By Laura O’Brien Gatzionis, MEd, IECA (Athens, Greece)

In international advising, there are three distinct constituencies with whom independent educational consultants (IECs) work. The first group consists of international students who have completed part or all of their secondary education in the United States. This requires some specialized knowledge as well as cultural sensitivity, but is less of a stretch for an IEC who deals primarily with US students and US programs.

Students who are attending school or completing their secondary education or first degree outside of the US are a second category of students. This is much more challenging than the first cluster, requiring familiarity with the applicant’s educational system. Students may be in international, but not necessarily American, schools and knowledge of the local culture is essential to successfully advising this population.

The third group of students, which may include US citizens, is exploring studying at an international university or attending a program outside of the US. Those global institutions can have very different admissions requirements and expectations from US options. As in the case for advising students for US establishments, guiding this contingent requires a similar level of expertise from IECs, including site visits.

Working with an international student population and overseas programs opens up many areas of exploration, as well as pitfalls for the unwary. You may guide students living in the US who wish to apply to institutions abroad or you might counsel non-US passport holders or US citizens who reside abroad through the US application process (undergraduate and graduate). Perhaps you are working with international students who are attending boarding schools located in the US or another country or students who need guidance on therapeutic or other programs. Taking advantage of the many opportunities offered for professional development by professional associations such as IECA and others in the international arena of educational consulting will allow you to continue to hone your knowledge and skills.


Every IECA conference includes globally focused educational sessions as well as a roundtable, which is an opportunity to discuss current concerns in the international field. IECA offers additional resources for IECs, including an international-focused issue of Insights as well as webinars on subjects of particular interest to IECs working with this population. The Global Committee has prepared the I Designation roadmap, to provide guidance to members who wish to develop their skills. Regional IEC groups are open to all IECA members and are yet another valuable resource. There are currently groups in Europe, Turkey, Southeast Asia, Shanghai, and the ASEAN Nations.

IECA members who work with international students can add to their toolbox by being aware of continuing education opportunities through organizations such as TABS, NAIS, NACAC, NAFSA, and International ACAC.

The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) and the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) collaborate to conduct a yearly Global Symposium. The International Association for College Admission Counseling (International ACAC), which is affiliated with NACAC, offers professional development at its annual summer conference with all educational sessions devoted to international issues. Regional institutes are held in a different location each year, and past locations have included Shanghai and London. The Association of International Educators (NAFSA), the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP), and the Council of International Schools (CIS) offer annual conferences and regional institutes and with internationally focused presentations, such as the recent “Working with International Families in the Therapeutic Milieu” by IECA’s Becky Grappo (CO) at the NATSAP conference.

Internet-based resources include webinars offered by professional organizations, such as IECA, TABS, NACAC, International ACAC, and NAFSA. Experts also gather to discuss and share hot topics, articles, and blogs through most of these organizations’ Facebook and LinkedIn communities as well as Education USA and College Board.

Additional online educational resources for college consultants can be found through UC Irvine Extension’s IEC program, which offers an elective course on American College Consulting for the International Student. (Full disclosure: I am one of the instructors for that course.) To better comprehend the international student’s perspective, a consultant could follow the University of Pennsylvania’s Coursera MOOC, “Applying to U.S. Universities,” which is offered specifically for high school students who have been educated in the national curriculum of their countries.

Welcome to the exciting and fast changing world of international consulting!

Laura O’Brien Gatzionis, Educational Advisory Services, can be reached at [email protected].