I’ve been an IECA member since 2019—joining the organization is one of the best professional decisions I have made and here’s why.

When I decided to leave admissions and venture out on my own, I felt comfortable advising students and their families on what a stand-out application looked like—after all, I read over 2,000 applications each year—but I knew nothing about running a consulting “business” (other than how to incorporate and get liability insurance, which came from my previous experience as an attorney). I also worried about being isolated and alone—and I had no idea a pandemic was around the corner!

I was attending a NACAC conference when I discovered that IECA offered a one-day workshop for admissions officers transitioning to independent consulting. Instead of attending that workshop, I immediately joined IECA and enrolled in the Summer Training Institute, where I learned all the things I didn’t know I needed to know about running a business. I still think of myself as an “accidental” businessperson but STI and the Business Roundtable meetings have been unbelievably helpful in giving me the tools I need to run a business.

I also love being a part of a professional community. From mentorship to peer meetings, the camaraderie and knowledge I get from my colleagues is indispensable. I was extremely fortunate to meet my mentor at my first conference. She has been an incredible resource for me, especially guiding me through the University of California application process and helping me work with STEM students for whom writing a personal statement does not come naturally. I will always remember inartfully posting my first question on the IECA Member Network and having my mentor kindly remind me that I could ask her questions privately!

I am also lucky to be a part of peer mentoring groups. One group formed during the height of the pandemic; we continue to meet twice weekly and have also traveled together on college visits. We have had guest speakers present on gap years, financial aid, and essay writing; the group members bring a range of expertise and experience to our meetings. I know that twice a week I will be part of a lively conversation and have a network of colleagues to whom I can turn when I have questions; this remains as important to me as it did when we were stuck in our homes during COVID. My STI cohort also continues to meet, and I meet regularly with colleagues focused on making our consulting practices equitable and inclusive.

I also value the professional development IECA offers, including webinars, conferences, and college tours. I have listened to every College Conversation (most of them “live”) and am excited that new ones are being offered on more niche colleges. I have also attended every conference since the fall of 2019. While I am glad that we are back to in-person events, the virtual conferences during COVID helped me build my expertise and kept me busy when we were homebound.

I am so glad I discovered IECA when I transitioned from admissions to independent educational consulting—I could not imagine doing this work without my IECA membership.

Kate Sonnenberg, JD, IECA (NJ)