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Survey Results: COVID-19's Impact on Independent College Consultants' Businesses

Posted by Lisa Davis on October 8, 2020
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We know that 2020 is the year in which no amount of planning could have anticipated all the twists and turns since its start. While there have been challenges, there has been resilience, too. Many have made tweaks and even wholesale changes to their IEC practices. We surveyed more than 200 IECs to help tell an industry-wide story about the impact COVID has had so far and may continue to play in the future.  

Survey Results

In addition to the data presented in the survey results above, there were some general sentiments shared in the open responses. We have summarized a few of those below. 

Thoughts From New IECs

  • Networking and building connections in order to launch and grow a business has become more difficult.
  • Due to increased personal obligations (i.e. managing children's virtual learning, etc.), there is decreased time to dedicate to building a business.
"As someone just starting their business it's harder to make connections that will lead to clients when I can't meet anyone in person or attend networking events, etc."


Factors Contributing to Decline in Business

Of the survey responses, 17% reported a decline in business since the pandemic hit. When speculating on the decline, respondents touched on the following:

  • Due to increased personal obligations (i.e. managing children's virtual learning, etc.), some are unable to take on as many clients as prior.
  • Some reported that more students are choosing community colleges or staying in-state, decreasing the need for IEC services.
  • For families who have suffered economic loss, services such as hiring an IEC is something they may forgo investing in.
"Although I have not seen a significant change in my current number of students up to today, I believe more families will reduce their expenses starting with services like ours. Schools going test optional will also make an impact in our line of business."


Factors Contributing to Increase in Business

Of the survey responses, 53% reported an increase in business since the pandemic hit. When speculating on the increase, respondents touched on the following:

  • The increased comfort with virtual connections (for both families and counselors) allows for more business.
  • Counselors are able to reach more students through online events.
  • During this time, students have even less access to high school counselors. This is creating greater demand from students who feel behind or want to get an earlier start on the process.
  • A few respondents reported that although they believe demand is increasing, they currently have a full caseload and are unable to take on more students.
"Even among private high schools, the lack of counselor availability during summer in the midst of constantly changing admission updates and standardized exam cancellations sent parents into a panic."


Impact Uncertainty is Having on Business

One of the main things cited was the level of uncertainty the pandemic has brought. Uncertainty around the changing tide of college admissions has produced speculation on both a positive and negative business impact. 
  • Many credit the uncertainty and changing landscape to their business growth. 
  • Others believe the uncertainty has led to indecisiveness on the part of parents looking to hire an IEC.
  • Although predictions were made, there is still much uncertainty about the impact the COVID pandemic has had or will have in the future.
"Families who thought they could go it alone no longer feel that way.  There is too much uncertainty to feel that they can make choices without guidance."


Impact Rebound

Some noted an initial slow down immediately after the pandemic and then a full, strong recovery from June onward. 

"We were very slow March through May. Things started picking up in June. I am now ahead of last year in both seniors and juniors. Everyone is worried about finding a college without visiting and the impact of cancelled test dates. I also have more students from farther away than in the past."


Business Operations

  • Many people reported having home offices and therefore will keep the space.
  • Those who are currently paying for an office space are contemplating if they will continue to pay for a workspace.
  • Others have decided to ditch their office space in lieu of renting day offices, conference rooms, or co-working spaces when necessary.
  • While some consultants have already started meeting with students in-person, many are still meeting virtually and are finding some advantages in doing so.
"I am finding that working from home is better than I expected. I like my routine and I think it is easier for students to hop online rather than driving to my office. I am seriously considering giving up the office since it seems to be an unnecessary expense now. But, I would like to do some in-person and group work so I'll be looking for shared spaces and conference room rental options. I also need to hire more consultants since the demand this year is ahead of last year and my consultants are both full."


While there is still much uncertainty in the air, the general outlook on business and student outcomes look promising. 

"This has been difficult but COVID19 isn't going to get us down. My students and their parents are wonderful and we are managing well."


Full Survey Results Here

Topics: Business