By Mark H. Sklarow, CEO, Independent Educational Consultants Association
It has been wonderful connecting with so many of you this spring. Whether at the Chicago conference, the symposium, at affiliated conferences and outreach events, or virtually, it is always a highlight to hear from you about your successes and challenges. Now as our 2018–19 membership year comes to a close, I wanted to summarize this extraordinary year.
Recognition of IECA for Ethical Educational Consulting
Just a few hours after the admission scandal story hit the news, we were advising members, posting statements on social media, distributing news releases, and prioritizing the media requests that came pouring in. We believe IECA was mentioned in hundreds of major newspapers, websites, television, and radio stories. We worked to turn the story away from the criminal actions of a few into one focused on the value and need for an independent educational consultant, and IECA’s 43-year history of being the ‘gold standard’ in the profession. Indeed, by day four, this focus on ethical consulting was the primary story being reported. Now as some state governments look to try and legislate our industry, the need to belong to an association is essential.
There has been a 63% increase in public searches for an IECA member in 2018-19 over the previous year! The search has been enhanced by allowing members to describe their practice and include searchable keywords. We have added 7 professional videos to our website in the last year, five of which are consumer-oriented.
We launched our new online community, the Member Network (replacing the TalkList). The increase in member postings as compared to the old TalkList is dramatic. The Network gives members greater control over the discussions they receive via email (based on specialty). It allows for more robust discussion, archival searches on topics, a library to share documents, and facilitates member to member connections.
We organized 35 campus visits before and after our fall conference in Los Angeles and spring conference in Chicago. We also helped promote additional post-secondary, school, and therapeutic campus tours in both communities. Regional tours offered to members this year included the Red, White, and Blues Tour of 10 colleges in Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee; the Big 10+ Tour of 8 colleges in 4 Midwest states; and the upcoming fall WOW Tour of 12 colleges in Western Oregon and Washington.
Tours around the 2019 Fall Conference will include Georgia schools, colleges, and programs; and multiple tours next spring will explore campuses in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. In addition, IECA is working with British, Canadian, and Australian/New Zealand governments to co-sponsor international tours.
Our partnership with School Connections has helped IECA members connect one-on-one with independent schools. These pre-conference workshops at IECA conference hotels now also includes therapeutic programs.
This past year, IECA made a commitment to fund longitudinal research into the impact and effectiveness of therapeutic placements. We will continue this support for the Golden Thread project into the new year.
The Education & Training Committee is developing new ‘Education Intensives’ as a way to add a ‘deep dive’ into critical learning areas for members.
Our free monthly webinars for members ranged from sample essays to executive functioning skills to college planning for students with disabilities (there were a remarkable 2,053 webinar views last year).
Our member-organized College Symposium in Philadelphia was the largest symposium yet, with 140 attendees and included 10 colleges participating. The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Next year’s Symposium will take place in Ohio.
We continue to offer our signature Mentoring program to all IECA members at any time during their consultancy. Mentees receive direction and support with the goal of gaining confidence and independence.
Our more than 40 Regional groups across the country and worldwide allow members to connect and collaborate throughout the year.
The annual Professional Member Retreat provides a smaller forum for more experienced members to gather and address advanced business-related topics. The 2020 program will be held in California.
We offer 11 Affinity Groups for members to connect. These micro communities (just added to the Member Network) are led by members with similar interests in a specific topic and provide a space to network about what’s important to you.
We want to thank all of our volunteers—those who serve on committees, who have created campus tours, who present at conferences, who run regional groups, and serve in so many ways. It is the staff’s privilege to work with you as we begin to prepare for another outstanding year.
by Mark H. Sklarow, CEO, Independent Educational Consultants Association
I am pleased that in response to the recent college admission scam, many are looking for solutions that address colleges, athletic programs, the role of privilege, and the role of independent college counselors. Unfortunately, some have suggested a solution that would increase the benefits to the already privileged.
