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 his or
her 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, or to
fill a gap in a school’s college counseling program, or 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
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 he or she 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 his or her
background, counseling process, and offerings. I am always available to talk
with you by email, phone or Skype 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 has been in business since 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. We continually research colleges and
admissions practices, stay current with issues in higher education, and are
authors 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 Statement of Principles of Good Practice. I also
belong to the Secondary School Admission Test Board, the major testing
organization for secondary schools, the Higher Education Consultants
Association, and 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, cab 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 whenever an issue or concern arises. Families will find that they can
almost always get on my calendar for a meeting during regular office hours
within a few days of calling in, 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. I can conduct telephone consultations and use email, FaceTime and Skype
communications to accomplish a great deal with my families. International and
expatriate families from such international locations as Hong Kong, Tegucigalpa,
Sydney, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Beijing, the Hague, Toronto, London, Geneva,
Caracas, Tel Aviv, Montreal, Mexico City, Lugano, Singapore, Paris, Victoria,
Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, Madrid, Hanoi, Rome, Riyadh, and Athens, and many other
locations, have worked successfully with us 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 or out of your offices?
I do not maintain weekend office hours. I try as much as possible to schedule
families during weekday business hours. At the same time, I recognize the time
demands place on today’s families and try to be flexible in terms of when and
how I meet or talk when circumstances require it. I tend to have some late
office hours on particular days, and often talk/Skype 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?
Simply put, “no”. I know many college admissions officials, and they know us and
our writing and work. However, I do not aim to capitalize on these relationships
to pressure colleges 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
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 him or her how to do his or her 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 plan to pay the ongoing
fees over a longer time frame. I usually request a substantial portion of the
fee up front, and ask that the entire fee be paid by September of a student’s
senior year of high school, in the case of a college-bound candidate. Please
call or email me if you would like to discuss payment plans and options, or
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 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
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 his or her college process to
date, with recommendations on schools, presentation, and admission strategies.
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 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
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 our 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.