What does an Independent Educational Consultant do?

For students, and typically their families, a consultant provides advice on educational planning, usually focused on a specific admissions process (secondary school, college, graduate school). I am independent, because I don’t work for a school or college, but rather on behalf of the student. I don’t take fees for placement from an institution. 

Why should we work with an Independent Educational Consultant? 

Families have many reasons for working with a consultant. Typically they include the search for professional counsel, explanation of unfamiliar educational situations or admissions processes, and extensive support in addition to that offered by a school or college. I provide experienced, expert counsel that is focused on a student’s individual needs and goals. Helping a student and their family is my primary mission, and I work independently of the demands and conflicting pressures of a school environment. With a smaller caseload than even some of the most well-resourced independent day or boarding schools, I provide responsive, personalized attention, even during the summer months. I do a lot of listening, and respond with unbiased, objective guidance and information. Whether to supplement a strong counseling program at a great high school, to fill a gap in a school’s college counseling program, or to provide support and guidance where there often is none (such as students applying for a college transfer or to reenter college, young adults seeking a graduate degree, and families applying to boarding schools from a public school) I can ensure that you are receiving good advice, exploring all the school or college options that might be appropriate, and not missing anything as you plan for your or your child’s education.

How do I choose the right consultant?

A reputable consultant should, first and foremost, have experience working with a wide variety of students on educational planning issues. It is also important that they should have appropriate academic credentials; relevant experience; membership in an appropriate professional organization; and adherence to an organization’s principles of good practice. Look for a counselor who is a good match for your needs, goals, and personal circumstances. Different counselors have varying styles of work, as well as areas of expertise. Ask friends, educators, or others you trust for recommendations. Explore a consultant’s website and informational materials to assess their background, counseling process, and offerings. I am always available to talk with you by email, phone or video in advance of your commitment to an initial consultation to discuss whether my services are appropriate for your needs.

What are your qualifications as an educational consultant?

My family’s firm was founded 1968, gathering extensive experience in counseling students to secondary schools, colleges, and graduate programs. Working with Howard Greene & Associates since 1997, I launched my own practice in affiliation with the firm in 2014. I continually research colleges and admissions practices, stay current with issues in higher education, and am author or co-author of more than a dozen books and numerous articles on college admissions and other educational issues. I have a Ph.D. in Public Policy, with a focus in education, and have taught and counseled undergraduate students. I am a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the most recognized professional organization of college counselors and admission officers, and adhere to their Guide to Ethical Practice in College Admission. I also serve and have served on many volunteer boards and organizations, and belong to the Author’s Guild.

How much should parents be involved in their child’s college admission

Students should do a lot for themselves as they navigate the college admissions process. Parental over-involvement in the details of the process can serve to undermine and disempower their children. A student’s handling of most of the process sends a clear message about readiness for college, and we must listen for and encourage those signals. Parental over-reliance on a consultant or others to direct or manage the process for their children often proves ineffective or counterproductive. Parents can serve a very positive role through
acting as cheerleader, taxi driver, logistical coordinator, administrative assistant, sympathetic listener, and occasional nudge. That includes calling me to express concerns, or to set up a meeting or phone call. Surveys show that parents are the number one influence on a student’s college choice (believe it or not!), so your children are listening. Thus, parents must find the right balance between over- and under-involvement in their child’s college admission process, avoiding too much control and too little oversight. Forming a “Family
Partnership” is an essential goal in successfully completing any admissions process with as little stress as possible.

How do we get the most out of your consulting services?

I encourage parents and students to make calls, schedule meetings, and send emails and texts whenever an issue or concern arises. Families will find that they can almost always get on my calendar for a meeting within a day or two, and phone calls and e-mails are answered as promptly as possible. I send mail and email communications during the year, outlining key steps in the admissions process and asking you to set up meetings; however, I hope that you (both parents and students) will keep in regular communication by phone and email, updating me with grades, test scores, summer plans, and so on, and, of course, asking questions or relating concerns.

