The Career of an IEC: What Do Independent Educational Consultants Do? 

Independent educational consultants (IECs) work with prospective college students and their families to help them explore college options and navigate the college application process.

As educational consultants, IECs review the student’s grades, extra-curricular activities, volunteer opportunities, and work history and provide recommendations to strengthen their application to good fit colleges.

Of course, public schools also have college consultants for students, who are often referred to as guidance counselors. However, a high school consultant often works with a lot of children and may handle issues other than college admission counseling. 

As an independent educational consultant, you would handle college prep and admissions issues, as a guidance counselor would, but you only work with a limited number of families, using your extensive knowledge to open up new opportunities for the student and make the family aware of options they may never have heard about otherwise.

Key Ways Independent Educational Consultants Support Students 

Independent college advisors help families with the college admissions process. They work through each section of the application process with the student and even help him or her come up with good ideas for an admissions essay.

IECs also go over different college options with families, guiding them to schools that have programs beneficial to the student. At times, they help with scholarship applications and often help students apply for financial aid. 

By visiting colleges and universities on a regular basis, you can tell the families you work with exactly what to expect from different options. 

Also, you could specialize in working with specific types of students, such as athletes or students with learning disabilities because their approach to finding a good college fit, going through the application process, and being accepted into the school, may be different than that of the masses. 

Who Do IECs Typically Work With? 

An educational consultant does some of their work with the parents, helping parents understand the entire college admissions process. You might help the parents set up college tours for their children, show them how to fill out each college application properly, and discuss ways their child can improve his or her college application.

However, normally educational consultants work with the entire family. Getting a child into college, especially a highly coveted one, isn’t easy. It’s often something the child, the IEC, and parents all work together to achieve. 

Most of the IEC’s day-to-day work is done with child, though, because it’s the teen who needs to fill out the application, write the entry essay, and look into opportunities for personal development to ensure his or her resume looks good. Also, it’s the student who has to nail the pre-admissions interview.

Some IECs choose to work with certain types of students. For example, you might specialize in placing athletes in good colleges or you might focus on high-achieving students who want to attend science or engineering programs. 

By narrowing down who you work with, you limit the amount of research you need to complete for each college option. Also, you end up knowing more details about the programs that interest your clients, which helps you serve them better.

Why Become an Independent Educational Consultant? 

If you enjoy helping people, becoming an independent educational consultant is a good option. Throughout your career, you work to support students and families during a very stressful time.

The fact is, as an IEC, you play a major role in the future of the students you work with. You’re their advocate. You aren’t affiliated with their high school, you aren’t affiliated with any colleges, and you don’t have those set-in-stone opinions many parents have. 

You’re the one who gets to listen to what your students want for their future and help them map out a path to achieving those goals.

How To Become an Independent Educational Consultant 

There are no real requirements necessary to become an IEC, however, to establish credibility, you might consider getting an independent educational consultant certificate. These certificate programs are offered through several different colleges. 

Even if you opt not to go that route, you can work independently by finding and signing your own clients, start your own consultancy firm, or work for an established consultancy firm. 

How do I Start an Educational Consultancy Firm?

Before you start your own consultancy firm, it's best to have the expertise necessary to confidently guide families through the college admissions process. This expertise can be gained through previous experience in the field of college advising or through the aforementioned certificate programs.

You then need to decide if you want to start a small firm, where you’re the only consultant, or if you’d rather have a larger firm with a team of IECs working with you. 

Once you know what type of educational consultancy firm you want to start, you should discuss your options with a business accountant, business lawyer, and utilize the services of any small business mentorship programs in your local area to get your business off the ground smoothly.

Are There Qualifications or Licensing To Become an Independent Educational Consultant? 

Before attempting to become an independent educational consultant, it's best to have at least a bachelor’s degree and possibly a master’s degree in a relevant field such as education or consulting. A certification course and an exam to earn your IEC certificate are the next steps, should you decide to take this route. 

