While touring universities, my husband never phones. He phoned as I was touring universities in Ireland and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this…” and briefly told me about this fellow Rick Singer and what is now known as Varsity Blues. I opened my news feed and shook my head. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen. It was a stunning blow to the profession.
As an Independent Educational Consultant, I belong to several organizations with very strict ethical guidelines. We sign off on Principles of Good Practice annually. We believe that there is no side door, no back door. Only a proper way in which to guide students through the admissions process. We don’t guarantee admissions, we don’t call admissions for favors, we don’t call coaches either. We guide our students through the admissions process. We don’t take any money from institutions. In many ways, this is a growth and developmental process with the student as the center of the process. We get to know the students we work with. We understand them as learners, individuals, their interests, personalities as well as their approach to learning.
This month, there will be a movie on Netflix coming out about Varsity Blues (The College Admissions Scandal-considered ‘scandalous’ on the Netflix website). While some might be fascinated by this, not many would like to revisit this massive debacle particularly those who served jail time, and particularly those currently serving their time. They should be regretting the consultant they hired. While the press focused on Singer being an Independent Educational Consultant, he really wasn’t a consultant in the terms of being an ethical straight forward person who had the best interest of the student at heart.
There is a true sadness about Varsity Blues and that has to do with the children of the parents. Did they not trust their children to navigate this process? Did the parents not trust the counselor employed by the private school in which their student was enrolled? Was ‘name brand’ that important to them? In the long run, the family could have hired a legitimate Independent Educational Consultant who has a College Counseling Certificate from a major university’s program, perhaps was a counselor in a high school and became a consultant, in other words, has credentials and credibility.
What makes a good Independent Educational Consultant?
We provide parents/guardians and their students with individual attention and firsthand knowledge of schools, educational opportunities allowing them to explore opportunities available to them. We spend a minimum of 20% of our time visiting campuses-some of us worldwide. While during COVID, this has been done virtually, we have adapted. We stay current in the field, we learn about our students-whatever their story is. We take them on their journey to university (or boarding school, or Gap Year or to wherever they are going). There are no shortcuts here.
How to find a great Independent Educational Consultant (IEC)
There are many wonderful IECs in this world. The best way to find a legitimate IEC is to look at several websites: Independent Educational Consultants Association (www.iecaonline.com)
or Higher Educational Consultants Association (hecaonline.org).
Or find one through the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACACnet.org). To find the penultimate of consultants, take a look and see if any of the consultants have the Certified Educational Planner designation. IECs who have the CEP designation have achieved the highest level of competence in educational planning (AICEP.org). Before becoming a CEP, we go through an extraordinarily stringent process through a rather lengthy application process. All of us have Master’s Degrees or higher, or have had extensive experience in the field of education. We take an assessment that for some, takes a full day, we recertify every five years and we make sure we have a minimum number of visits to programs (universities, schools, etc.) along with educational development. For more information, refer to the website.
If you watch this Netflix movie about Varsity Blues, be reminded that there are excellent options for families. It is almost like finding a school- you just have to find someone who will be a good match with the ability to work with your student.