Do you work with students from outside your geographic area?

Yes, I counsel students from all over the United States and around the world. I often meet in person at least once during the counseling process, but not always, and since the pandemic, even less so. I can conduct telephone consultations and use email and video communications to accomplish a great deal with my families. International and expatriate families from such locations as Hong Kong, Tegucigalpa, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Beijing, the Hague, Toronto, London, Geneva, Caracas, Tel Aviv, Montreal, Mexico City, Lugano, Riga, Singapore, Paris, Victoria, Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, Madrid, Hanoi, Rome, Riyadh, and Athens, and many other locations, have worked successfully with me for many years. I also see many American and foreign expatriate families from across the U.S. I can help international families understand and navigate the particular aspects of the American higher education system and admissions process, including the financial forms that are required, specialized testing like the TOEFL or IELTS, and meeting specific international student requirements. 

Do you work on weekends, evenings, or out of your office? 

I recognize the time demands place on today’s families, as well as the changes resulting from the pandemic, and try to be flexible in terms of when and how I meet or talk when circumstances require it. I schedule meetings (video or in the office) throughout the day by appointment, and often talk with students and parents during weekend or evening hours from home. I also sometimes meet with students or families when convenient, or by special arrangement, while traveling, to a boarding school or college campus, for example, or to another city, state, or country. If you have a special request for a meeting or consulting engagement in your location, please let me know.

Do you have “connections” to help a student get into a competitive college or school?

Simply put, “no”. I know many admissions officials, and they know me and my writing and work. However, I do not aim to capitalize on these relationships to pressure colleges or schools to admit students. Colleges are very clear: they want to hear directly from students through the application process, and from school-based guidance counselors and teachers who can recommend the student and talk about his or her contributions in the school and classroom. In the case of independent secondary school admissions, I do work closely with school admissions officers to discuss student visits and mediate the admissions process on a more personal basis. That still does not mean that I can “get students in” to a school. Consultants who promise families that their connections at colleges or schools can help students gain admission to more selective institutions are just plain wrong.

Do you guarantee admissions to certain institutions?

No, and nor should any counselor offer such a guarantee. Most selective institutions have become quite unpredictable in their admissions decisions due to increasing application numbers and highly competitive applicants. I help students find and apply as well as they are able, to the right schools that fit their qualifications, interests, goals, and needs. That includes extensive discussions of their school list and their profile as it develops through their school years, as well as careful work with them through the presentation and application process.

Do you maintain confidentiality?

Yes. I do not share lists of clients, personal information, or other details with outside groups or individuals without the permission of the client. I do my best to protect the privacy of the families I work with and do not share clients’ names with other current or prospective clients. 

How do you work with our school counselor?

I do not contact a student’s school counselor without your asking me to do so. In most instances I work independent of a school counselor, providing a complementary and supplementary role. I do not take the place of a school counselor, or tell them how to do their work. In some cases, I am asked to be in touch with a school counselor, or a family will ask a counselor to contact me. In such instances, I am happy to work closely and successfully with the school counselor to secure the best process and outcome for a student. 

Do you accept payment plans to cover your ongoing fees?

Yes. I am happy to work with you to establish a fair and workable plan to pay the ongoing fees over a longer time frame. Please call or email me if you would like to discuss payment plans and options, or special circumstances. I do not accept insurance, and my services are not allowable for 529 savings plans.

What is the right time to come see you? How early do you begin working with

I often begin the college counseling process with students as early as the ninth grade, and have found that families have been coming in earlier in recent years in order to address questions about course planning, summer activities, extracurricular choices, and other long-term planning issues. I usually discourage younger students from coming in earlier than the 9th grade unless there are questions about secondary school choice or change (public versus private, day versus boarding, for example) that are related to college planning. I do work with middle school age children who are planning for applications to junior boarding, boarding, and independent day schools. Of course, I also work with college age students and older graduates to help with ongoing educational planning during the college years, graduate school admissions, and career planning.

