IECA Statement of Support for International Students and Education in the USA

The Independent Educational Consultants Association stands fully in support of the 1.2 million international students studying in the United States and urges ICE to rescind its decision to force international students back to their home countries in the current COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, July 6, 2020, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that international students in the United States whose schools and colleges are open for the fall 2020 semester with online-only classes, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will not be issued student visas or otherwise be allowed to enter or remain in this country. Most devastating, ICE’s policy holds that if colleges are forced to switch to online study as a result of a spike of COVID-19 cases—at any point in the semester—international students would be immediately deported, despite financial obligations, closed air routes, or violence that may await them in their home countries.

ICE’s policy and its requirement that international students “take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction” to remain in the United States is discriminatory, ill-advised, and capricious. In no way does this improve our educational system, strengthen the financial viability of schools or colleges, or help to combat—or even address—the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather, the policy leverages the current public health crisis for political gain, targeting international students by those who oppose diversity in learning. IECA believes this policy is part of an ongoing effort to force schools and colleges to reopen for in-person instruction prematurely, using significant financial incentive—and overriding the health and best interests of students and educational institutions.

The United States’ educational system leads the world, and young people from across the globe flock here to learn. Millions have become doctors, researchers, and entrepreneurs enhancing American life or serving as ambassadors upon returning home. American students have their experience enhanced through daily interaction with friends from other cultures, and educational institutions rely on the approximately $45 billion dollars that international students contribute to the schools’ bottom line and the US economy annually. Without international students, some small colleges and boarding schools may no longer be viable. ICE’s policy further erodes the interest of top students across the globe in pursuing their education in the United States, and its rippling impacts hurt us all.

2020 AP Exams Cannot be Considered a ‘Standardized’ Test

by Mark H. Sklarow, CEO, IECA

Starting next week and continuing through much of May, the College Board will be offering its AP tests, an important opportunity for students across the world to demonstrate mastery of subject matter from the advanced placement courses they have taken.

This year’s tests will have a significant difference. To ensure security at a time of online testing, all students—regardless of where they live—will be taking subject tests at the same moment.  So, consider this: as the first AP exam on Physics kicks off testing season, it will be 12:00 noon (ET), 7:00 p.m. in Turkey, 1:00 a.m. in Japan. What if a student is also taking the Government AP exam that same “day”? That will start at 4:00 p.m. (ET), 10:00 p.m. in Germany, and 2:00 a.m. in India. How can we possible consider it a “standardized test,” offered with fairness and equity when students in much of the world are asked to begin that test of mental acuity and knowledge in the wee hours of the morning? It is simply unfair.

But this is a siren call to all.

Both ACT and the College Board’s SAT have announced plans for online testing—most likely at home—in the coming months. We can learn from the AP exams that issues of validity and fairness have not yet been resolved. Availability of broadband, access to technology and quiet spaces remain unsolved and must be addressed. Already some colleges indicate an unwillingness to consider AP exam scores for this year and at least one, Claremont McKenna College, has indicated it will not consider at-home SAT or ACT scores in the coming year.

We hope these issues can be addressed by the testing companies soon, as student and parent anxiety is off the charts. And they must do better than the inequity next week, as students are asked to take a test in the middle of the night that could impact their college admission aspirations and affordability in significant ways.

2020 Rankings Released: What Colleges are Looking for in Applicants

by Mark H. Sklarow, CEO, IECA

For more than 20 years, the Independent Educational Consultants Association has surveyed its member college admission experts to determine what colleges want to see in their applicants, creating a ranking to assist students and their parents in understanding how college applicants are reviewed after submission. Of course, all colleges are different and IECA members can be particularly helpful in understanding those variances.

Among the key 2020 findings:

• While grades are important (#2 in rankings), colleges want to see students challenging themselves, willing to risk perfect GPAs by taking courses that will demonstrate a willingness to take chances, including AP and IB coursework (#1).

• Despite all the talk about “test optional,” scores on standardized tests like the SAT and ACT remain critical (#3)

• Extra-curriculars rose to their highest level ever in the IECA rankings (#4), but colleges look for a long-term, passionate, authentic involvement in one or two activities whether in or out of school. No one is impressed by a long list of tangential clubs. In fact, jumping two spots (to #6) this year: demonstration of leadership within those chosen few activities.

• Essays remain important and are even more important at smaller colleges. But students misunderstand their role. Yes, clear and cogent writing matters, but a great essay is one that tells a story, giving insight into a student’s unique personality. There’s a great saying—no one else should be able to write the essay you submit for admission.

• Coming together are four items that speak to the question: what can YOU do for US? Colleges wonder how the student will contribute to campus life: through unique characteristics or demographics (#7), through special talents (#9), through interest in research (#10), and through demonstrations of a student’s character and values (#11).

