Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ's on Working with
an Educational Consultant

What is an educational consultant?

An educational consultant, also called a higher education consultant, is a professional who assists students and parents with college and financial aid planning. Educational consultants are skilled in helping students find colleges where they can be successful. They also serve as guides to the college application process, making sure that students meet deadlines and prepare complete and effective applications. Some higher education consultants specialize in helping students with special needs, such as learning disabilities.

What do educational consultants do?

Educational consultants are trained professionals who assist students and their parents with the college planning and application process. They help families by providing a realistic assessment of a student’s individual strengths and weaknesses as a prospective college applicant, identifying colleges and universities that match the student’s needs and interests, and providing guidance on all aspects of the college application and financial aid process.

What are the benefits of working with an educational consultant?

Many high schools have high guidance counselor to student ratios. This can make it difficult for some students to get personalized and on-going advice about college planning and college admissions. While an educational consultant does not replace the school guidance counselor, a professional consultant can serve as a guide to the entire college and financial aid process, helping both students and parents feel less stressed, better prepared, and more confident.

How do we know if we need an educational consultant?

The decision to hire an educational consultant is a personal one, and not every family will need or want to work with a consultant. Working with an educational consultant can be particularly helpful if your child is: confused about their college options; has limited opportunity to meet with their school guidance counselor; is interested in a less common major or career; has an unusual academic background or admissions profile; or would benefit from one-on-one assistance with college planning and applications. Educational consultants can also be helpful when a student has learning disabilities or other special needs, when families are having difficulty agreeing on college choices, or for students who are particularly anxious about the college admissions process.

Can an educational consultant guarantee that my child will be admitted to a particular college?

No one can guarantee a student admission to a particular college or university – except, of course, the admissions committee! If an educational consultant or anyone else suggests that they can do so, it is best to find another consultant. Professional educational consultants understand that many variables factor into admissions decisions and therefore they do not make false promises. They can, however, help students improve their chances of admission by identifying colleges that match their admissions profile, and interests, and by guiding them through the college application process.

How much does it cost to work with an educational consultant?

You may have read an article or seen a news report about educational consultants who charge exorbitant fees for their counseling services. Luckily, the majority of professional educational consultants offer reasonable prices for their services. Some consultants offer all-inclusive packages for a single fee, others will work with families on an hourly basis. Still others offer some combination of the two. By comparing services and prices, you should be able to find a professional consultant that your family can afford.

Our family has limited finances. Does that mean we can’t get help from an educational consultant?

Many members of the Higher Education Consultants Association offer sliding fee scales to families who have limited financial means. Some HECA members waive their fees entirely for students from low income families. Other HECA members are active volunteers in local schools and non-profit organizations that assist students with college planning and college applications. Do not assume that your family’s financial situation means you can’t get help from an educational consultant!

Is it best to work with a local educational consultant?

It depends on both the student and the consultant. Many students prefer to work face-to-face with their educational consultant, while others benefit from working with a non-local consultant who has specialized experience or skills. If you can’t find a professional educational consultant in your area who you feel comfortable with, working with a consultant who is based elsewhere can also make sense. If you’re considering working with a consultant outside of your local area, be sure to ask about their experience working with students at a distance, and discuss the tools and techniques they use to provide quality services for distant students. Many HECA member consultants are also happy to make referrals to other HECA members that live in your local area.

Is an educational consultant a replacement for the school guidance counselor?

No, an educational consultant is never a replacement for the school guidance counselor. While an educational consultant can provide more personalized service than your high school guidance counselor may be able to provide, it’s important to understand that your school counselor will still play a vital role in your or your child’s college application process. You should think of your educational consultant as another member of your college planning team, all working together to help your child achieve his or her goals.

When should we begin working with an educational consultant?

