It could be said that one of the most debated topics in the world of independent educational consultants is how to be compensated for one’s work: hourly or comprehensively. In my practice, Garrett Educational Consulting, I offer comprehensive packages and over the years have been able to tweak my process to make this model work best for me and my practice. A comprehensive model helps me account for the time, effort, and expense associated with gaining and maintaining the knowledge necessary to best serve my clients.
First, a comprehensive model has allowed me to create clear boundaries during the boarding school and college consulting process. When I started my practice, my comprehensive package was very open-ended as I did not cap the amount of colleges a student could apply to or the number of essays that were part of the comprehensive package. While most families respected the process and kept the number of applications within a reasonable amount, there are always some that will take advantage. As the college admissions process has become more unpredictable, especially with the test-optional piece, I had an increasing number of clients (typically parents) wanting to add a number of highly rejective schools to their student’s list because, “You just never know!” Having a maximum number of schools allows us to develop a well-balanced college application list.
Second, the comprehensive package gives me the ability to set expectations from the beginning. I try to be clear upfront about what is included in my comprehensive packages and what will be expected from the students as well as the parents. The students and parents have access to my availability on our online scheduling system, along with a digital resource notebook, and we do expect the students to schedule their regular appointments and utilize the resources we have provided. While it can be easier just to do the task for them (like scheduling a meeting offline), it sets a precedent that I may not want to continue long-term. At the Senior Year Kick-off Meeting (which actually occurs at the end of junior year), I include a one-page expectations document that is signed by myself, the student, and the parents to make sure we are all on the same page and it serves as a gentle reminder about the parameters of the contract. While my comprehensive contract might be lengthy, I have found it beneficial to add to and update at the end of each admissions cycle after assessing what went well and where I might need to make changes.
Third, add-on service packages have helped my comprehensive packages evolve over the years. When I first started comprehensively, I found myself overwhelmed with requests to apply to every honors program and every named scholarship that a school offered, along with requests for assistance with school projects and job applications! While I am happy to assist students with those, I now offer them as add-on services. This helps me manage the time I will spend on the additional services while also allowing the families to decide if they see the value of my support in that process.
Most importantly, do what works for you as it pertains to pricing models for your services. As a society, we are in a constant state of pivot and we need to be flexible, especially with ourselves. We each need to follow the model that works best for us at that given time. For now, I know that I would not be a diligent bookkeeper of time spent on each task for each student, so it works better for me to track meetings and tasks, but not necessarily all the time associated with them. For many of my colleagues, the hourly model works best for them. This will always be a highly contested topic amongst IECs, but it is important to remember that at the end of the process both models are providing guidance and support for our clients in helping them find their best fit colleges. It is this that makes being an IEC so worthwhile.