Professional organizations such as IECA or HECA are not requirements, but can add legitimacy to your independent consulting business. Should you decide to join a professional association, there will be further requirements for membership. 

For example, the Professional IECA membership requires you to have a master’s degree or higher in a relevant field, five years of working experience, and three professional references, while the associate membership requires you to have a year’s working experience, a bachelor’s degree, and one professional reference.

Job Duties of an Independent Educational Consultant 

The duties of an educational consultant include advising students and families throughout the college admissions process, but it is also necessary to do regular college visits to expand your knowledge of the programs and options available for students. 

Attending professional conferences, networking with college admissions representatives, and keeping up to date with industry news are just a few of the other duties expected of an independent educational consultant.

What Makes a Good Independent Educational Consultant?

It’s important to remember that as an independent educational consultant, it’s your job to make the college application experience as stress-free as possible for the families you’re working with.  

Characteristics of a Good IEC 

Good ICEs are empathetic. They understand that the family they are working with is going through a major life change, and genuinely want to help them through it. 

Additionally, good IECs are honest and knowledgeable. They are focused solely on finding a school that’s a good match for the student — one that will help them achieve their goals.

Characteristics of a Bad IEC 

You might not be a good fit for independent educational consultant work if your main focus is money or if you’re only interested in placing students in the top colleges in the country because it gives you more professional credibility. 

What Does the Consulting Process Look Like? 

When you work with a family during the college admissions process, it’s your job to review the student’s transcripts, SAT and ACT scores, and any volunteer work or internships they’ve completed throughout their high school career. 

You use this information to find a college with a program the student is interested in and fits within his or her family’s budget.

You would also help your students fill out college applications, schedule college tours, review their college admission essays, and give them suggestions for improving their application overall. For some families, you may also help them apply for financial aid or scholarships.

How Much Do Independent Educational Consultants Earn 

An educational consultant’s salary depends on the type of work the consultant does. For example, if you work for a consultancy firm, your salary would be higher than a consultant who works at a high school. 

But when you work for yourself, you set your own rates.

What Do Educational Consultants Make?

Independent educational consultant fees are about $200 per hour on average. Although, some consultants charge as low as $85 per hour. 

Most clients purchase service packages, which range anywhere from $850 to $10,000, depending on what the package includes and the consultant’s experience.

Is the Field of Independent Educational Consulting Growing? 

The independent educational consultant field has been growing strong since 2005 and hasn’t slowed down yet. In fact, changes throughout the college admissions field have made the process less predictable than ever, which means families need the help of an IEC more than they did a decade ago.

Additionally, families today are on information overload when it comes to preparing their children for college. 

That’s why more and more families are hiring a professional to help them through the experience. Also, IECs can see more clients than they have in the past thanks to technology advancements such as video chatting. 

Basically, the field is ramped up now and there’s no indication for it to slow down any time soon.

How CollegePlannerPro Can Help Independent Educational Consultants 

CollegePlannerPro is an easy to use, yet powerful online software solution to organize, grow, and market your independent educational consulting business. From tracking student admission tasks, building college lists, recruiting prospective clients, scheduling meetings, and adding to-do’s, CollegePlannerPro delivers a complete software solution for independent consultants.

For Parents and Students

What Is an Independent Educational Consultant? 

An independent educational consultant helps your family navigate the college admissions process by matching your student’s abilities, goals, and needs to specific schools to determine which options are a good fit. 

Your consultant also helps your student through the application process, including making suggestions for the student’s college essay and identifying areas of improvement. 

An independent consultant only works with a handful of students, guiding their family through the entire process. 

This is different from a normal high school consultant, or guidance counselor, who works with all of the students in the school to cover the basics of college prep and admissions.

How an Independent Educational Consultant Can Help Your Family 

Preparing for college is stressful for a lot of families. Not only do you have to keep track of which applications need what information and when each one needs to be submitted, but you also have to be able to guide your child through the entire process step-by-step. 

