Practice Makes Perfect

WordPress has notified me that today’s entry will be the 150th posting on my blog, which I established all the way back in September of 2011.  That’s 150 entries and musings and even more hyperlinks, photos, campus visits, college equestrian events, and suggestions shared.  It’s 32 months of regular updates to readers and followers, a host of Facebook posts and Tweets, and more typed characters than I care to count.

The best part?  I’m a better educational consultant now than I was when the first entry was posted.  I’m also still learning my craft with each passing day.

I’m not surprised by this fact, though.  Back in 2012 when I attended the summer training institute that the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) puts on for new consultants, one of our faculty members shared a thought that has stuck with me ever since.  I might mangle the wording a bit here, but the idea was this:  “You are all beginning educational consulting practices.  Practice means that you continue to repeat steps and learn things over a period of time so that you can improve.  You don’t know everything right now and you won’t know everything by the time you’ve been in this business for decades.  And that’s okay as long as you keep practicing.

I’ve been a practicing educational consultant since the fall of 2011 and was able to devote my full attention to the job in the fall of 2012.  Now that we’re in 2014, I’ve had a lot more practice and experience than I did back then and I’ve worked with some wonderful students who have asked great questions and their parents who did the same.  Each year, I meet new families who continue to make me better at this job – and we have a lot of fun along the way.  I know that I still have more before me to accomplish, but I can tell you that the practice of the past couple of years has taught me a lot – and in many cases reinforced things I already knew.  (For example, I have long recognized the value of utilizing the calendar on my phone because without it, I would accomplish nothing all day.)  But in addition to that important piece of information, here’s what else I’ve learned or had reinforced since this blog was created:

  • There will always be questions that I can’t answer right away.  Approximately 70% of my job involves research.  Students will frequently have interest in schools that I’m unfamiliar with or inquire about programs that I haven’t encountered in previous searches, so I’ll need to go to my resources online, in print, and ask my consulting colleagues for input based on their previous experiences.  (That’s the main benefit to families who work with an educational consultant – you hire one of us and you instantly gain access to the knowledge and experience of about 3,000 more!)  With so many colleges and universities adding and subtracting programs to their curriculum each year, I’ll never be able to keep up with all of it – but that’s okay!  Give me a chai latte and a few hours to do my due diligence and I’ll get you an answer fast.
  • Students will always surprise me.  This is one of those ideas that’s really been reinforced since I opened my practice and it’s a fact that continues to amuse me every year.  Interests change rapidly for students – the schools that they loved in the fall are the ones they can’t stand in the spring.  And sometimes it’s inevitable that the girl who absolutely had to take her horse to college with her will decide to go to school in a big urban environment and sell the horse before she leaves.  The unexpected is part of the job and I’m here to go with the flow and offer students the support they need at the beginning of their search and at the end – even when the destination winds up being completely different than the one that was originally charted.
  • The application process scares everyoneI knew when I became a consultant that my students would be nervous about sending their applications in and that their parents would feel the same.  I didn’t expect to be as nervous for them as I was in that first year, though – and it hasn’t really gotten any better.  I want each and every one of my students to feel ecstatic about the colleges that admit them and we’re all so invested in the process by the time the applications are submitted that it’s no wonder I get nervous too!  (The flip side, of course, is that I get to be just as excited as they are when the acceptances begin to roll in.)
  • I wouldn’t want any other job in the world.  Consulting is a business that sounds glamorous in title, but in reality is really just a lot of hard work, strange hours, seven-day work weeks during the fall, and a lot of travel year-round that includes flight delays, flight cancellations, bad food, good food, charter buses with spotty Internet, and time away from friends and family.  And I love every minute of it.  There is no other business I can think of that would put me in a position to help students pursue their passions and dreams after high school and meet such wonderful equestrian team coaches and admission staff members along the way.  (The bonus for me is getting to connect those amazing students with my friends on the college side and know that they’re going to enjoy working together for years to come.)

I guess it’s rather appropriate that this blog posting falls on a day when we’re supposed to take pause and remember those who have made it possible for us to enjoy freedoms like access to higher education and I thank the men and women who have done so.  That’s a wrap on blog post number 150 and I look forward to sharing at least 150 more!

(Need help in your college search process from a practicing educational consultant?  Contact me.)


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