Those of us working in college admissions are, dare we say, a collegial bunch. It’s right there in the latin origin – collegium, meaning community, partnership, society. We champion mentorship and continuous learning. A successful college admissions consultant can’t do it alone.
Every student we counsel has a unique story. We rely on the wisdom and experience of our peers to help write our client’s next chapter. Memorizing 864 pages of the Fiske Guide and visiting dozens of colleges a year won’t give us the expertise we need to best serve each student’s specific circumstances. But you don’t need to be a specialist in every niche to provide expert guidance. You just need to find the right helpers.
Fortunately, we have access to a wealth of resources that offer professional development, specialized knowledge, and networking opportunities. The following organizations will help you expand your practice and provide the best value to your clients.
NACAC – National Association for College Admission Counseling
Who it’s for: Everyone in the field of college admissions
NACAC is the largest college admissions organization with local affiliates around the country. It serves professionals from across the gamut of higher education. This includes school-based college counselors, independent educational consultants, and anyone providing admissions, financial aid, and related services. Memberships come in several flavors for both individuals and institutions.
The big annual NACAC Conference brings together over 250 exhibitors and offers over 100 educational sessions. Regional ACAC’s hold local conferences, workshops, webinars, college tours, job listings, and other local networking and mentorship opportunities.
NACAC members gain access to a multitude of resources for networking, marketing, and education including:
- NACAC National Conference
- College tours and fairs
- Workshops and seminars
- Webinars and e-learning courses
- Professional certificates
- Career Center job board
- Member directory
- NACAC Exchange listserv
- The Journal of College Admissions
- Inclusion, diversity, and antiracist training and resources
- Podcast network
- Research studies and reports
IECA – Independent Educational Consultants Association
Who it’s for: Independent educational consultants
While NACAC covers a broad range of professionals in higher education, IECA specifically serves independent educational consultants. IECA offers membership options for each stage of a consultant’s career – Student, Associate, and Professional. Many IECA members are also NACAC members.
IECA is especially valuable for independent consultants who may not have the built-in network of school-based counselors. With online communities and monthly roundtables, even those just starting out can tap the expertise of consultants with counseling experience in HBCU’s therapeutic, athletic scholarships, international students, and every imaginable situation you might encounter.
IECA members can stay current on admissions trends, deepen their knowledge, and grow their practice with resources including:
- On-campus college tours around the country
- Networking events with college presidents and admissions deans
- Fall and Spring conferences
- Summer training sessions
- Live webinars and archived tours, workshops, and info sessions
- Insights Journal
- IECA Business Training Channel
Like all the groups covered here, IECA strives to elevate the reputation and credibility of the profession itself. IECA advocates professional ethics, industry standards, and public policy. They foster relationships with community organizations and facilitate pro-bono work for IEC’s.
HECA – Higher Educational Consultants Association
Who it’s for: Independent consultants working with high school students
Like IECA, HECA is a professional organization for independent educational consultants. HECA is specifically focused on IEC’s helping high school students transition to college, whereas IECA also covers graduate and professional schools.
A relatively new kid on the block, HECA was founded in 1996 with a progressive vision emphasizing access, inclusion, and volunteerism. All members must meet eligibility requirements. These include at least 2 years working in the field, visiting at least 20 colleges per year, completion of an advanced degree, and a professional letter of recommendation. With an emphasis on core values, all HECA members pledge to uphold specific standards and ethics.
HECA works with colleges to provide IEC’s with resources to find the right fit for each student. They organize campus tours and info sessions, and facilitate communication between colleges and HECA membership.
Benefits of HECA membership include:
- Annual HECA Conference
- HECA College Fair with 100+ colleges attending
- Regional networks
- Webinars and workshops
- Database of consulting tools
- Business management tools
- Member Directory listing by region, speciality, and services
- Use of HECA logo and marketing materials
AICEP – The American Institute of Certified Educational Planners
Who it’s for: Educational consultants seeking advanced certification
Certified Educational Planners: 250+
AICEP strives to establish the highest standards for college advising and consulting through its rigorous certification process. To gain the CEP credential, applicants must complete an application detailing their experience and engagement in the field, and pass a test covering institutional and professional knowledge.
Intended for educational professionals working at a high level, most CEP applicants have at least 2-5 years of experience. Certification requires a breadth of knowledge of schools, a nuanced understanding of finding the right fit for a particular student, and active professional development. Many CEP applicants are IECA and HECA members.
Families can find a CEP credentialed consultant through the AICEP directory. The directory is searchable by location and specialty.
Even for those just starting out, the CEP application provides an excellent framework for setting goals, documenting accomplishments, and encouraging engagement.
CEP’s are recertified every 5 years by visiting schools, attending conferences, and working with students and families to achieve their goals. CEP’s don’t have to retake the test to be recertified. Recertification ensures CEP’s continue to make professional development a priority to stay on top of their game.