I attended my first IECA conference in 1983. I was a very young, very green, director of admissions at an all-girls boarding school. IECA conferences quickly became my favorites. I developed friendships with both independent educational consultants (IECs) and admissions officers from around the country. At that time, the conferences were small, there were not really international consultants, very few colleges attended, and therapeutic programs were unknown. However, IECA conferences offered huge opportunities for me to gain professional advice and to network with IECs from all over the US. They were an amazing resource as 80 percent of my school’s students came to us from IECs. My early career as an admissions director was shaped by my relationships with IECs and the opportunity to work with them and learn from them.

For the next 10 years, I attended IECA conferences and visited IECs around the country. I knew that one day, when I grew up, I wanted to be an independent educational consultant. In 1992, I left the boarding school admissions world and started my company. I was worried that things would change for me at my next conference. Would my IEC friends still support me or would I now be competition? I have to say, there was even more support! Other IECs went out of their way to share business ideas and tricks of the trade and encouraged me to reach out whenever I needed anything. I felt hugged by an organization at a time when I was worried and didn’t know if I could make it on my own. I was encouraged and thankful. Later, during one of the darkest times of my life, I am thankful to say that my consultant friends were there for me with both emotional support and professional advice. 

During the last 30 years of my career, I have gone back and forth between positions in boarding schools doing admissions, teaching, college counseling, and advancement. During that same time frame, I have always kept my consulting company active. No matter what jobs I have pursued professionally, I have been supported by my friends and colleagues in IECA and by the IECA staff. When I have needed professional advice or guidance, I have found that information available to me either on the IECA website, through one of the online communities on the Member Network, or by reaching out to someone in the organization. I have also enjoyed being active on committees and giving back to IECA as a volunteer. I love helping people who are starting out on their own. You are always only an email or phone call away from answers and ideas for everything from marketing, administrative software, and insurance questions to trends and legal advice.

At this time, I am thrilled that my daughter is joining IECA. I know that membership will provide her with valuable resources and help her have the skills and ethics to grow our consulting business. My biggest advice to anyone thinking of becoming an IEC is to join IECA. The organization has grown tremendously through the years to now encompass therapeutic schools and programs, colleges and universities, and international consultants and schools, but one thing has remained the same. IECA is an organization committed to providing the membership with professional information, support, friendship, and advice. 

Andi O’Hearn, IECA (RI)