Since 2005 there has been a 400% increase in IECs (Independent Educational Consultants) providing college-bound consulting. Why the drastic increase? Average US school counselor to student ratio is 482:1 with public school counselors spending an average of only 20% of their time on college counseling. It’s not their fault; we’ve put too much on their plates with too little funding.

Navigating the college-bound journey is complicated, and has greatly changed since parents applied, leaving many families supplementing what their school offers with private consulting. Unlike Rick Singer of the recent #varsityblues scandal, the vast majority are ethical. 20% of us, LEAP Founding CEO Lisa Marker-Robbins included, belong to professional IEC organizations with strict ethics codes. As a matter of fact, last admission cycle LEAP “fired” a client when we discovered the mother working on changes to her son’s application essay while the son was at school; thank you, Google Docs!

What should an IEC do?

  • Educate families on the admission process and college funding
  • Advise students (along with their parents) on:
    • High school course selection
    • Setting the college budget given individual circumstances
    • Discerning college major and career fit
    • ACT/SAT timing and prep to maximize scores and/or finding test-optional schools
    • Extracurricular pursuits and putting together resumes for applications
    • Finding schools that FIT to visit & apply. LEAP’s mantra has always been, “It’s who you are, not where you go.”
    • Applications and essays
    • Practice interviewing with students offered interviews
  • Work with pro bono students; check out the LEAP scholarship program we offer in addition to the 1:1 pro bono students we serve
  • Belong to professional IEC organizations with stringent ethical statements to which they adhere

How do you identify a bad IEC?

  • They give guarantees of college admission
  • Encouragement of back and side doors into college
  • They write essays for and/or complete then submit applications for the student
  • Fees are exorbitant

The Reality of College Admissions

The playing field isn’t even. I honestly can’t find any even playing field in all of the U.S. Can you? It goes along with our freedoms in this country. That’s just the simple truth.

With college admissions, there has long been a preference for student-athletes (not fake athletes – read more from my friend and colleague in Colorado here as featured in People Magazine), underrepresented minorities, international students, the wealthy, the poor, first-generation college students, geographical presence, those with legacy and more. My own children fit none of the above, but I’m not crying about it.

Instead, I advise to focus on what is within your control including being wise in setting your college budget within your means before you select colleges for application, understand the cost of college and how aid is distributed at each college, identify the end game of college (a career that fits the student’s wiring), study hard and keep grades up in appropriately rigorous courses, consider realistic colleges and apply to them, set a strategic plan to prep for ACT/SAT and maximize test scores, pursue extracurricular activities that develop the student. Remember, it’s who you are, not where you go. Focus on YOU!

Who are the victims?

The list is long of those claiming to be the victims: applicants cheated out of a potential seat (some lawsuits already filed), real student-athletes, students with actual learning disabilities, kids who worked hard to prep for the ACT or SAT, the students who didn’t know what their parents had done on their behalf, other IEC’s being bruised in the wake of scandal, the colleges themselves claim to be victims.

I have a hard time empathizing with the colleges who have long given preference for certain groups; perhaps, they are to blame for setting the stage in the first place. With a thorough examination of any applicant by the admissions office, I believe a fake athlete would be caught along with other fakes.

Be Your Best You

Regardless of who the victims are, where the blame will fall and what the future impact will be, LEAP’s message remains the same. Focus on you and making good strategic decisions throughout the college-bound journey. If LEAP can assist, we are happy to do so – just reach out.