Securing Students’ Success, not Admission, Makes IECA Unique

By Mark Sklarow, CEO, IECA

Recently, a small group of new independent educational consultants (IECs)—all college-focused—were gathered at an IECA event. Seeing me, they waved me over. Why, they wondered, did we not have the word admission in the organization’s name? I noted that the word admission didn’t appear in our name, our by-laws, our purpose statement, or any tag line at any point in our 40-year history. Jaws dropped.

To be sure, there are others who embrace that mantle. There are organizations with admission in their name, in fact more than 50 of them. There are others who refer to admission in tag lines that appear under their name and still more with admission in their mission statements. One group ignored the organization’s own name, building their Twitter account around admission. What could possibly explain IECA’s apparent omission?

Of course, admission—whether boarding schools, colleges, grad school, emotional or behavioral needs programs, even summer and gap opportunities—is the basis on which members work. But I would argue strenuously that admission is not our primary goal. The work of an IEC is not hyper-focused on getting an acceptance letter. Does any IECA member believe that our mission, our raison d’être, is to get our clients admitted? I can picture some readers’ heads nodding. But hold on.

Is an IECA member’s success judged at the moment an acceptance is received? Or is success judged once a student settles in and discovers they’ve landed at the right place? When the student—and the family—see that the student is growing, maturing, succeeding, and thriving (my favorite word, as STI alumni know)? Is it better to be judged as successful in our work because of where students get in—or by how they progress, learn, and get out?

I understand the thrill that comes with an acceptance letter. I’ve been there with my own daughters. We cried; we exulted; we called relatives. But that moment is fleeting. What has stayed with my daughters—and your clients—is the joy of reflecting on how much the school, college, or program shaped them.

And one more thing: there are some out there who wonder about IECA being “split” with some IECs doing school advising, some therapeutic, some LD, some grad school, and 85% working in the college search and application area. I dismiss this split talk as nonsense. Because if we are an organization concerned about students succeeding, learning, maturing, and thriving rather than solely being admitted, then we had better recognize that so much more goes into our work than test scores, GPAs, and scattergrams.

How can we effectively advise students today without understanding the impact of emotional issues, such as executive functioning problems, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorders? Can we effectively advise for success without caring about ADD, dyslexia, and scores of other identifiable learning issues? And what about the impact of a growing number of behaviors related to addiction to phones, online gaming, and substances? It is our ability to understand the entire child—the hopes and fears behind the GPA, the challenges and difficulties hidden behind the activities list, the personal struggles and successes—that makes our work significant.

It may be possible to secure admission to a school or college based on scores, numbers, and great essay advice, but securing success for a student requires a much deeper dive. And that’s the unique basis of membership in IECA: expertise on what adolescents, teens, and young adults need to achieve success. We help students with admission, certainly, but we are so much more.