If you are interested in studying overseas, an educational consultant can help you find the best suited school for you. An educational consultant is an individual unaffiliated with a school or program whose key role is to help you find the right school or college based on your needs. Also known as a certified educational planner, these individuals can help organize enrollment at a language school, summer enrichment program, homestay as well as undergraduate and graduate programs. Typically, an educational consultant will sit down with you and your family to discuss what you are looking for including the length and type of program, budget, student experience, and needs that you are looking to match. Then, the educational consultant will find a program/school that most closely meets the type of experience you expressed. While the educational consultant cannot guarantee entrance into a school, they can make recommendations and provide various options that you may not have thought of on your own.
The advantage of working with an educational consultant is that many have a background in school admissions and have worked with many students over the years. With their industry expertise, they have an intimate understanding of the various schools, reputations, and campuses available to students. Many of these consultants travel extensively around the world visiting campuses and language programs to familiarize themselves with what students can expect from their studies.
Traveling overseas can seem overwhelming, especially when you are planning to study in a foreign country that may not speak your native language. The idea behind hiring an educational consultant is that they have familiarity with the procedures and programs that can guide you to a successful educational experience. In many cases, an educational consultant can also help you with your visa, transcript verifications, translations, and course equivalency. These are issues that can be overwhelming at first, but having an expert by your side can make this process much easier. You can think of your educational consultant as just that, a consultant. Some educational consultants can give you tips about safety, budgeting, banking and travel arrangements.
The hardest part, however, may just be finding a credible and ethical educational consultant as you want to make sure they have your best interest in mind. One of the best ways to determine this is by their fee structure. According to the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), educational consultants should not receive any compensation from educational institutions for placement of a child. Instead, the payment comes directly from the family on a flat fee for specific services, hourly, or one payment for the year. The best way to find an educational consultant is by word of mouth from a friend or family. If this is the case, you should ask about the consultant’s involvement including what type of guidance they provided including pre-departure, throughout the trip and if there was any post-travel follow-up.
If you are interested in finding your own educational consultant, first you will want to determine if it is necessary. If you have good resources at home then it may not be necessary. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NASCAC) has compiled a list of questions to help you determine whether you need to hire one:
- Does your school have counselors who spend a significant amount of time counseling students through the college admission process?
- Have the school’s counselors received special training through regional or national workshops for college counseling?
- Is there a college/career center where you can have access to books, applications, computer programs, and other materials for individual resources?
If you are able to answer yes to these questions, then you may not need to hire an educational consultant. Many individuals decide to hire an independent agent to handle special situations like disabilities, those who may not speak English, and to help handle larger global scale searches for the best suited school. However, if you do not have access to resources and need additional assistance, we have also put together a list of helpful questions that you should ask before choosing your educational consultant:
- Can you tell me about your background before you were an educational consultant? What was your training and education in? Do you have any certifications, credentials or do you have a master’s degree?
- How long have you been an educational consultant?
- Do you have experience in a high school/college counseling or admissions office?
- How long has your company been around?
- How long have you been active in the field, and what are your roles?
- How recently did you work at a high school or college campus?
- Do you visit college campuses regularly—locally, regionally, nationally, and/or internationally?
- What type of experience do you have with English language programs?
- Would you assist me if I wanted to do an English language program and then transition into a degree seeking program?
- Will you use personal connections to get me in to one of my top choices? This answer should also be no as they should help you put your best foot forward, but be ethical in their business practices.
- Do you attend professional conferences or training workshops on a regular basis to keep up with regional and national trends and changes in the law?
- What national and/or regional professional organizations do you belong to as a college counselor? IECA and NACAC are two associations with rigorous standards.
- Do you guarantee admission to a school, one of my top choices, or a certain minimum dollar value in scholarships? If they say yes, walk away.
- How do you keep up with new trends, academic changes and evolving campus cultures?
- How often do you get out and visit college, school, and program campuses and meet with admissions representatives? This response is important as this is the way that consultants stay in touch with their schools, they should visit at least 20 schools each year.
- Do you accept any form of compensation from a school, program, or company in exchange for placement or a referral?
- Are all fees involved stated in writing, up front, indicating exactly what services I will receive for those fees?
- Will you complete the application for admission, re-write my essays or fill out the financial aid forms on my behalf? They should not say yes here – the work should come directly from the student.
- Do you adhere to the ethical guidelines for private counseling established by IECA? You should find an educational consultant who can answer yes without hesitation!
According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the ideal educational consultant will have a minimum of five years experience working in a high school as a college counselor or for a college or university as an admission officer.