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  • Allison Grandits

12 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an IEC (and my answers)

There are a lot of people out there who "do college counseling." When I Googled "college consultant," 645 MILLION results came up. How do you choose? You want to make sure that the person is a good fit for your family, and someone you trust. Ideally, they will offer a consultation to meet with you and your student, to learn about your goals. I offer a free 30-minute Zoom call for families because I want them to feel confident in their choice of consultant. College is an investment, and so is hiring an IEC. One of my professional organizations, IECA, provides guidance on questions to ask a prospective IEC before you hire them, and here are my answers to those questions.

  1. Do you guarantee admission to a school, one of my top choices, or a certain minimum dollar value in scholarships? No- there are no guarantees in admission, and the landscape changes every cycle. I strive to help you and your family identify colleges that will be GRAND fits of various selectivity to position your student to have affordable options. See question 12 for more information.

  2. How do you keep up with new trends, academic changes, and evolving campus cultures? How often do you get out and visit college campuses and meet with admission representatives? I follow several higher education news sources (Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education), local news sources, and individual college blogs to keep up with what is happening on a local, state, and national level. I follow several prominent admissions professionals on social media and check their platforms regularly. College admissions is constantly changing, especially in the aftermath of COVID, and it’s essential to know how these changes impact the students and families I work with. Between June 2018 and February 2020, I officially visited 65 in 10 states. Since the pandemic started, I have met with dozens of admissions counselors and virtually toured campuses around the country. I can’t wait for colleges to reopen and campus tours to resume. I truly believe that being on a college campus when students are present is the best way to get a feel for the students who would succeed there.

  3. Do you belong to any professional associations? Yes. I am a member of HECA (Higher Educational Consultants Association) and SACAC (Southern Association For College Admissions Counseling), and I am an associate member of IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association). I take pride in my memberships because my organizations hold me to high standards. HECA and IECA require me to complete professional development each year, and I had to provide references and abide by the ethical principles set by each to join.

  4. Do you attend professional conferences or training workshops on a regular basis to keep up with regional and national trends and changes in the law? Yes. I have attended 3 SACAC conferences and 2 HECA conferences. This year (2021), I am attending the HECA virtual conference and the SACAC virtual conference. Additionally, I attend webinars every month to know what changes are happening with the Common Application, Coalition Application, and the test-optional movement.

  5. Do you ever accept any form of compensation from a school, program, or company in exchange for placement or a referral? No. This goes against the ethical principles in place by my professional organizations. See question 12 for more information.

  6. 6. Are all fees involved stated in writing, up front, indicating exactly what services I will receive for those fees? Yes. All of my families sign a service agreement before we begin working together, and my fees are listed in the contract. Families can choose a payment plan, which I will send over in writing with the agreement. My comprehensive families receive a detailed outline for all sessions, in addition to the service agreement. Hourly students set the agenda for our time to make sure the content is what they want to discuss, and I send a detailed use of time chart after every meeting.

  7. Will you complete the application for admission, re-write my essays, or fill out the financial aid forms on my behalf? No, Never. The student must complete all work. My role as an IEC is to help brainstorm topics, revise and edit essays, and make sure the student’s voice shines through. I will review all applications before they are submitted to ensure there are no errors, and I am available to answer any questions that arise when a family is completing the financial aid applications. While some of my students want to be on Zoom with me when they hit submit, it is their responsibility to make sure all required documents are sent to the school by the deadline.

  8. How long have you been in business as an independent educational consultant? I opened my IEC practice in August 2018 and am going into my fourth application cycle. As an IEC, I have served 55 students, some as early as freshmen, all the way through college transfer students.

  9. What was your background prior to going into educational consulting? What was your training and education? I worked at a large public high school in Metro Atlanta for four years, serving a caseload of 400+ students (80-120 seniors) and their families each year. I hosted Apply to College Days and a 2-week college awareness event. I was also the Dual Enrollment Coordinator, and we had about 350 students participate across 3 institutions. I received my B.S. in Psychology and M. Ed. in Professional School Counseling from the University of Georgia and supplemented my coursework with Education, Social Work, and Counseling courses. During my M.Ed. program, I completed a year-long internship with a focus on college counseling at a different large public high school in Metro Atlanta. In 2019, I completed a Post-Graduate Certificate in College Consulting from the University of California- Irvine, which further gave me the skills and resources needed to run a successful college consulting company.

  10. Will you use personal connections to get me into one of my top choices? No. I do not get students admitted into any college. Students do that on their own. My role is to help you demonstrate what makes you a strong candidate for an institution. My part is to help you expand your options and identify GRAND fit schools for you.

  11. What specialized training do you have? I have taken several courses on the financial aid side of college admissions and strongly believe that families need to identify a college budget before they begin a college search. By identifying the type of aid your family qualifies for (need-based or merit-based), I can help streamline the search process and identify colleges from the very beginning that will be financial fits. While outside scholarships exist, the most cost-effective way to approach merit aid is straight from the source: the college. College application fees can be expensive, and if you know from the beginning that a specific school will be financially out of reach, you can save the $75+ in the application, transcript, and score send fees, and apply it to your college bill. 81% of my students in the Class of 2020 received a merit scholarship, and the average award was $72,000 over 4- years. College is an investment. Let me invest in you.

  12. Do you adhere to the ethical guidelines for private counseling established by IECA Yes. Here are the ethical guidelines for IECA. I also abide by the ethical guidelines established by HECA, which you can find here.

Do you have questions about the college admissions process? Contact Allison or visit Grand Fit Educational Consulting for more information.

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