During the past decade, the number of independent admissions advisers has more than doubled according to the Independent Educational Consultants Association. No test or license is required to offer college advisory services. Many independent college consultants are members of IECA and/or HECA (Higher Education Consultants Association. Both have their own credentialing procedures and requirements, the most rigorous of which is IECA Professional Membership.
Contrary to what you may hear from some college admission consultants, it is unlikely that an adviser can influence your chances of acceptance. In fact, many consultants consider lobbying on a candidate’s behalf, and talk about “secret angles”, a breach of professional responsibility.
What a college adviser can do, however, is help you help yourself. Admissions consultants are generally familiar with the process and can help you research colleges, refine your list of schools, brainstorm and edit essays, search for scholarships, prepare for interviews and help with organization. By understanding your needs, assets and goals, a consultant can also help you maximize your high school experience and position yourself advantageously.
Admissions officers will tell you that high school counselors provide sufficient guidance and advice for most students. However, some families are more comfortable with more personalized counseling which may include comprehensive multi-year assistance. If you are thinking about hiring an independent consultant, consider your specific needs and goals. Should you decide that you can benefit from assistance with certain tasks, seek out a consultant who is flexible and can help with your specific needs such as developing a roadmap, finding the right “hook”, building a college list or fine-tuning your essays.