monsoons, and oppressive heat in rapid succession. The changes we see now can’t be ignored until “normalcy” returns—not if we want to thrive and succeed.

What does this mean for independent educational consultants? Some appear ready to wait, assuming things will get back to the way they were. So, they delay seeing clients until things get better, stop learning and campus visits because they’re just “not as valuable” as in person events, and aren’t marketing, meeting, and enhancing their knowledge. IECA is doing everything possible to ease those IECs out of that static state of mind.

We may need to accept that this period of disruption—these “abnormal” times—is what we can expect. Even if COVID-19 is beaten, how long before the next disease? How long before folks will freely fly on planes and schools assign four students to a dorm room? Before the economy recovers?

It’s fine for us all to believe that better days are ahead. I believe that. But waiting for those days, rather than embracing the here and now will prevent your success from materializing. Take advantage of all the new tools that are available to you. Do virtual tours. Seek out clients using new media options. Attend webinars and virtual conferences. Reach out virtually to friends, colleagues, and relatives. Remain committed to the success of your business, your institution, or your organization.

A new normal will be coming. But it too will be replaced by another normal, then another. Prepare to be flexible and embrace those challenges. And if you get stuck, your IECA colleagues are only a phone call, an email, or a video chat away.


  1. I’ve never been on so many Zoom meetings & presentations as in the last few months. I even reactivated my IECA membership from Emeritus status of the last 9 months. I find this pandemic has made everything new & fresh again because so little is the same as it was. Above all, it’s a challenge, pushing me to try alternative methods to accomplish the same tasks that had become old hat. It’s overwhelming at times, now being forced to learn new skills, though maybe not exactly at warp speed like my younger counterparts. While I’m a little bit rusty, I am nevertheless picking up speed every day. My days are pretty full of interesting meetings & opportunities. I’m happy to be “back in the saddle” again helping students & their families understand the new college landscape, which is almost as unpredictable as quicksand, changing every day.

    And of course, a big thank you to Mark & everyone else at IECA who every day, through either their contributions in keeping IECA a smooth running machine or through the wisdom members provide on the Talklist, continue to make this association remain the gold standard for our profession.

  2. Mark, as a newbie to the IECA world, I am still setting up systems in my first year and absorbing as much as I can. Although I looked forward to visiting schools and going to conferences, that has been tempered by the COVID situation. My perspective to to stay positive and contribute to the re-working of the profession, as needed, without stepping on toes. This group is very collaborative and open; I am proud to be part of it!

  3. Thank you, Mark, for essentially recognizing that IEC’s are naturally adept as change agents, given their varied acumen and adaptability in challenging times!

  4. I have never been so glad that my move from Long Island to Maine and Florida necessitated a move to virtual communication! I used to have to explain to families that it was really ok for us to work together without sitting in the same room; I even lost clients who insisted that face-to-face was the only way to do college counseling. Thank you, Mark, for your thoughtful and encouraging words!

  5. I’ll never go back to in person meetings with clients. Virtual is much more efficient and profitable! I’m doing the virtual tours, too, but I do miss in person visitation of college campuses.

  6. Thank you Mark and IECA for pivoting to virtual college presentations and keeping us all informed about the new abnormal. Pandemic or not, learning should never stop. You and IECA have made it easy for us all to keep learning and to stay connected to each other and colleges. Thank you.

  7. As you’ll hear Jason and me ask during our upcoming IECA conference presentation on test-optional, “What do Isaac Newton and the pandemic have in common?,” you’ll recognize the parallels to our work. During the Black Plague, Newton had to work from home as his college closed. He used his time wisely. During what is now referred to as his “Year of Wonders,” he invented calculus and developed the laws of motion and gravity — which changed the course of human history. While our learning and discovery during these unprecedented times may not have as monumental an effect on society, we can and should continue learning and motivating students to success. Summer is a great time for us to be reaching out (online!) to families, to doing a lot more marketing (online!), to learning about more colleges (online!), to improve our own methodology for working effectively with client families, and to supporting each other!

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