As an independent educational consultant, you know that serving students and parents is the benchmark of your career. Like many other professional service providers across countless educational disciplines, independent educational consultants can choose to participate in trade organizations. Specific to our industry, one organization that boasts strong membership is IECA. 

Many of the customers we serve with the CollegePlannerPro platform are members of this organization, so we thought it helpful to explain what the group does and how it serves our greater community of consultants.

The IECA is an association that can help independent educational consultants grow their practices. Members receive certain perks and access to advanced marketing, which can result in increased clientele. While it's not obligatory to join the IECA to practice as an independent educational consultant, it can help further one's career path. 

What is IECA?

IECA is short for Independent Educational Consultants Association. The goal of the association is to provide a single location for educational advisors to seek help and grow, and to provide them a platform where they have access to a number of tools, including a membership database where prospective clients can search for them and contract their services. 

IECA Mission Statement

The mission statement of IECA is threefold. The association seeks to: 

  • Promote the highest quality independent educational consulting to students and families who are seeking guidance
  • Enhance professional development
  • Foster career satisfaction among its members

To do this, the IECA has established some goals that include supporting and educating members, advocating for them and establishing organizational effectiveness. 

Why Become a Member of IECA?

There are many reasons why a consultant might become a member of IECA. Members are given access to a number of resources that help them better their careers and offer even more to their clients. 

Such resources include a strong support system in which members not only develop a professional network but rely on and help each other grow. The website offers a search function where parents, teachers and other professionals can seek out a consultant in their area. IECA handles these referrals in a timely fashion to ensure those who desire the information receive it quickly. 

In addition to networking opportunities, members have access to training and receive discounts on training sessions, webinars and conferences. There's also a national office with 12-person staff that works hard to build up the association and handle all marketing matters to promote the IECA and its members. 

IECA Membership Benefits

There are a number of benefits as well, including liability insurance, discounts on several services including car rentals and shipping, and access to a list of campus tours that consultants can and are invited to participate in. 

Those who need additional mentoring to build their clientele and offer stronger support services will find it as a member of IECA. 

What Does an Independent Educational Consultant Do?

The main purpose of an independent educational consultant is to help students and their families determine the path they want to take for the future and all of the steps they need to get there. 

This involves providing individual attention and sharing extensive knowledge relating to colleges and schools that students can attend. Consultants are armed with the tools to help their clients weigh the options when it comes to cost, curriculum and location. They can also help navigate the muddy waters of financial aid and college admissions. 

Not only can these educational consultants offer a list of schools a student should consider, but they also can provide meaningful guidance on how to successfully get accepted. This includes reviewing the students' grades, extracurricular activities and volunteer work that colleges look at as part of the application process, and suggesting additional programs and opportunities to make their application shine. 

How are IECA Members Different Than Other Independent Educational Consultants?

There are several differences when it comes to joining the association or going it alone. With IECA membership, consultants get access to a wide variety of tools such as insight into what colleges are looking for and professional development. 

The main difference between other independent educational consultants and those who are members of the IECA is the level of standards that each member is held to. Members are required to meet specific guidelines and adhere to a strong code of ethics, remaining in good standing with the Principles of Good Practice. 

How to Join IECA

Becoming an IECA professional requires that its members meet the criteria set forth for each level. There's also an in-depth application and a non-refundable application fee of $100. These fees are later applied to dues upon acceptance. All applicants have to have an official transcript sent as part of the application and offer professional references who can attest to the applicant's experience and character. 

IECA Eligibility and Requirements

IECA membership requirements and eligibility vary depending on the membership level. There are currently three to choose from: Student, Associate and Professional. The type you'll apply for depends on your level of education. 

Student Membership 

Student membership is the lowest tier, designed for those who are currently pursuing a career as an independent educational consultant but have not yet started their own practice or have the necessary criteria to fit the other membership levels. 

To apply for a Student membership, you have to fill out the application and send proof of enrollment in the necessary courses to complete your education and a current resume that includes your professional experiences. 

