Despite the recent scandal around unscrupulous college advisers, the vast majority of independent counselors are ethical and responsible supporters of students on their college journeys. It is important to remember that an independent adviser does have much to offer that the high school counselor does not.
Last year, a NACAC article explored the advantages of having an independent educational consultant (IEC) and the school counselor collaborating in the best interests of the student.
There's been a three-fold increase in the number of independent counselors across the country in the past five years. This is partly due to the overload of students that school counselors must manage. As the article states: "with school budgets being cut right and left [school counselors] don't have time." Furthermore, while the cost of going to college continues to go up every year, the cost of hiring an IEC has remained stable.
Every family comes to the college admissions journey with expectations and concerns, and lots of questions. The number one value that an IEC provides is the availability to answer questions anytime and to offer as much customized guidance as each individual student requires. I tell my families that I am available 24/7 and both students and parents have my cell phone number to reach me evenings, weekends, holidays. The school counselor obviously cannot provide this level of commitment and may have very limited office hours especially in a large school.
Nevertheless, the school counselor is the student's best ally and I emphasize this to all of my students. Only the school counselor knows the senior class: where are the student's classmates applying? given this school's track record, what are the student's chances of acceptance to the colleges on his/her list? The school counselor is privy to "inside information" that can be crucial. If both counselors work together, the student gets the best of both worlds.
Get the Best of Both Worlds
By keeping in touch and talking directly to one another, the IEC and the school counselor can not only avoid duplicating efforts, but they can share their expertise and knowledge base about colleges. IECs build relationships with college admissions personnel just as school counselors do. Hence the addition of the IEC's connections to the school counselor's network can only benefit the student. In addition, because the IEC gets to know the student on a more personal level, the consultant can share insights that help define the colleges that are truly a best fit for the student.
Because IECs have experience working with schools, parents should ask a prospective consultant how he or she has handled this in the past and how the parent should broach the topic with the school counselor. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that both counselors sincerely want what's best for your teen and will do whatever it takes to achieve the best results.