You may want to consult with an educational specialist early in your child’s high school career in order to get advice and suggestions on curriculum planning, testing advice, extracurricular activities, and enrichment opportunities. In general, however, the majority of consulting time will occur during junior and senior years of high school, as students begin to identify their college options and prepare college applications. Educational consultants generally do not work with elementary or middle school students.

FAQ's Regarding Professionalism
In Educational Consulting

What are some things that an educational consultant should never do?

A professional educational consultant should never guarantee admission to any particular college. They should not write essays, recommendation letters, or other application materials for students. They should not receive financial remuneration for referring students to a particular college, service, or program. They should treat students and parents with respect, and be supportive of their choices. Finally, educational consultants should never abuse the privilege of working with young people in any way. HECA’s member standards and ethics statement provides further insight into the professional conduct you should expect from every educational consultant.

What education or training is necessary to become an educational consultant?

Since the consultant will be helping students make decisions about their college options, it is important that an educational consultant have at least a bachelor’s degree from a four year college. Many members of the Higher Education Consultants Association also hold master’s degrees in education, psychology, or related fields. Others have completed professional training programs in college admissions consulting from institutions such as the University of California-Los Angeles, University of California-Berkeley or from professional associations.

How can our family find a reliable and professional educational consultant?

You’ve come to the right place! The member consultants of the Higher Education Consultants Association are committed to providing reliable, professional, and ethical college counseling services to students. You can find a HECA member in your local area by consulting our “Find A Consultant” page. HECA has also put together a Guide on How to Choose an Educational Consultant to assist families in their hiring decision.

Is hiring an educational consultant to help our child ethical?

Hiring a professional educational consultant is ethical. Parents seek outside tutors and coaches to help their children succeed and achieve their goals. A professional educational consultant is a “coach” to guide your child through the college admissions process with the least amount of stress and anxiety possible.

How do colleges feel about educational consultants?

Colleges disapprove of unethical and unprofessional “consultants” who make unreasonable promises and go too far in assisting students with their college applications. However, colleges also understand that professional educational consultants can serve a purpose, especially for students who do not have access to enough personal help from their school counselors. Colleges also know that members of the Higher Education Consultants Association agree to abide by our member Standards and Ethics Statement which sets out strict guidelines for professional conduct by educational consultants.

How can I become an educational consultant?

First, consider your reasons for wanting to enter the educational consulting field. Most successful consultants enjoy working with young people and their parents, and get satisfaction from helping students reach their goals. Very few consultants get rich from this business, so the desire to earn a high income should be a secondary consideration. If you’ve decided that becoming an educational consultant is right for you, you will need to gain as much knowledge as possible about colleges, college admissions, and adolescent psychology and development. Volunteering at a local non-profit organization that assists students with college planning, or in a local high school counseling office can help you gain experience in assisting young people with college planning. It is highly recommended that you join a professional organization such as HECA, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, or your regional NACAC affiliate. Doing so will help you connect with others involved in college counseling and provide access to valuable conferences, publications, and other professional development opportunities. Each year, HECA conducts a “consulting basics” seminar that offers an introduction to the principles of college admissions consulting for those considering entering the profession or who are new to the field. Additionally, there are a number of college admissions counseling training programs available from institutions such as University of California and other professional organizations where prospective consultants can further their education.

FAQ's About HECA

What is the Higher Education Consultants Association?

HECA is a non-profit, all volunteer association comprised of higher education consultants who share a passion for helping students reach their educational goals. Our members uphold the highest professional and ethical standards, and enjoy opportunities to further develop their consulting skills through HECA events, networking, and other support. Learn more about HECA’s history, mission, and professional standards.

Why should we choose to work with a member of the Higher Education Consultants Association?

When your family decides to work with an educational consultant who is a HECA member, you can be assured that they are committed to serving your college planning needs with the highest professional and ethical conduct and standards. Our members are also required to participate in on-going professional development, assuring that they stay abreast of the latest trends in college admissions. To learn more about the benefits of working with a HECA member consultant, click here.

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