Some opinion pieces have appeared suggesting that no one should be allowed to charge for college admission advice. This attitude favors the wealthy, privileged families that are able to send their children to private schools, often costing in the tens of thousands of dollars and whose college counselors serve small numbers of just 20-30 students. Such a system provides a benefit to those privileged enough to provide such support, while leaving public school students behind. These public schoolers often face impossible ratios of 600 to 900 students per counselor—with that counselor handling crisis intervention, course selection, as well as college advising.
Independent Educational Consultants (IECs) help level the playing field by supporting working- and middle-class students who go to public school, by allowing families of more modest means to gain similar expert help and advice at an hourly rate that is affordable for most. In addition, all members of IECA commit to efforts to serve those from underserved communities.
Those that want to stop the use of all paid assistance (would they refuse paid tutors for students struggling in school, as well?) misunderstand the fundamental role of independent educational consultants. IECs help students explore college opportunities and find the right place for them to succeed academically and socially. IECs don’t get students admitted—they help students demonstrate why they deserve to be admitted at appropriately chosen schools. They help students find colleges they might not have heard of—often out of their region—and they help students put their best foot forward.
By Mandy Stangeland, MS, IECA Associate (CA)
Like most of the newer independent educational consultants (IECs) I have met, I jumped into starting my practice without any business experience. I had the knowledge coming from the college side of the admissions desk, but running a business was like speaking a foreign language to me. I took some certificate classes from UC Irvine, which was helpful, but I was still missing something, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Then I signed up for the IECA Summer Training Institute (STI) in 2018. I had read about it and it seemed like the logical next step for someone like me who had a year of experience under my belt but no real traction in my business. I quickly discovered the value in the program and realized what it was I had been missing: camaraderie.
The first thing I noticed was how I felt being on a college campus surrounded by like-minded individuals with similar goals. I thought “Wow, this is how our students must feel on their first day of college.” The IECA staff was there to greet us and was two steps ahead of anything we could possibly need (including the aspirin I required one morning for the unexpected and very unwelcomed migraine).
Our cohort was quick to bond over our experiences and our insecurities, which made everyone feel very comfortable. We were able to easily relax and soak in the abundant amount of information that was not thrown at us but spoon-fed carefully to make sure we relished every bite. There were lectures, break out sessions, special topics, and even special guests flown in from all over the world to help us achieve what so many in this industry have already mastered. I was blown away by the faculty’s willingness to share what had and had not worked for them. They even supplied us with examples of contracts, price sheets, and breakdowns of how they work with clients. What I thought would be impossible to acquire from my competition was delivered to me in a two-inch thick binder that has been worth its weight in gold.
The message was clear: there is plenty of business to go around and we want you to succeed. Our success as business owners is reliant on our success as an industry. When we support each other, we all win, especially the students.
Knowing that IECA and my fellow members have my back gives me the confidence I need to go forward. The people from my STI cohort are more than colleagues, they are friends. We share our best tips with each other, consult with each other based on our niche or expertise, and room together at conferences (often saving a bundle on travel expenses). When there is an IEC event, we often seek each other out via a group text or through our private group Facebook page so we can claim a table and settle in quickly. We have even adopted some honorary members because the goal is to never be exclusive. It’s the inclusive culture of IECA that brings so much value to this industry. And for me, that’s how I know I have chosen the right fit profession.
Mandy Stangeland, Wise Owl College Consulting LLC, can be reached at [email protected] consulting.com.
2019 Summer Training Institutes
July 9–July 13
Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, CA
July 30–August 3
Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA
Visit https://link.IECAonline.com/sti for more information.
By Sarah Contomichalos IECA (ME), Jack Cao, IECA (China), and Elizabeth Cashel, IECA Associate (NY)
International students are an important population for US high schools. Although admissions officers are very aware of the positives this population brings to their schools, it can be challenging to understand and correctly interpret their credentials. When working with the British, Chinese, and Russian elementary and high school national curriculums, for example, it is necessary to understand the grading systems, external exams, how to differentiate the level of the student within each system, and other cultural considerations. Independent educational consultants (IECs) are key to helping schools understand how to read international students’ qualifications.