• How does a student demonstrate all those? Through the essay, the activities list, and through recommendations, which turned up as #8 on the 2020 rankings.

• Finally, an area students often don’t understand is demonstration of interest and enthusiasm in attending (#12). Are you following the college on Facebook? Did you visit the campus? Seek an interview? Colleges don’t like to extend an offer of admission to a student who will go elsewhere, so when you decide on your first choice, let them know!

The complete survey results can be found here.

Impact of DOJ Agreement on ED & Admission “Poaching”

by Mark H. Sklarow, CEO, IECA

By now, most independent educational consultants (IECs) who work with college bound students have heard that NACAC has reached an agreement with the Department of Justice that eliminates several provisions of the NACAC SPGP. The DOJ argued that some of these rules—those requiring colleges to restrict recruitment efforts—constituted collusion or restrained trade.

Many IECA members have asked for guidance on what they might expect or “what to tell client families” so they are not blind-sided as the rules that colleges have followed for years become relaxed.I think there are two specific bits of information IECs and families should know:

1. Colleges for years have agreed to a universal response date, the date by which students would commit to a college for the fall. Colleges had agreed to rules that prohibited them from trying to “poach” a student who had made a commitment elsewhere. Meaning, colleges would not pursue a student who committed to attend elsewhere, including a prohibition of incentives to change their mind (like a last-minute bump in financial aid).

This rule will end. So, what will happen? We really don’t know. Most organizations, like the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and IECA believe most colleges will, at least initially, voluntarily keep to this rule. Yet we know that any college that fails to achieve enrollment numbers may feel compelled to recruit past a student’s personal decision or beyond the May 1 deadline. Like the proverbial leak in the dam, what we don’t know is if a few colleges pursuing students will result in an all-out effort to recruit already committed students.

We also don’t know yet if colleges will take actions proactively to protect students that commit. For example, I predict that deposits may well increase from the hundreds to a thousand dollars or more, all to make it less likely that students will casually accept offers late in the year with a new pursuer, post-commitment. Likewise, housing deposits and fees could increase. Thus, while some colleges may pursue students who have committed elsewhere, other colleges may work to make a student think hard before making an expensive decision to change their commitment.

Other questions will be left to IECs to consider. If colleges can seek to recruit students who have already deposited, will our advice that students may not double deposit or admonitions that once you accept you must withdraw applications elsewhere, still be valid? Will this lead to a “second season” of admission where students are free to negotiate for their best deal?

2. The second area that the Justice Department secured a change was in recruitment of students applying under a binding “Early Decision.” The rule had been that colleges could not use special incentives to entice students to apply early—and commit—since this was binding. For example, colleges were precluded from using special Early Decision scholarships, or early decision priority for dorms or classes.

These rules, too, are now gone. Colleges may begin to offer incentives to apply under a binding ED, and there are signs that colleges are exploring this. Again, we hope that such incentives don’t become widespread, but I suspect it will happen. We know that Early Decision is a serious commitment, and as such, a decision should be done upon thoughtful and careful planning with an IEC when there is a clear first choice, not merely because an incentive is put on the table.

Once again, IECs will have to ponder the advice they give to students. Such incentives could become one more variable to consider in the process.

Colleagues, I hope this information helps as you think about what could occur. It will be important to follow how the application year develops as your work with students will almost certainly be impacted. What we don’t know is how much or how fast the traditional rules will be become victims to the DOJ rulings. Those attending IECA’s Spring Conference in Connecticut will see agenda items on this issue, including an address on this topic by Jayne Fonash, NACAC president and IEC.

Looking Beyond Today’s Industries and Jobs

By Pamela Kwartler, MA, IECA (NJ)

“There is a mismatch in talent pool and market demand, both currently and in the future. Though academic research often leads business, what’s taught in business courses is generally at least five to ten years behind the business sector.” Those words from economist and business leader Tess Mateo, managing director and founder of CXCatalysts, drive home an important point for IECs: what students learn in today’s business classes will not be enough. We must understand the world our students will graduate into to help them make choices that will propel them forward. Students and families who go on autopilot and reach for a career with a seemingly high ROI today may be surprised by the outcomes. The fact is that none of the fields we know will exist as they are today in the future.

In January 2016, the World Economic Forum introduced leaders of industry, governments, and civil society to the “fourth industrial revolution,” (see www.weforum.org/centre-for-the-fourth-industrial-revolution for more information), a term that CEOs, policymakers, and industry now use to describe how emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, 3D printing, and the Internet of things, are converging with humans’ biological and physical lives. New technologies will increasingly do more, to the extent that traditionally economically rewarding positions, such as financial analysts, accountants, finance and medical professionals, and even lawyers will become “redundant, and therefore replaceable.” Many Wall Street traders have had to reinvent themselves because their jobs have also been eliminated by technology. Business is evolving more quickly than ever before: large corporations are being broken up as business units are broken into yet smaller companies. Even 50% of the world’s medical services are delivered electronically.

