College is a major part of people's lives, whether they're seeking out an associate's or bachelor's degree, or want to go even further with a master's or doctorate. However, when it comes to preparing for college, it's easy to get lost in the sea of available colleges and universities, not to mention all the legwork with the FAFSA, scholarships and tuition.
However, there's help in the form of educational consultants. This vital career choice is one that aims to simplify the entire higher education process for both parents and students. Let's take a look at how HECA can be a solid backbone in growing your career as one of these in-demand consultants.
What is HECA?
HECA stands for Higher Educational Consultants Association. It's an organization made up of independent educational consultants who take an oath to abide by the standards and ethics set forth, to help ease the transition for high school students and their families. With the association's help, consultants can grow their businesses and have the backing of a reputable agency.
It's one of the top college counseling organizations that parents and students alike turn to when seeking help with the college admissions process. While the agency doesn't offer advice and help to students and families, they can recommend a consultant who's qualified to do so.
HECA’s Mission Statement
The HECA's mission statement, according to their website is:
"... to support independent education consultants as they work with students and parents during the transition into higher education by providing professional development, advancing ethical standards of conduct and promoting equity and access to higher education for all students."
In order to meet this, they have initiated four core values in their Standards and Ethics Statement.
HECA’s Standards and Ethics Statement
HECA ensures their members abide by ethical standards in counseling, by making them pledge to act with specific standards for:
- Working with families and students
- Developing relations with high schools and colleges
- Developing and maintaining relations with vendors
- Adhering to standards for the educational consulting profession
- The organization's code of conduct
The four core values include:
- Sound advice — Listen to the customer's requests and concerns and recommend schools, members and organizations.
- Integrity — Communicate services offered, without guaranteeing admissions or financial aid, act solely in the best interest of the student.
- Respect — Offer advice, but still maintain the boundary and respect student's relationship with school and counselors. Encourage ownership of the application process, only offer assistance where it's needed.
- Confidentiality — Maintain the strictest confidence in regards to conversations and details surrounding the student and his or her family.
Basically, the statement expands upon the values and standards to define what the counselors should do and how they should proceed in regards to different situations they encounter, and how to maintain appropriate relationships with students, families and vendors.
Why Become a Member of HECA?
There are several reasons why independent educational consultants should become a member of HECA. The benefits are numerous and provide the tools necessary to further their careers, resources that have been gathered over an extended period of time and negotiated to offer the best deals for members. Top educational consultants find these resources immeasurable.
HECA vs. IECA
When researching organizations, you're sure to come upon comparisons between HECA and IECA. Both are options for educational consultants. The tools they offer are similar, the advisors just need to compare the two organizations to see which one is better suited for them and their individual career needs.
In order to join HECA and become a member, there are four steps that you have to follow.
- Determine Eligibility — in order to join as a member, or even to gain HECA provisional membership (one who doesn't currently meet the requirements but is actively working toward it), you have to meet the eligibility requirements, which are explained further below.
- Review Expectations — HECA has high expectations for its members. Among these expectations are:
- Attending at least one annual conference every four years
- Network with members, whether at conferences, networking opportunities or through HECA Listserv
- Demonstrate professionalism and mentor new members
- Respect other professionals in the field who you may encounter, including college admissions staff, guidance counselors and other consultants
- Apply Online — prospective members must fill out the online application and pay the applicable fees. For both regular and provisional members, the annual fee is $300 and the year runs from March 1st to February 28th annually.
- Send Appropriate Documentation With Application — documents including a single professional reference and the evidence of completing your highest degree and/or qualifying certificate program must be emailed after your application has been submitted.
Benefits and Expectations for Members
The number one benefit for members is HECA's reputation. Since its inception in 1997, HECA has helped hundreds of consultants meet their career goals. Because of its stringent guidelines, the organization and its members have remained in good standing with colleges and universities as well as the general public.