Student memberships cost $100 per year. 

Associate Membership

If you expect to meet the requirements of Professional membership within a 2-year period, the Associate membership is for you. You'll have to have a minimum of a Bachelor's degree and be starting or established in an independent educational consultant practice. 

Associate members also need to have a minimum of one year of experience working with students and their families in educational placement admissions or counseling. As a substitute for this experience, IECA accepts the completion of specific college counseling certificate programs listed on their website. The association asks for one reference as well, which cannot be a relative. 

Associate memberships are listed at $300 per year. 

Professional Membership

The Professional membership status is for those who are relatively established in the field and have the professional credence to back it up. Three years of relevant experience are required along with one year of consulting experience. 

A master's degree is required as is a minimum number of students advised within the past five years. If you're applying for the Professional membership, you'll also need to send in a list of three professional references that cannot include relatives. 

Upon acceptance, membership dues are $600 per year. 

IECA Membership Application and Process

The IECA membership application is available online for anyone to complete. It's broken down into several sections including: 

  • Contact information
  • Professional practice
  • College and school applicants
  • Professional and academic background
  • Professional references
  • Payment

Each section collects comprehensive information to help the association decide whether you meet the criteria for approval. Regardless of what membership level you apply for, you'll have to upload specific documents including references and a resume. This can be done as part of the application or emailed to the address specified on the form. 

Some applicants may be invited to interview to provide more information before a decision is handed down. All applicants are notified via a letter of acceptance and those approved will also be sent a statement that lists their dues owed and a copy of the IECA's Principles of Good Practice. 

IECA Principles of Good Practice

The IECA Principles of Good Practice are sent to every approved member of the association. It's a short, but important document that outlines what the organization expects from its members — the IECA code of ethics. It's broken down into six sections: 

  1. Competence
  2. Relationships and conflicts of interest
  3. Relationships with students and families
  4. Relationships with colleges, programs and schools
  5. Relationships with other IECs
  6. Advertising and other public statements

Each of these sections goes into detail about the type of behavior that independent educational consultants should adhere to when facing specific situations. For example, it's best to avoid situations where a conflict of interest could interfere with objectivity, and accepting compensation from colleges or universities for placement is strictly prohibited. 

The rules are simple, but they're the very backbone of what the association stands for and every member is expected to adhere to them. 

IECA Member Resources

As an IECA member, there are a number of benefits you're entitled to. For example, there are a variety of IECA events throughout the year. These include special seminars and annual conferences that help with professional development and give members a chance to network in person. 

The IECA summer institute is an event that spans several days — usually 4 — and is aimed at newer consultants. Throughout the course of the event, consultants learn how to build and promote their practices. Lectures by experts in the field and seminars help build confidence and teach newer members how to market themselves and get established. 

All members also receive the IECA insights newsletter, which is sent out bi-monthly. It includes news and upcoming events to help consultants plan and stay on top of new happenings in the industry. 

IECA Foundation

The IECA Foundation has been in operation for over 20 years. It's aimed at providing small grants that fund programs to further student development, giving them the tools they need to succeed in their academic pursuits. 

The grants normally range between $2500 and $5000 and are awarded to non-profits and educational institutions. These organizations must apply for the grant and outline the full proposal in how they plan to use that money. The application must be accompanied by an IRS statement that confirms tax-exempt status, financial statements and a list of any other companies that the organizations have approached for donations and/or grants. 

How to Find an IECA Educational Consultant

It's easy for parents and students to search for an IECA educational consultant on the association website. An online directory provides access to the members who have met the most stringent of requirements.

If you're looking for a Professional member, you can search by different criteria including specialty code, zip code, state, country or even name. The results are displayed with a picture of the consultant and all the information you need to know including their specialty. 

Associate members are not included in the searchable list, but you can download a document that lists them all. 

The IECA can help to open up doors with a membership, but it's not required in order to practice. Many people benefit from membership perks, but many also succeed without joining the association. It's truly a personal decision to make!