With a plethora of college admissions information available, the process can become overwhelming really quick.

However, when you hire an educational consultant, the consultant walks you and your student through the entire admissions process. 

The consultant compares schools and programs for you, helps your student with the college applications and admissions essays, and even reviews scholarship options and financial aid.

What Does an Independent Educational Consultant Do That a School-Based Counselor Can’t? 

According to a study completed by the National Research Center for College and University Admissions (NRCCUA), 26% of high-achieving seniors are using independent educational or college consultants to support them throughout their college search efforts. 

This is because independent educational consultants provide a more hands-on experience. They aren’t bogged down with the needs of hundreds of other students, so they have more time available to focus on your family. 

College advisors also know the ins and outs of various college campuses. They make campus visits regularly, so they know details about the schools that school-based counselors don’t.

Who Should Consider Hiring an Independent Educational Consultant? 

Students and families who are ready to start the college application process should consider hiring an independent educational consultant to walk them through the process and explore all of their options. 

But high-school juniors and seniors aren’t the only people who should hire an IEC. 

Young adults who want to explore higher education options or who are getting ready to enter graduate or professional school can also benefit from hiring an IEC.

When and How to Hire an Independent Educational Consultant 

Some families hire an independent educational consultant as early as the child’s freshman or sophomore year of high school. However, you should aim to hire a consultant during your student’s junior year of high school at the latest. 

This way you have plenty of time to interview potential candidates. You can find independent educational consultants using a simple internet search. 

Try searching for “independent educational consultants near me” or “private college admissions counselor near me.” You can also use the search features located on the website of the professional organizations IECA and HECA. 

What to Look For When Hiring an Independent Educational Consultant 

When looking for an independent educational consultant, it’s important to choose someone who is reputable. 

The person you choose should have an independent educational consultant certificate and be a part of a professional organization — that way you know they’ve been vetted. It’s also a good idea to read college consultant testimonials and reviews online to see how well others like working with specific consultants.

Characteristics of a Good IEC 

A good IEC will ask you as many questions as you ask them — and listen to your answers. 

They’ll appear to be genuinely concerned about where the student wants to go to school and what type of career he or she plans to have in the future. When interviewing a good IEC, you’ll notice the conversation is more about you than them, because they really want to help you.

Characteristics of a Bad IEC 

When interviewing someone who isn’t a great IEC, you might notice the conversation revolves around the consultant and his or her accomplishments. You might notice the consultant making big claims and possibly telling your student that he or she can get into a particular school easily. 

Questions to Ask Before Hiring an IEC 

Before you hire an IEC, it’s important to ask if the person has an independent educational consultant certification and which professional membership they hold. 

You should also ask:

  • What schools do they have professional relationships with?
  • What type of students do they normally work with?
  • If they have any references?

How Much Independent Educational Consultants Charge 

Independent educational consultant fees vary depending on the amount of experience the consultant has. However, IECs charge about $200 per hour on average. You can expect to pay between $850 and $10,000 to work with an IEC depending on the person you work with and the services you purchase.

What the Consulting Process Looks Like 

Your IEC will take you through the entire college admissions process. You can expect him or her to give you suggestions for different schools, help you through the paperwork, and give your student suggestions for admissions essay topics. Basically, the consultant takes you through each step of the application process.

What to Expect When You Work With an Independent Educational Consultant 

When you work with an IEC, you can expect the consultant to review your student’s high-school transcript and SAT/ACT scores. He or she will also probably ask about any volunteer work, extra-curricular activities, and internships the student has been involved in. 

The consultant will ask about your student’s future including:

  • What type of career the student wants
  • What type of college he or she wants to attend
  • What academic goals does he or she have

Additionally, you can expect to discuss financing options with your consultant. Some consultants may be able to help you apply for scholarships and/or financial aid if needed.