Growing any type of business means having the necessary support. With HECA membership, you'll have other members at your disposal to help seek advice from and to help provide guidance and experience. Over time, you'll be able to return the favor with new members whom you can guide and mentor as necessary.
The HECA listserv is a great benefit for members. It gives them immediate access to tons of resources, shared by other consultants, just like them. They can provide guidance for members across the country or seek out hard-to-find information for their students.
Members also have their information listed in the membership directory, which makes it easy to gain visibility. After all, if clients can't find you, they can't hire you. You can also self-promote and use the HECA logo to showcase your membership as long as you remain in good standing.
Access to the members-only website gives you all the information you need at your fingertips. For example, you can research colleges, financial aid and even access business management tools. Here, you'll also find handouts that can help your students.
Networking is a must because other professionals are more than happy to recommend those they know and trust if they're unable to take on a client for some reason.
Who doesn't like saving money? With a HECA membership, you can take advantage of discounts on products such as liability insurance, business services and publications.
Eligibility and Requirements
In order to become a member, there are specific requirements that all independent consultants must meet. They are:
- Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university
- Relevant experience
- 2 years working as an educational consultant - or
- 2 years working as a college admissions officer or high school counselor, AND practicing as an independent educational consultant, serving a minimum of 10 students — or
- Proof of completion of a college counseling program (from specific schools), including working directly with students while under the supervision of an experienced professional
- Have attended, within the prior 18 months, a professional college admissions conference AND have visited 20 colleges in the last year
- A professional reference that meets the requirements
- Active HECA member, college representative, high school counselor
- Must have known you for a minimum of one year
- Can attest to your work ethic, your working experience with high school students and their families
- Documentation of completed college work and approved certificate program
- Commitment to professional development which includes visiting colleges along with attending workshops and conferences
- Agree to abide by the Standards and Ethics statement
- Attend a new member orientation within the first 12 months after joining
How to Join HECA: Application Instructions
The membership application is available online and must be completed in order for you to be considered. It has several mandatory fields to fill out including identification information such as your name and contact info, educational institutions you've attended and details of your working experience.
The application also contains privacy preferences where you can specify if you want your information shared with other businesses or colleges who want to connect with consultants. You can also specify your volunteering preferences and what types of events you'd like to volunteer for.
Once the application is sent, you must have a professional reference sent and also send along your educational documents proving your completion of a degree or certificate program.
HECA Member Tours and Conference
Member tours and conferences are a great way for consultants to get to know each other and network while focusing on professional development. These conferences come up annually, like the HECA conference 2020, and consultants are both invited to attend and participate.
While you don't have to attend every conference, the more you attend, the more visible you are and the easier it is to gain the trust and respect of your peers who can help you grow as a consultant and as a business. Sponsors, vendors and other professionals get the chance to know you, which in turn puts you out front above others who may not be as active.
How to Find an HECA Educational Consultant
Finding a consultant near you is as simple as entering "Independent educational consultants near me" or "college application consultants near me" in a search engine. However, if you're looking for more qualified professionals or those tied to the association, you can visit the HECA educational consultant website and search through the HECA regional groups.
The members are listed along with their qualifications, experience and specialties. You'll be able to filter by location and other criteria that are important to you. Plus, you can interview the individuals before deciding on which one to use to help your child navigate the complex world of college admissions.
How to Become an Independent Educational Consultant
Those looking to become an independent educational consultant will find that there are different avenues they can take.
College admissions consultant jobs are essentially the same, whether you work for an agency or act independently. For some, an independent educational consultant certificate is all they need to offer college admission counseling for colleges and universities. Others choose to take their studies a bit further by obtaining degrees and attending several networking opportunities such as conferences and development training sessions throughout the nation.
If you're considering becoming an educational consultant, then definitely take the opportunity to speak with others in the field, join a reputable organization such as the HECA and make it your goal to research the best ways to grow your business. While membership in an association isn't necessary, it can be very beneficial in more ways than one.