As a rising senior, I am coming to you “late in the process.” Is it too late to
take full advantage of your ongoing college counseling program?

I meet many new seniors during the summer before senior year and even during the fall. This can lead to an intensive period of ongoing counseling work, with a concentrated amount of effort focused on advice on the college list, final school visits, Early Decision/Action decisions, essay and application review, and other concerns. While many of my students do complete the process with a first-choice admission offer in December, most will apply to a number of colleges Regular Decision, and the counseling process continues through senior year with advice on update letters, handling waiting lists, revisiting colleges, making a final decision where to attend by May 1, and considering the initial transition to college. At other times, an individual consultation session with a senior can be helpful as a “review and audit” of their college process to date, with recommendations on schools, presentation, and admission strategies, and even discussion of PG, Gap, or Deferral year options. 

Do you work with athletic recruits?

Yes, I work with many highly talented athletes in a variety of sports. These include student athletes considering Division I, Division I Ivy League, and Division III colleges and universities, in such sports as Rowing, Squash, Lacrosse, Field Hockey, Ice Hockey, Wrestling, Tennis, Football, Soccer, Rugby, Basketball, Swimming, Diving, Water Polo, Skiing, Volleyball, Golf, Baseball, Track and Field, and Cross Country. I typically encourage athletes to consider sports as one component of their interest in colleges, and most of my athletic advisees are “scholar-athletes” looking for a college or university where they can continue their athletic involvement at a high level while pursuing a strong academic program in an environment that fits their overall interests and needs. I help athletes understand the college process as a whole, strategize on which colleges are a good fit and when and how to apply, prepare for and understand communications with coaches and admissions officers, and consider Post-Graduate (PG) or Gap Year options that might play a role in their recruiting efforts.

Do you offer specialized counseling for students considering theater, music,
dance, or studio art programs? 

Yes, I work with many students who have a special interest and talent in visual or performing arts, including dancers, actors, studio artists, photographers, and classical or progressive musicians. I offer a holistic approach for such students, who typically consider a range of programs, from art or music institutes like Juilliard, Berklee, RISD, or the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, to liberal arts colleges and universities with strong programs in their areas of interest. I counsel aspiring architects to five year Bachelor of Architecture programs, artists to design programs, and music students to conservatories, and many other situations. I help students consider their various options, build an appropriate school list, and understand the unique aspects of audition or portfolio-based admission processes.

Do you advise students on Post-Graduate (PG) applications and Gap Year

I help many students to consider and apply to gap programs, including PG years at U.S. and international boarding schools. In addition to suggesting various pre-college summer program options, I can help students structure a gap year consisting of summer and semester length academic, experiential, volunteer, and
internship oriented segments. 

Do you work with students applying to non-U.S. colleges and universities?

Yes, I can advise you on applications to international colleges and universities, and, in particular, work with many students considering U.K. and Canadian institutions as part of their college planning, as well as some of the American universities abroad.

Do you offer financial aid counseling?

I do help families understand how the financial aid process works, and how to approach paying for college, in line with the principles outlined in my book, Paying for College. I do not fill out the FAFSA, PROFILE, or other financial forms, or get into the particular details of a family’s financial aid applications, including tax issues or savings plans – that is not my area of expertise and I encourage you to work with your accountant or a certified financial planner to get help in those areas. I do help students to apply to a broad list of colleges, to make sure that they are maximizing their family’s likelihood of not only securing offers of admission, but also assistance in affording college. That can include colleges that are less expensive to begin with, such as your in-state public institutions, as well as colleges that offer a lot of need-based aid, and others that offer substantial merit-based awards. Many of the families I counsel are “cost conscious”, but not obvious candidates for substantial need-based aid, and thus this balanced list building is an essential component of the college search. Additionally, I can help you understand the variety of need- and merit-based aid programs available, how to approach net price calculators, and how to evaluate aid or scholarship offers when you get them.