My Week at Summer Camp

I went to camp this past July.

The attendees of the 2012 IECA Summer Training Institute at Swarthmore College. (photo courtesy of IECA)

No, it’s not what you think.  There wasn’t a lake, there were no activities or crafts or sports, and I didn’t eat a single S’more or sing a round of Row, Row, Row Your Boat.  (There wasn’t even any horseback riding!)  Instead, my camp was the grown-up kind.  I traveled to Swarthmore College just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to attend the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) annual Summer Training Institute (STI).

As summer camps go, it was one of the best experiences of my life.

I refer to my week at STI as my week at camp because, in a lot of ways, it was.  We attendees slept in the Swarthmore dormitories, ate our meals in the dining hall, and participated in evening activities after our long days of seminar sessions and breakout groups had finished.  We were all far from home (our group of just over 100 came from nearly all 50 states and even several foreign countries – including one colleague from Dubai!) and everyone was eager to connect with one another and make new friends while we were there.  (Honestly, if there had been t-shirts available, we all probably would have been sporting them by the end and singing might not have been out of the question!)

But the most important thing about this “camp” for me was what I was able to gain while I was there – and what I’ve been able to bring home to my clients.

The members of my small breakout group work together on a project on Day One of the conference. (I’m at far left.)

You see, the majority of IECs (that’s “independent educational consultants”) are like me – we work on our own, whether out of our home offices or a rented space.  We keep non-traditional business hours, usually working afternoons, evenings, and weekends so as best to accommodate the busy schedules of our high school clients.  And while some IECs are members of firms or partnerships with other IECs, for the most part, we literally live the “independent” part of our job titles with no coworkers, no bosses, and no staff to support us and to share the workload or bounce ideas off.  Moreover, if an IEC is located in an area without a lot of other IECs nearby – for example, in Michigan, where there are only a handful of IECs in the entire state – as opposed to Colorado or Connecticut, where there can be 50 or so IECs within a certain radius of the major cities, it’s easy to feel as though you’re walking a tightrope without a net below.

That’s where the IECA and their STI come in.

In four short days, the other 99 or so attendees of that wonderful workshop became my coworkers, my business partners, and my friends.  We all want the very best school and program matches for our clients and we realize that there is no way we’ll be able to visit every educational institution in the nation in a short period of time, so we’ve connected into a tremendous web of resources so that we can share experiences, knowledge, and information in quick and collegial fashion.

Want to learn about Furman University?  I haven’t been fortunate enough to travel there yet – but my good friend Deborah has a daughter currently enrolled there and is working with clients applying there this fall.  She’s happy to advise me on the best route for my clients.

Interested in school down in Texas?  I have three colleagues down there who know the ins and outs of their admission processes with whom I can consult to make sure we get your application just right.

Group lectures in the big hall made it easy to network and share ideas. (photo courtesy of IECA)

And the process works both ways!  Even though I’m currently the only IEC in the nation whose specific focus is on the niche of college-bound equestrian students, I’m in no way the only IEC who has riders on my client roster.  Usually I field an inquiry once or twice a week from a fellow IECA member who has no problem discerning the right academic and social fits for their students but who wants to know the story on their equestrian teams and programs to determine if that component will merge with the student’s interests as well.

At the end of the day, then, any student and family that signs on to work with me through their college search and application process isn’t just signing on with me – they’re also signing on with an entire IECA network of counselors.  These are the people who support me in my everyday work and, in turn, support my clients as well.  And while we may not have the summer camp t-shirts to show our alliance, we’ll happily work together to help you find your right-fit college – and we can also make a pretty mean S’more!

(Want to get started today?  Contact me.)

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