How do IECs help students prepare for new markets and future economic success when the rules have changed? We often observe that it is students—who they are and what they bring to the world—that matter more than where they earn their degrees. An elite education alone will not necessarily provide the answer.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is a Brown-educated, former corporate lawyer, dot-com executive, and CEO of a GMAT test prep company: a symbol of the meritocracy. Today, he doesn’t believe it should be the job of our institutions “to train 80% of our graduates to do one of six things—financial services, management consulting, technology, law, medicine, or academia in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Washington, DC, or Los Angeles.” Yang blames the meritocracy for blissfully ignoring the country’s economic crisis and failing to fix problems caused by manufacturing job losses in middle America. The problems that need solving are even bigger than that. Fortunately, so are the opportunities.

Although there is great focus on STEM these days, all majors will matter, and students can study at a wide range of colleges. In 2015, world leaders agreed on the world’s biggest problems, which are collectively referred to the Global Goals or the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). (More information is available at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300.) For example, consider that tackling the individual problems caused by climate change will create new jobs worldwide. Along with solutions developed by engineers and scientists, environmental studies majors can explore how indigenous people have farmed sustainably for centuries. The skill of diplomacy will be essential to work cross-culturally and make progress within the worldwide community. As the water table rises and the carbon footprint expands, innovation in agriculture will continue to be a priority. These 21st-century businesses, unlike those that have benefited a small sliver of the first world since the 1980s, will improve the quality of life for all. Deep, nuanced thinkers will need to parse and define the ethics of evolving business models and, hopefully, enforce ethical regulations.

What Can IECs Do?

• Learn more about the fourth industrial revolution so that you help your students explore industries with increasing opportunities. Start by reading more at www.cnbc.com/2019/01/16/fourth-industrial-revolution-explained-davos-2019.html.

• Get smart about SDGs—consider using the global goals as a roadmap, then ask your students which topics they are interested in helping solve. These are big problems that will be around for a lifetime. Discover what passions and skills might be useful—there is a demand for many skill sets. (See page two of the following link to see all the goals and share them with your students: www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/corporate/brochure/SDGs_Booklet_Web_En.pdf.)

• Ask students what they can do during high school to develop their interests. Can they travel to explore global problems or spearhead local programs that focus on any of the SDGs?

• Research which colleges are positioning themselves to participate in solutions. For example, developing sustainable food systems is a major global problem (SDG #12), and many college agriculture programs are well-positioned to innovate, including Cornell, Ohio State, Purdue, UMass Amherst, PSU, University of Delaware, the University of Arizona, and the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, offer options for many academic levels. Some other examples include Goal #16 Peace and Justice (diplomacy, political science, international relations), Goal #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities (urban planning, construction, real estate), or Goal #7 Affordable and Clean Energy (environmental or civil engineering).

We can guide our students toward fulfilling college experiences that incorporate research, productive study abroad programs, and internships that will lead to employment in fields that truly allow them to impact their world—and ours.

Pamela Kwartler, College Process Counseling, can be reached at [email protected]

How IECs Help Level the Playing Field in College Admissions

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.

 

STI Provides Missing Piece: Camaraderie

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.

Making Character Count in Admission

by Mark H. Sklarow, Chief Executive Officer, Independent Educational Consultants Association

Let’s assume you were an admission director for a day. One spot remains for the class of 2019 with two folders in front of you. Candidate A is a brilliant young woman, with a 4.0 GPA which she achieved without breaking a sweat. In fact, she cruised through high school, never once experiencing a downturn personally or academically. Candidate B achieved a GPA a bit lower, let’s say a 3.6. But she did it faced with challenges: personal, familial, and academic. She wasn’t scared off by tough classes and succeeded with grit, determination, and a healthy dose of persistence.

The Truth About Liberal Arts Education

By S. Georgia Nugent, Senior Fellow, Council of Independent Colleges

As the former president of two liberal arts colleges, I am dismayed by the misinformation surrounding these institutions and the value of a liberal arts education. For our young people to make well-informed decisions about their future, they need accurate and up-to-date information about the array of choices American higher education offers. Yet many of the stories circulated in popular media today present distorted, stereotypical, or downright wrong information about colleges and universities.

Debunking Need-Based and Merit Aid Myths

By Sandra M. Moore, MA, IECA (NY)

Imagine this scenario: you’re leisurely surfing Facebook when you notice that one of your friends has posted a frantic alert: “Beware of the ABC virus that’s chewing up mass quantities of emails from coast to coast. Do NOT open messages that include in the subject line any combination of the letters a, b, or c.”